First established by their English Department
in the spring of 1996, the UCLA
Marathon Reading has become an annual literary event.
Previous readings have ranged in length from 20 to 34 hours and having featured a wide variety of celebrity personalities. The event is traditionally held in the Rolfe Hall Sculpture Garden, early in May. Attendees are advised to bring along a copy of the selected text (or to purchase on at the event) and read along. Sleeping bags, blankets, and food may be useful, as well.
Admission is free, though donations are encouraged. All proceeds go towards student scholarships, funding future marathon readings, and various other English Department programs. For the short of cash, there are several other ways in which a person can support this event. You can sign up for a 10-15 minute reading slot, assist with construction of the set, or help to staff the event.
Some highlights from previous marathon readings are:
1996 – The first ever UCLA Marathon Reading pays tribute to Herman Melville's Moby Dick. Close to a thousand attend, and nearly three hundred readers participate in this 24 hour reading. The marathon’s gripping conclusion is delivered by Charlton Heston.
1997 – A thirty hour long reading of Charles Dickens' Bleak House features fog machines, a miniature 19th century Victorian set, and celebrities Sean Astin, John Astin, and Kate Mulgrew. The sculpture garden’s lawn sprinklers accidently went off halfway through the event, dousing everybody and providing a much needed wake up call.
1998 – Over 4,000 people attend a 20 hour reading of Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man. Actor John Lithgow kicks off the reading, and Rosa Parks makes a special guest appearance.
1999 – Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho, a classic of 18th century Gothic literature, entertains spectators and participants during a twenty hour reading.
2000 – The UCLA Marathon Reading provides a surreal, 28 hour journey through the post-WWII landscape of Thomas Pynchon's Gravity’s Rainbow. The courtyard is overrun with multicolored rockets, giant octopi, and bananas. People show up in costume, and several spectators are so overcome by the novel’s anarchic ethos that they streak nude through the sculpture garden.
2001 – For the first time ever, the UCLA Marathon Reading features two novels: Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre and Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea. The reading takes a total of 24 hours and features several celebrity guests, including Elvis Presley! (Or an Elvis Presley Impersonator, at least…)
2002 – The replica of an Irish Pub serves as the backdrop for a 28 hour reading of James Joyce's Ulysses. The late hours of the reading become dominated by bottles of Harp beer, clove cigarette smoke, and the drunken comments of audience members.
The 2003 Marathon has finally been announced:
The book is John Dos Passos triology of stories, USA. The reading will be held on May 8th-9th 2003 at, where else, the Rolfe Hall Sculpture Garden. Admission is free and copies of the text will be available for sale at the event.