A Lovely Day for a ‘Metamorphosis’

September 25, 2015 at 8:13 am Leave a comment

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Walking up the mall toward Pattee Library a little before noon on Thursday, you could hear the beat of a semi-recent pop hit coming from speakers set up under a crowded white canopy. The song was “Crazy,” followed in short order by the Prince classic “Let’s Go Crazy.” If you were paying attention, you knew the titles weren’t coincidence, but part of a theme.

Madness was the theme of the fourth annual Penn State Marathon Reading, which kicked off Thursday at noon. I hung out at the tent for the first hour or so Thursday, both to catch the headliners, and to make my own five-minute contribution to chipping away at Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, the opening book.

As she has since the event began in 2012, Sue Paterno ’62 opened the reading. Before she started, she talked about reading Kafka as an English major “fifty-some years ago,” and, if I heard her correctly, seeing the author’s childhood home on a trip to Czechoslovakia some years later with Joe.

Sue handed things off to women’s volleyball coach Russ Rose (above), who was followed by Susan Welch (below), long time dean of the College of the Liberal Arts, and then State College mayor Elizabeth Goreham. After that came the non-celebrity readers, me included—although I didn’t realize quite was I was getting myself into.

Liberal Arts dean Susan Welch takes her turn with "Metamorphosis"

Susan Welch takes her turn with “Metamorphosis”

I knew in advance that the organizers planned to have readers in multiple languages, including The Metamorphosis in its original German. What I didn’t know was that I had signed up for a time slot in the midst of the grad-student readers who were going to be handling the Deutsche translations. Among them was Katherine Anderson (below), a graduate student in German literature; like all the readers who tackled the book in its original tongue, they added an emotional punch the rest of us couldn’t quite match.

Grad student Katherine Anderson & English department head Mark Morrisson

Grad student Katherine Anderson & English department head Mark Morrisson

Of course, they also made things a bit tricky for those of us (ahem) who had to pick up (in English) where they left off (in German). But it wasn’t so bad. If I want to be able to really immerse myself in Kafka (and one of these days I suppose I should), I can do that on my own time. On this day, the communal vibe of sharing in a good book trumped anything that might get lost in translation.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

 

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