KWH marathon reading offers food, festivities

The Daily Pennsylvanian
February 20, 2011

A student enjoys period-inspired food at the Kelly Writers House marathon reading Friday.
(Bridget McGeehan/DP Staff Photographer)

Flowers, beads and feathers filled the Kelly Writers House during its fifth annual marathon reading Friday. Participants read aloud Virginia Woolf's novel Mrs. Dalloway in 10-minute shifts for about six hours, according to College sophomore Emily Harnett, who helped run the event.

2010 College graduate Max McKenna, an administrative assistant at the Writers House who organized the event, explained that Woolf's book was chosen because the reading calls for a book that can be read in a day, and the plot of Mrs. Dalloway takes place in one day. McKenna added that the Marathon Reading usually features books that can be used to create a festive atmosphere, and Mrs. Dalloway was appropriate because it revolves around preparations for a party.

Quotes from the book were used to inspire decorations at the Writers House. For example, feathers, beads and ribbons were strewn across a table. White flowers adorned the podium at which participants read aloud. Signs with quotes from the novel accompanied each decoration. Judith Allen, who leads a Woolf discussion group at the Writers House, explained that "flowers pervade in [Woolf's] works."

During the event, people moved between the Arts Cafe, where the book was read, and the dining room, where tea and period-appropriate food was served.

College senior Trisha Low, who volunteers at the Writers House and prepared the food, said that she was happy the marathon reading was featuring a female author for the first time. However, she would have "preferred a more experimental book."

Some participants were in costumes influenced by the book. Erin Gautsche, program coordinator at the Writers House, was dressed in a pink skirt, white shirt and an elaborate white hat that she had created herself. 2010 College graduate Lee Huttner, who sported a bowler hat and waistcoat, said that he "just found whatever in [his] closet that was vaguely period."

Huttner, who has attended marathon readings in the past, said that he had been pushing for the reading to feature Mrs. Dalloway. "Every year, it gets more and more elaborate," he added.