I hadn’t seen him for too long. It was like he was gone. And then he was there. I was in the land of the dead, something like that. He was quiet. There was a show he was in, on stage. He was tired of that. We talked like he had never left. I asked if he would speak at my father’s funeral. It wasn’t dark out, not yet. We talked about the things we hadn’t done. It was difficult to understand what he said. I couldn’t figure out if he was tired or just forgotten. I had texted and emailed for years. That wasn’t it. It was more of an exhaustion. He spoke well. He understood what it was to lose someone. I was sorry to see him go.
We walked around the carpet, following the story of Samra. The Duck Machine was in the back corner, an odd contraption with a lever that looked like a duck-bill and a bird floating inside the plastic tub.
“You quack into it,” the guide explained.
I did, and the duck burst to life, flapping its wings, wiggling its way out through the duck-bill opening, almost attacking me, flying at the peanut machine. The machine took pennies, which I fed it, and peanuts shot out, except that the duck was no longer a duck but an otter or a marten, something like that, and dove out of sight, now more of a snake. I still had two pennies left.
“That is the story of Samra,” the guide explained. “First one thing and then another.”
“The Hive should be more your thing. It’s tactile.”
“Tactile. You’re really losing me.”
“You can replay the perfect moment, the bra sliding down, the hand against your breast, just that tiny perfection, the closest thing to it, in your head.”
“And then what? What after that?’
“You do it again.”
“Which leaves you with what?”
“Eternal fucking recurrence. Aren’t you programmed to fucking understand that?”
“What’s the point in talking about it? It’s sex. Just sex. There aren’t words to go on about it. It’s fucking.”
“It’s not my programming to accept that.”
While it is true that Hollywood is a tight box that suffocates individual vision, it also allows for the expense and crew that can make for a distraction worth watching.
9. The Fifth Element (Besson, 1997) Multipass.
7. Groundhog Day (Ramis, 1993) Stay…stay.
6. Jaws (Spielberg, 1975) Just eats and sleeps and makes little baby sharks.
5. Rocky (Stallone, 1976) Women weaken legs!
4. The Sound of Music (Wise,1965) Nothing comes from nothing.
“I have no fortune for you today.” Liyuan gave Dee a cigarette.
She reached out with indifference.
“How is Icarus?”
She smoked passively, staring out.
“Always seeing the same faces, doing the same things, going nowhere.”
“That’s not entirely true, Dee. We really are going somewhere.”
“Jesus, Liyuan, what’s wrong with you? Did you actually like high school?”
“Very much. I loved to learn. It was a very exciting place.”
As I started out on my epic reading journey of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, I wondered why I had never read it. Eventually, all became clear.
So far as what there be of a narrative in this book; and, indeed, as indirectly touching one or two very interesting and curious particulars in the habit of sperm whales, the foregoing chapter, in its earlier part, is as important a one as will be found in this volume; but the leading matter of it requires to be still further and more familiarly enlarged upon…(141)
It was an impossible read, more a meandering collection of musing on whales, whaling and nautical life than anything to do with narrative. Having already in various ways put before you the skull, spout-hole, jaw, teeth, tail, forehead, fins and diverse other parts, I shall now simply point out what is most interesting in the general bulk of his unobstructed bones. (302)
And yet, despite the ramblings, there were moments, the minutest of hooks scattered about, that made me seek the distant spout.
Nothing seemed before me but a jet gloom, now and then made ghastly by flashes of redness. Uppermost was the impression, that whatever swift, rushing thing I stood on was not so much bound to any haven ahead as rushing from all havens astern. (284)What is it, what nameless, inscrutable, unearthly thing is it; what cozening, hidden lord and master, and cruel, remorseless emperor commands me; that against all natural lovings and longings, I so keep pushing, and crowding, and jamming myself on all the time; recklessly making me ready to do what in my own proper, natural heart, I durst so much as dare? Is Ahab, Ahab? Is it I, God, or who, that lifts this arm? (357)
Until the end, at the sinking of the Pequod, the vanishing of Ahab and crew, Moby with them, when I realized I had survived just to tell the tale.
“I had a chance to do something another time a week or so after that, on the subway again,” Liyuan offered. “A young boy, maybe 10 years old, was performing a dance for a crowded train, with his father watching beside him.”
The boy approached Icarus again, head twisted to the side, humming a tune to himself.
“It was late at night, maybe midnight, and so I said something this time. ‘There’s a reason for child labor laws, you know.’ He glared back as the train pulled into Union Square. The doors opened, and he kicks me, hard, just like that. I was so surprised by that. ‘Mind your own damn business.’ And he storms off the train, pushing his kid ahead of him. It took me days to realize that I had been assaulted.”
“I liked living in New York,” Dee offered. “The people are real.”
“Even if they’re racists?” Faith demanded.
Fragments are getting set adrift from Aqaara as I trudge through Draft One:
“Lying to your maker, Em. That won’t get you anywhere.”
“I miss you, Dee. I really do. I look forward to seeing you. I think about coming here. I look forward to coming here to see you and my cat.” Em opened her Bearing, glancing through the images. “And then I don’t.”
“There’s nothing worse than high expectations.”
“I keep mine very low.”
“This is cellular,” Liyuan interjected. “This exchange, all of this is cellular. That’s who is speaking to each other, your cells.”
“Ignore him,”’ Dee replied. “And tell us about your politics. They make you a senator yet?”
“Lai got me an Ethi for a present.”
“What do you get out of it? To do your bidding?”
“Her name’s Emma.”
“I mean, what’s the point of it? Does it tell you how great you are?”
“Dee, why don’t I bring Emma here so you can insult her, like you do with me.”
“Insult you? Em, I only talk to you like you were me.”
“That’s it, isn’t it?”
A few things I’ve gleaned from the opening 100 pages of Melville’s opus:
- Maritime jargon such as “lee of land” and handspike.
- Surprisingly non-traditional views espoused by Ishmael: What is worship? To do the will of God. That is worship. And what is the will of God? To do to my fellow man what I would have my fellow man to do to me. That is the will of God. Now, Queequeg is my fellow man. And what do I wish this Queequeg would do to me? Why, unite with me in my particular form of worship. Consequently, I must then unite with him in his; ergo, I must turn idolator.
- Building a story takes time. Captain Ahab does not appear until page 85, with Moby Dick not even on the horizon.
- That said, Mr. Melville also would have benefited from an editor.