Posts tagged ‘Catch-22’

Getting a Read on “Madness,” One Book at a Time

Kicking off Thursday at noon, this year’s Penn State Marathon Reading will feature 10 books united by “madness and psychological themes.” For 24 (or so) hours straight, the normally tranquil lawn in front of Pattee and Paterno Libraries figures to get pretty intense.MARATHON

This year marks the fourth annual Marathon Reading, and after taking part in the first two—we read Catch-22 in 2012 and One Hundred Years of Solitude in 2013—I can vouch for this being a really cool event. I’m still kicking myself for missing last year’s marathon read, which introduced the theme concept with readings of famously banned books Brave New World, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Fahrenheit 451. Sarah Denes of the School of Languages and Literatures, which co-hosts the reading, says a theme event gives readers and curious listeners alike the chance to “come and sit for maybe an hour and hear an entire reading.”

Whether you’re reading, listening, or (ideally) both, the marathon reading is a group effort. Denes says 328 people read at last year’s event, most for just five or 10 minutes at a time. Exceptions include the classes that drop in as a group—meaning each student might only read for two minutes—and the hearty bibliophiles who stick around for the overnight stretch. Denes says that last year, “there was one person who read for 25 minutes at 4:30 in the morning.”

I’m not quite that enthusiastic—or, well, crazy—but I’m excited to read during daylight hours on Thursday, hopefully while the opening book, Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, is still underway. The marathon is set to end early Friday afternoon with Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw, and like nearly all of the titles, you can expect to hear it both in English and at least one other language. Depending on when you show up, you might hear Kafka in German, Lu Xun in Chinese, or Camus in French.

Oh, and if you’re there Thursday afternoon, you might also recognize some of the readers: President Eric Barron and women’s volleyball coach Russ Rose are both set to read in the opening few hours, not long after we kick things off with the event’s now-traditional opening reader, Sue Paterno.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

September 23, 2015 at 9:02 am 1 comment

100 Years of Reading, in About 24 Hours

English professor Chris Reed introduced the book as a “perfect” choice for the format, because “the plot’s not really the point. You can walk away for a while and come back, and pick it right back up.” Sue Paterno ’62 took the podium for the first reading, apologizing in advance for any of the Spanish names she might mispronounce. And then she dove right into One Hundred Years of Solitude, the subject of the second annual Penn State Marathon Reading.

Sue Reads

The classic of “magical realism” by Colombian author and Nobel Prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude seems an appropriate follow-up to Catch-22, which kicked off this new tradition last fall. Like Catch-22, Marquez’s book is filled with absurdity, humor, and characters with memorably (and sometimes confusingly) colorful names. And of course, like Joseph Heller’s classic, it uses all those tricks to open (and occasionally blow) its readers’ minds.

The event kicked off at 1 p.m. Thursday and is expected to continue through early Friday afternoon, or however long it takes for the hundreds of volunteer readers—students, faculty, local luminaries, and yours truly, at 7 a.m. Friday—to get through it. Late-night pizza, early-morning donuts, and lots of caffeine were supplied to keep things moving. If you stop by the reading—you can’t miss the tent set up in front of Pattee/Paterno Library—you might hear passages being read in the original Spanish; there were copies available in French and what I think was Mandarin, as well.

As a participant, I hope this is the second Marathon Reading of many. What a fun thing to be a part of.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

September 5, 2013 at 6:48 pm 1 comment

100s of Readers, and 24 (or so) Hours, for “Catch-22”

How exactly do you pronounce Yossarian?

The reading tent at 10 p.m. Thursday…

This was my big concern Thursday night, in the moments before I stepped to the lectern to read five minutes’ worth of Catch-22. I was one of hundreds of people taking my turn in a marathon public reading of the classic novel, which Joseph Heller started writing while he taught at Penn State in the early 1950s. The event kicked off at 1 p.m. Thursday—Sue Paterno ’62 opened the reading—and was scheduled to end sometime Friday afternoon.

I initially walked up to the reading—held under a tent on the grass in front of the Pattee and Paterno Libraries—on Thursday afternoon, hoping to get a photo of Lady Lion basketball coach Coquese Washington, one of many coaches and athletes who were signed up to take part. I missed Coquese, but when I saw how many open spots remained on the sign-up sheet, I decided I’d put my name in. (Catch-22 has long been one of my favorite novels, I have plenty of practice reading aloud every night to my kids, and everyone who read got a T-shirt.)

…and Friday morning at 7.

I signed up for two spots, the first at 10:05 Thursday night. There were maybe 20 people there, including three students in pajamas who had sleeping bags already set up on the grass. I checked in with Cindy Lee, a sophomore who serves as treasurer of Unabridged, the student organization for English majors. I waited a few minutes and took my turn, reading through the section of chapter 22 in which Milo Minderbinder explains “the syndicate” to Yossarian. I forgot how much fun this book is.

I was back Friday morning at 7. There were about a dozen people there, including a woman reading with her dog standing attentively behind her, and a couple of students (not the ones from the night before, as far as I could tell) still dozing in sleeping bags. There, too, was Cindy, who hadn’t left since 6 p.m. Thursday. In addition to manning the sign-in desk, she said she handled about “an hour and a half, maybe two hours” of reading during the sparsely attended overnight shift, when the audience dwindled to as few as four.

Debra Hawhee reads—with help from daughter Nora

I read the last couple pages of chapter 28, and was followed by English professor Debra Hawhee ’00g, who read with her 2 1/2-year-old daughter Nora in her arms. The reading continued as I headed home to get ready for work. There’s talk of this being an annual thing. I hope so.

Oh, and it’s yo-SAIR-ian, not yo-SORRY-an. Either way, a classic.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

September 14, 2012 at 2:37 pm 4 comments

What We’re Reading: Ryan Jones

Inspired by the faculty reading list in our Jan/Feb issue, we decided to come up with our own lists of the classics, guilty pleasures, and new releases that get us through the long, cold Happy Valley winter. Check back all week long for picks from The Penn Stater staff, and feel free to share your thoughts. Enjoy.

What I’m Reading Now: Idiot America by Charles P. Pierce. One of my favorite sports writers and cultural observers pointing out what ails our country, and why. He’s not exactly optimistic, but his insights are spot-on.

Favorite Book Ever: Not sure I can choose one, but Infinite Jest is right up there—the sort of book you survive more than read, but well worth the months it took. David Foster Wallace’s talent was humbling. Emotionally, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road just kicked my butt. It hit me on a level no other book has, which probably has something to do with being the father of a young son. And I’ve always got a soft spot for Joseph Heller’s Catch-22.

Favorite Book of the Past Year: Would you believe Animal Farm? I read it last summer for the first time. I’d read some of Orwell’s non-fiction, like The Road to Wigan Pier, but somehow missed Animal Farm all these years.

Book I Can’t Wait to Read: The Terror, by Dan Simmons. My mom reluctantly got it for me for Christmas—reluctantly because she read that it was 700 pages of nightmare-inducing fiction. I’m not a horror guy—I’ve literally never read a Stephen King book—but I’ve heard too many good things about this one. I’m also eager for The Pale King, David Foster Wallace’s unfinished final novel. It’s supposed to be out next year.

Book I’ve Been Meaning to Get To: The Brothers Karamazov. I finally moved it from my nightstand, because I felt like Dostoevsky’s picture on the cover was mocking me as I slept. Someday, Fyodor. Someday.

Book I’ve Read Most Often: It could be any number of children’s books—quite possibly the classic I Love Trucks, which my toddler daughter now enjoys as much as her big brother did—but I’ll go with Mars Needs Moms. Berkeley Breathed is just awesome. I was a huge fan of Bloom County when I was a kid, and was thrilled to find Breathed’s children’s books—Mars Needs Moms, Pete & Pickles, and Edwurd Fudwupper Fibbed Big —maintain the sensibility and wit he brought to his groundbreaking comic strip. The measure of any great kids’ book is one that both parents and children can enjoy on multiple readings, and Breathed’s fit the bill. Bonus: My wife bought me the new Bloom County: Complete Library collection for Christmas. I can’t wait to catch up with Opus and Bill.

Thoughts on this list? Feel free to share your recommendations or critiques in the comments below.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

Coming Tuesday: Tina Hay’s picks

January 11, 2010 at 9:29 am Leave a comment


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