Readings bring 1920s and Gatsby to life

The Daily Pennsylvanian
April 4, 2010

James La Marre takes his turn reading The Great Gatsby at the Kelly Writers House on Friday as part of a reading marathon.

Maanvi Singh
The Daily Pennsylvanian

Seventy years after the death of acclaimed author F. Scott Fitzgerald, the Kelly Writers House revived his life's work.

For the fourth annual Marathon Reading, Penn students and West Philadelphia community members gathered to read The Great Gatsby aloud, from beginning to end. On Friday in the KWH Arts Cafe, volunteers took turns on rotation to fill 10-minute slots.

All in all, the event ran for about four and a half hours and covered more than 47,000 words.

The warm weather drew a sizable crowd, though people fluttered in and out as the reading continued. "Fitzgerald's perfect for when things start thawing out," College senior Cecilia Corrigan said.

Imagery, advertisements, costumes and decor of the 1920s era saturated the space. Like one of Gatsby's luxurious parties in the novel, the reading took a page from Fitzgerald's notebook. Early jazz and fine food brought the readers and their audience into close contact, encouraging conversation and connectivity.

As the reading continued, several attendees arrived in full flapper dress, topped with sequins and draped with strands of pearls.

"The book's style and setting – all the Gatsbian green-light glitz – made it really apropos for an event like this, both an enjoyable listen and an excuse for opulent beaded accouterments, mocktails, ham roast, et al," College senior Kaegan Sparks said.

Fitzgerald published The Great Gatsby, a book that has been celebrated ever after as his greatest achievement, in 1925. While remaining one of the great American novels, The Great Gatsby has undergone a number of transformations, from print to film to theater.

The Kelly Writers House Marathon program began in 2007 with a reading of Jack Kerouac's On the Road. Since then, both Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita and Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five have been read.