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On Your Mark, Get Set, Read: Marathon Readings of Thoreau, the U.S. Constitution Are Planned in New York

192 Books is seeking readers for its epic cruise through 'Walden.'

The title page of the first printing of Thoreau’s Walden, in 1854.

TICKNOR AND FIELDS

As the weeks pass and the temperature falls and the days grow shorter, one begins to spend more time indoors, and consequently yearns for opportunities to commune with others, preferably in the presence of fine words. If that is how you are feeling, and you are nearby New York, I come bearing good news: two marathon readings are on the calendar.

First up, this Sunday, September 17, is an event at the Abrons Arts Center on the Lower East Side that will feature a number of artists reading the United States Constitution in a variety of languages. Titled “A Remedy for a Constitutional Crisis,” it is being put together by Maya Ciarrocchi with Clarinda Mac Low and George Sanchez and promises “food and drink, participatory writing, and political discussion.” Among those scheduled to participate are Raquel Cion, Erica Fae, Nora Armani (handling the Arabic version), Kim Harmon (Spanish), and many more. It runs from noon until 8:10 p.m., and there are more details on the Abrons website.

Why Sunday? It turns out it’s National Constitution Day—a federally recognized day that I have to admit I had never heard of before now. (This, despite the fact that I am really into the Constitution.) While the day’s name has the whiff of something hatched by the current U.S. Attorney General, Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions III, we actually have the late West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd to thanks for its existence. He got it created through legislation in 2004.

But enough about the Constitution! The other big reading event coming up is a long cruise through Henry David Thoreau’s 1854 classic, Walden, at 192 Books, the charming Chelsea bookstore owned by husband-and-wife duo Paula Cooper and Jack Macrae, on Friday, September 29, in honor of the transcendentalist’s 200th birthday. The action begins at 7 p.m. with a talk by Laura Dassow Walls, the author of a new biography about Thoreau, but there is no telling when it will end.

The bookstore is looking for readers to take part in the marathon—if you are interested, you can email info@192books.com or call 212-255-4022.

As some readers may be aware, the Paula Cooper Gallery has a long history with marathon readings, having staged such happenings on New Year’s Eve from 1974 to 2000 with Gertrude Stein’s The Making of Americans (1925) and, on a couple of occasions, James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake (1939). “John Cage got a little bored with Gertrude Stein,” Cooper explained in a 2013 piece by Molly Fischer about marathon readings, published in the New Republic.

The gang behind the online magazine Triple Canopy picked up the Making of Americans marathon tradition in 2013, as part of what one might be tempted to call a tiny little boomlet in such readings in the art world of late, which has included a three-day run through Moby Dick (1851) at the Frank Stella retrospective at the Whitney Museum in 2015.

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