A marathon of a different kind

Kelly Writer's House holds all-day reading of Nabokov's Lolita in 10-minute segments

The Daily Pennsylvanian
March 28, 2008

Media Credit: Andrew Townley
Volunteers at the Kelly Writers House participate in a marathon reading of the novel Lolita. Alexandra Lane was one of the many participants who read for a 10-minute section.

Yesterday the main attraction at the Kelly Writers House was the cherry pie - and the pedophilia.

From noon until well into the night, relentless staff members, professors, students and members of the community alike read aloud Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita in its entirety to a captive audience in the Arts Cafe. The volunteers each read for ten-minute time slots.

Erin Gautsche, the program coordinator and a staff member at KWH, explained that Lolita is a book about a man named Humbert Humbert's sexual obsession with a 12-year-old girl, Lolita, who is the daughter of a woman he is renting a room from. In the story, Humbert lures the girl into taking a road trip with him across the country.

"On a certain level this guy is an insane pedophile," said College freshman Rivka Fogel, who helped coordinate the event.

However, she said that the way the book is written makes readers see this pedophilic relationship in some way as romantic. "The writing itself is really beautiful," she said. "You start seeing [Humburt] as the good protagonist."

Audience members were treated to a lunch taken straight from the pages of the novel, featuring treats like cherry pie, candy, ham and eggs, figs, bananas and ice cream sundaes. Each plate was accompanied by a bright pink slip of paper with a quote from the book related to the snack.

College sophomore Thomson Guster, who works at the Writers House, explained that sweet food is symbolic in the novel because the character of Lolita, a bratty little girl, can be bribed with candy and lollipops.

Food is "part of the whole seduction" of the book, said Jessica Lowenthal, director of KWH.

This was only the second year the Writers House has hosted a marathon reading of such proportions, Gautsche explained. Last year, the chosen novel was Jack Kerouac's On the Road.