Chronicle of a Readathon

Dewey's 24 Hour Read-A-Thon9:20 a.m.

I was wakened a little earlier than I would have liked, as I often am, by the thunder of little feet overhead. After a certain amount of tossing and turning and thinking that we should have another look at the concept of children being seen and not heard, I finally gave up on getting back to sleep and decided to get my Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-A-Thon underway. My Zune is all charged up and I’ve got 2666 ready to go. I also have a print copy of 2666 from the library so I can keep track of what page I’m on. I’m starting on page 648; 245 pages and 10 hours to go…

9:35 a.m.

Silly me, I should have checked the comments on my last post before getting started. Thank you to all the wonderful cheerleaders for your encouraging comments today!

12:10 p.m.
Book: 2666 (audio)
Pages read: 37
Time spent reading: 1:28

Choosing an audiobook for this readathon has been very convenient. I’ve been able to “read” while exercising, cooking, and doing a bit of housework. It also makes it easy to calculate time spend reading since the Zune displays the time elapsed and time left for each section of the audiobook. My only breaks so far have been to shower and blog. I’m quite enjoying (if that’s the right word) the story of Hans Reiter in 2666, though I now recall that the last section of the book deals with the Holocaust, so I expect it is going to get ugly pretty soon. Already Hitler has taken over most of Europe, and Reiter now finds himself at Dracula’s castle (cue ominous music). I think I’ll have a boo at Twitter and then get back to my “reading.”

2:20 p.m.
Book: 2666 (audio)
Pages read: 32 (69 total)
Time spent reading: 1:18 (2:46 total)

I’m amazed at the page counts of some other readathoners, but then the hard core have been at this for ten hours already. I feel like I’m just getting started. I’m really enjoying being immersed in 2666. After introducing the first hint of the Holocaust Bolaño has swerved off into a sub-plot involving an idealistic young Jewish Communist and some world-weary Soviet writers. The descriptions of war in the book so far remind me very much of the confusion and absurdity in War and Peace. Where Prince Andrei has his blue sky to escape to, Hans Reiter has the kelp forest at the bottom of the sea—an intriguing mirror image.

It’s time for a little snack, and then back to 2666!

5:05 p.m.
Book: still 2666 (audio)
Pages read: 40 (109 total)
Time spent reading: 1:42 (4:28 total)

After much to do with writers, we are now back to the war and a minor German official who has been sent 500 “Greek” Jews (no one is sure where they came from), and he doesn’t know what to do with them, nor does he much care, having lost interest in the war effort. Hmm… As for me, I’ve been watching rain showers come and go but now it’s starting to get dark. To think this is only the half way mark for the people who are doing the full 24 hour readathon! I have to admit I am getting a little tired of the flashback subplots in 2666, so it is probably time to switch to something else for a while. But first, I must see what’s happening at readathon central and on Twitter!

7:10 p.m.

I’ve taken a break from reading and had a surf around to see if I could find any readathoners devoted to the classics. I didn’t go through the whole list of participants (there are 447 of them!) but I clicked on likely-looking names and eventually found the wonderful blog of Allie at A Literary Odyssey. While waiting for Michigan demographics to catch up with her desire to be an educator, she has set herself a challenge to read 250 classics. She’s already knocked 61 titles off her list and looks good to go the distance. Way to go Allie!

Now back to the books…

8:50 p.m.
Book: Dictionnaire culturel en langue française
Words looked up in French/English dictionary: 22 (I’m not exactly fluent in French!)
Pages read: 2 (see above) (111 total)
Time spent reading: :36 (5:04 total)

I’ve been reading the preface to the Dictionnaire culturel which lays out the problems with existing dictionaries and the intent of this one. It draws some inspiration from the famous Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers of Diderot and d’Alembert. I especially love what it says about how the words we use are part of a chain of cultural creation and they cannot be understood outside of culture. To extract them from their context is to imprison them. The chief editor, Alain Rey, saves the harshest criticism for encyclopedic dictionaries, calling them “petits monstres savants” (little learned monsters or clever little monsters). Ouch. That didn’t stop him from publishing his own encyclopedic dictionary, the Dixel, but I’m sure he took a less monstrous approach. For the Dictionnaire culturel he says he preferred to collect questions rather than answers, and human thoughts and creations rather than supposedly pre-existing facts.

There’s still a lot more preface to go but I think I will stop while my brain feels pleasantly exercised but not completely exhausted. After a little popcorn and football I’ll head off to bed with 2666 again and listen until I’m too sleepy to follow it any more. I’ll have to leave my final readathon tally until the morning, but I don’t expect it to be much greater than it is now. I am pleased with how much “reading” (mostly listening) I did today, but also a little dismayed at how little it amounted to in terms of pages. Of course I was limited by the speed of the audiobook narration, but that sort of book, the kind I usually read, simply takes more time to read and to digest, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’d rather read 10 pages of 2666, or one page of the Dictionnaire culturel, than a hundred pages of a fluffy bestseller. I honestly find these weighty tomes more enjoyable precisely because they are weighty, because they deal with serious matters in a serious way, and are heavy with meaning and emotion and beauty. They are more than worth the time spent reading them.

Sunday wrap

When I went to bed I opted for a bit of Wodehouse instead of more 2666, and I can’t tell how many pages I listened to so I’ll just leave the tally as it stood last night. I’m pleased with my first readathon, or half-readathon, and I’d be happy to do it again. I think next time I’ll do what Allie did and choose a few short classics to read rather than one giant tome. I’ve been meaning to read Candide again, and some Shakespeare plays would work nicely. I think I might throw in some Spanish as well as French to liven things up. Listening to an audiobook was a great way to keep “reading” while performing the necessities of life. I will definitely keep that in the mix next time. Here’s the official End of Event Meme:

1. Which hour was most daunting for you? About hour 8 (for me) when the sun went down I started to lose interest in my book. That was a good time to surf around the readathonverse and switch to something completely different.

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? Um, the dictionary? Or the encyclopedia. But I think that’s just me…

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? How about an official half-readathon, for example 9am to 9pm based on the reader’s own time zone? It wouldn’t have to be as elaborate as the 24 hour readathon, with minichallenges and all that, but an official gathering place would be nice.

4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? It’s hard for me to say since it’s my first, but I appreciated the hourly posts; there was always something new to look at. The cheerleaders were great too.

5. How many books did you read? I read two but finished neither. Next time: shorter books!

6. What were the names of the books you read? 2666 and Dictionnaire culturel en langue française. Really.

7. Which book did you enjoy most? I enjoyed them both very much.

8. Which did you enjoy least? N/A

9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? N/A

10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? Very likely. Next time I’ll be a reader and I think I’ll host a mini-challenge to gather all the classics readers together. I want to know where they are!


13 comments on “Chronicle of a Readathon

  1. softdrink says:

    1, 2, 3, 4
    Hope your book isn’t a bore
    5, 6, 7, 8
    And your readathon is going great!

  2. Sylvia says:

    Cheerleaders, they know the score!
    Cheer us in our reading state!

  3. Maree says:

    I hope you're having fun! *\o/*

  4. bekkah says:

    I've also been blown away by the page counts for some of the participants!!

    Good luck and ENJOY 🙂

  5. Cass says:

    A thought to mull over: “The best of a book is not the thought which it contains, but the thought which it suggests; just as the charm of music dwells not in the tones but in the echoes of our hearts.” — John Greenleaf Whittier

    Enjoy your reading!

  6. Sylvia says:

    Thanks, Maree and Bekkah! That's a wonderful quote, Cass. So true!

  7. Trish says:

    It's always great meeting new people during the readathon! I don't think page counts matter as much as how much fun you're having–hope you're having a blast. 🙂

  8. Keep up the great reading! You're doing great! The great books will no doubt help til late! :o)

    -Your friendly Read-a-thon Cheerer “Danielle” aka The1stdaughter from There's A Book

  9. Sylvia says:

    Thanks Trish and Danielle, I appreciate the cheers! Good night!

  10. Stefanie says:

    I am so doing this next year. I won't have school homework to worry about anymore. It seems that ancient Greek plays would be a good choice maybe not for the whole 24hrs but they can be read in a few hours. a trilogy or a compare/contrast of the same story by differnt writers would probably be fun.

  11. Sylvia says:

    Stefanie, some Greek plays would work really well with this readathon. If we can get organized perhaps we can read the same things and compare notes, a readalong inside a readathon! 😉

  12. Stefanie says:

    That would be really fun! Now we just have to remember the plan next year 🙂

  13. Sylvia says:

    Well, if we forget I'm sure we'll come up with something equally fun. 🙂

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