Congratulations to Matt Tanner and Danielle Stockley! They were married a few days ago. Matt is the award-winning Art Director here at Fiction Advocate, and Danielle has too many talents to enumerate.
Like the stone-cold book nerds they are, Matt and Danielle exchanged vows at the Seamen’s Bethel in New Bedford, MA. Built in 1832, when New Bedford was the whaling capital of the world, this is exactly where Ishmael goes before setting sail in Moby Dick. You can read Melville’s description of the “Whaleman’s Chapel” in Chapters 7 to 9 of what is arguably the great American novel. Melville lived nearby and attended church services regularly.
I (stupidly) had no idea why Matt and Danielle chose this particular spot. Even when I saw the wedding invitations, designed by Matt, with anchors and waves and a tiny whale spouting in the distance, I figured it was a regional New England motif—nothing more.
So when they asked me to give a reading, and Matt said I would be standing at a pulpit that is carved in the shape of an old wooden ship, my brain sputtered as I recalled the famous pulpit in Moby Dick that is… carved in the shape of an old wooden ship. What a coincidence! I thought. And I spent an embarrassing amount of time copying passages from the book and emailing them to Matt, to prove what an amazing coincidence it was.
Here is the gorgeous couple. That’s me in the ship.
Melville described the Seamen’s Bethel accurately in every respect except for the pulpit. The “ship shape” (sorry) was a product of his imagination.
What could be more full of meaning?—for the pulpit is ever this earth’s foremost part; all the rest comes in its rear; the pulpit leads the world. From thence it is the storm of God’s quick wrath is first descried, and the bow must bear the earliest brunt. From thence it is the God of breezes fair or foul is first invoked for favorable winds. Yes, the world’s a ship on its passage out, and not a voyage complete; and the pulpit is its prow.
But after John Huston’s 1956 film Moby Dick, in which Orson Welles climbs a rope ladder to deliver a sermon from a (fake) pulpit carved like a ship, visitors to the Seamen’s Bethel expected—demanded—to see it with their own eyes. So one was built for them.
And that’s where I had the great honor (the shuddering, brain-clenching, full geek-out experience) of reading on behalf of Matt and Danielle—from the only part of the chapel that is Melville’s own fiction.
Matt and Danielle! Congratulations! Thank you! Mazel tov!
P.S. I rented a “compact” car to get there, and they gave me an enormous white beast instead. Coincidence?
– Brian Hurley