An Open Letter to Ira Glass, David Sedaris, and Sarah Vowell

Dear Ira, David, and Sarah,

I know it’s a questionable practice to use first names when writing to people one doesn’t know well personally, but I hope you’ll bear with me. You see, formality just doesn’t seem right for the request I bring to each of you with this letter. It is a passionate, irrational desire.

I want you guys to read Moby Dick.

Really. I’m totally serious. You’d be perfect for the job. I’ve experienced Moby Dick a number of times over the last five years, having both read it personally and listened to it performed by renowned vocal talents. Yet upon reflection it was obvious to me that the best readers would be you three. Think of it! Imagine it!

Consider the famed opening line – “Call me Ishmael” – brought to life by none other than the inimitable Sarah Vowell. I have fantasized about this for years. I can almost hear it now: the chortling warmth, the slightly wavering intonation that mixes a knowing skepticism with an assurance of the objectivity of humor. What a balance!

What authority, what austere drama, could be achieved if Ira lent his quirky news-man seriousness to Melville’s aside about Cetology: “This whole book is but a draught—nay, but the draught of a draught. Oh, Time, Strength, Cash, and Patience!” Certainly the maître d of This American Life could do this justice!

And just imagine these wondrous, ecstatic sentences from Chapter 94: A Squeeze of the Hand sung out with relish by David Sedaris: “Oh! my dear fellow beings, why should we longer cherish any social acerbities, or know the slightest ill-humor or envy! Come; let us squeeze hands all round; nay, let us all squeeze ourselves into each other; let us squeeze ourselves universally into the very milk and sperm of kindness.”

If I had the resources of Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, or Mitt Romney this project would be a prime aim of my philanthropic activities. Unfortunately, I do not. As it is I can only cast my wish upon the vast ocean of the world wide web, hoping beyond hope that you may hear of this request and take it upon your hearts to enter into this labor of love. For that is what it is: a work that would engender good will the world over. It would call generations to the White Whale! Yes, that, as well as many glorious accolades. Indeed, who could NOT want to hear you three – titans of the spoken word – draw those classic words and phrases from their 1850′s shell and into the 21st century?

Who would ever seriously proclaim that they do NOT want to experience:

* Ira Glass performing Father Mapple’s epic sermon – “God came upon him in the whale, and swallowed him down to living gulfs of doom!”

* David Sedaris shouting – “There she blows! There she blows! A hump like a snow-hill! It is Moby Dick!”

* Sarah Vowell speaking the classic line – “from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee!” (You get Vowell reciting Ahab AND Khan all at once!)

And so I commend my request to you and to the internet. I hope that, one day, I may indeed find your voices carrying Moby Dick to my willing ears. Until then, thank you for your amazing, inspiring, important work!

Best,

Matthew Ballou

A Rockwell Kent Illustration for Moby Dick