The Novel vs. The Theater: The Final Days (A One-Act Play)

Moby Dick on Stage
Thar she blows!

(A courtroom.  The Judge sits at an imposing desk.  There is a gavel to the side.  He flips through a few pieces of paper, then looks up.)

JUDGE:  Okay.  Theater versus Novel.  Couldn’t work this one out?  Twitter, Facebook, shortened attention spans, no reason to leave the house, is that it?  The novel is dead, the theater is subsidized, so you’re going to battle it out… because you think there’s only room for one of you.  Okay, let’s get on with it then.  Theater, looks like you’re up first.  You’ve chosen to do ‘Moby Dick’ as if written by playwrights in ten lines or less.  You may begin.

(He glances at the paper on his desk.)

JUDGE:  (reading)  The playwright is William Shakespeare.

(Ishmael and Ahab stand in the courtroom.  Ahab has a jug of wine.)

AHAB:  The whale waxes desperate with tails and fins.

ISHMAEL:  To let it be, or not to let it be, that is the question.

AHAB:  Something is rotten on this ship of Pequod.  Here, have some wine.

ISHMAEL:  You drink it.

AHAB:  After you.

ISHMAEL:  You go first.

AHAB:  No, you go first!

(The Judge smacks the gavel.)

JUDGE:  (reading)  The playwright is Tom Stoppard.

(Ishmael enters from one side of the courtroom.  Ahab limps out from the other.  They meet.)

AHAB:  Who’re you?

ISHMAEL:  Call me Ishmael.

AHAB:  Is-mail?

ISHMAEL:  Close enough.

AHAB:  So you’re the new postman?

(The Judge smacks the gavel.)

JUDGE:  (reading)  Aristophanes.

(Ahab enters and sees Ishmael standing alone.)

AHAB:  Tell me?  What do you think of the fishermen on this boat?

ISHMAEL:  They’re all buggers.

AHAB:  And the Nantucketers?

ISHMAEL:  Buggers to a man.

AHAB:  And the rest of the country, what about them?

(Ishmael thinks about this.)

ISHMAEL:  By heaven, that’s a lot of people and almost all of them buggers.

AHAB:  Then how do we stand?

ISHMAEL:  We’ve been beaten by the buggers.

(Judge smacks the gavel.)

JUDGE:  (reading)  Neil Simon.

(Ishmael alone.)

ISHMAEL:  Traveling to New Bedford has been a whole new education for me.  I’ve found employment on a whaling ship run by a guy named Ahab.  This guy, Ahab’s got only one leg and he’s as tough as one of Momma’s chicken roasts.  Come to think of it, Momma’s chicken roasts had only one leg as well.

(The Judge smacks the gavel.)

JUDGE:  (reading)  David Mamet.

(Ishmael and Ahab arguing.)

ISHMAEL:  What whiteness?

AHAB:  The whiteness of the whale.

ISHMAEL:  The whale?

AHAB:  The whiteness of it.

ISHMAEL:  Whale of whiteness?

AHAB:  It means something.

ISHMAEL:  Whiteness?

AHAB:  F—ing whale’s a c—.

(The Judge forcefully smacks the gavel.  Sighs.)

JUDGE:  I went to law school for this?  (reading)  Okay, the next playwright is Samuel Beckett.

(Ishmael and Ahab.)

ISHMAEL:  Is this ship moving?  What are we doing out here?

AHAB:  We’re trying to find the whale.

ISHMAEL:  How’s your leg?

AHAB:  Swelling visibly.

ISHMAEL:  I can’t go on.

AHAB:  Let’s jump overboard.

ISHMAEL:  Okay, let’s jump.

(They don’t move.  The Judge waits.  Eventually, he smacks the gavel.)

JUDGE:  (reading)  Anton Chekhov.

(Ishmael and Ahab.)

ISHMAEL:  There’re no whales left.

AHAB:  No whales left?  Forgive me, my dear Ishmanov Yashmael, but the ocean is so big that
there must be more whales.

ISHMAEL:  The only thing about the ocean is that it is so big.  Look, Varya Ahabovich, my dear
friend, you must stop whaling and sell the fishing boat or else start transporting people to
Boston.  There is no other way out.

AHAB:  In the old days, ten, twenty years ago, you could’ve walked to Boston on the backs of
whales.  Leave me alone!

(Ahab limps out of the courtroom and shoots himself.  The Judge smacks the gavel.) 

JUDGE:  (reading)  Oscar Wilde.

ISHMAEL:  So your intent is to go after that big, white whale again?

AHAB:  That is exactly my intent.

ISHMAEL:  What if you lose the other leg?

AHAB:  So be it.  At least, I won’t find myself pacing in a circle.

ISHMAEL:  But my dear, Ahab, to lose one leg may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.

(Judge smacks the gavel.  He looks around.)

JUDGE:  So…  that’s it?  (flipping through papers)  All right, Novel, you’re up next.  Let’s see, you’ve chosen to do ‘Oedipus Rex,’ as if written by Cervantes, Tolstoy, et al.  This is a story about a man who kills his father and then sleeps with his mother, right?  Sounds charming.

(He smacks the gavel.)

BLACKOUT

You can purchase ‘THE LAST ISLAND’ here.

Weighing in on Theoretical Physics (That’s right, theoretical physics!)

Just the beginning...
Just the beginning…

I just finished reading this article, The Accidental Universe, in Harper’s, and I’m no rocket scientist or theoretical physicist (or rocket physicist or even theoretical scientist), so let me try to get this straight.

For our universe with its particular features to come about is so highly improbable and incalculable that it had to come about by accident.
Okay… check.

Now, physicists don’t like that because their job is to explain events, and to explain an event like our universe as ‘an accident’ is like theoretical malpractice for a physicist-ian.
All right… check.  

So in order to explain this accident (our universe), some theoretical physicists have postulated that there are an infinite number of universes out there (called the multiverse) and we live in only one of them.
Go on…

And the reason our universe has the basic features it does, is because in that multiverse, one of them has to have our features – and us – just because of the sheer number of universes in it.
Huh?  

Again, I’m no rocket scientist, etc. but haven’t these physicists just proposed a grander improbable (the multiverse) in order to make the original improbable (our universe) probable?

I say why stop there?  Why not propose a multiverse of multiverses?

In a multiverse of multiverses – imagine the infinities! – all things would come about and replicate endlessly.  So those same physicists would be studying their multiplicity of universes in a multiplicity of universes.  Accordingly, we would all exist in countless alternate universes as well.  (That trip to Bali?  Curl your toes in the sand.  The woman who got away?  Standing right next to you.)

This idea of a multiverse of multiverses also puts a nice spin on the anthropic principle (i.e. that the universe must have the features it does because we are here to observe it.)  You see, it’s no longer that this universe is what it is because we are here to observe it.  It’s that an infinite number of we’s exist in an infinite number of universes, observing all of them the way they are.

So, in this universe (and many others), I (and many others) am writing this post (and many others), but elsewhere in that infinity of infinities, I (and many others) am a theoretical physicist at M.I.T. myself (along with many others), proposing a multiverse of multiverses of multiverses theory which, of course, only leads to ever more blog posts such as this one (and many others) and ever more multiverses.

To misquote the playwright Tom Stoppard: “Infinity is a terrible thought.  I mean, where’s it going to end?”

My debut novel, ‘THE LAST ISLAND,’ which has nothing to do with theoretical physics, is available here.