Spectacle, spectacles

Ahoy! It’s Jen Hodgson, Eley Williams and me in a boat. 

Photo: the lovely Laura Hopkins

We’re chatting about Moby-Dick, as part of A Night of Pure Moby Dickery, masterminded by David Collard. The event, at the Tin Tabernacle, Kilburn, London, began with a performance of Orson Welles’ play Moby Dick – Rehearsed. (Apparently, the first UK performance since its original run in 1955, which included Christopher Lee.)

Later, we sat in a boat, drank mojitos to prevent scurvy, and talked about books. Conversation ranged: writing & death; bookshelves, encyclopaedias, libraries; dissection. Eley recounted her marine biologist sister’s description of conducting an autopsy on a whale, pulling on the heartstrings of the creature to get it apart. 

Here’s an extract from ‘The Blanket’, chp 68 of Moby-Dick, discursing on ‘what and where is the skin of the whale?’ It must be the blubber, Ishmael affirms. Although:

“True, from the unmarred dead body of the whale, you may scrape off with your hand an infinitely thin, transparent substance, somewhat resembling the thinnest shreds of isinglass, only it is almost as flexible and soft as satin; that is, previous to being dried, when it not only contracts and thickens, but becomes rather hard and brittle. I have several such dried bits, which I use for marks in my whale-books. It is transparent, as I said before; and being laid upon the printed page, I have sometimes pleased myself with fancying it exerted a magnifying influence. At any rate, it is pleasant to read about whales through their own spectacles, as you may say.”

Here’s some pottery:

If you, too, want Moby Dick-themed tableware from the early 1940s, check regularly on ebay under ‘Vernon Kilns Rockwell Kent’.