Reading Moby-Dick at 30,000 Feet
How we cite our quotes:
so I can lean back into the upholstered interval
between Muzak and lunch,
a little bored, a little old and strange. (11-13)
We get three activities here: listening to Muzak, eating lunch, and the current activity of leaning back (and feeling bored). Not very active activities, are they? And that mention of being bored makes sure we can't miss the fact that our speaker isn't exactly pumped that he's sitting on his rump.
but now my eyes flicker
from the in-flight movie
to the stewardess's pantyline,
then back into my book, (21-24)
Our poor speaker is so unfulfilled. All these things around, and none of them seem to do the trick. And the way his eyes "flicker" almost makes him sound like a machine, like a film projector or something. It's as though he feels out of touch with his active, animal self. Which makes sense, since he's stuck in an airplane, cut off from the natural world and from the ability to do much of anything physically except look around.
Imagine a century like a room so large,
a corridor so long
you could travel for a lifetime
and never find the door, (34-37)
Not only does this make us think of an airplane, but it's pretty depressing to boot. Who wants to spend their whole life in a single room? Aside from aerobics, what can you do in a room that's not passive? (Plus aerobics isn't likely to make our speaker feel manly and alive in quite the same way as, say, brandishing a harpoon.)