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Marathon Reading flushed with prose

By Daniel Miller

May 15, 2005 9:00 p.m.

There is something about being on campus at night. The trees
quiver under a jet-black sky, and the buildings stand stoically
““ resting up for the next day’s onslaught of eager
students, pounding the pavement in search of knowledge.

Yet this serenity was destroyed late Thursday night when I
rapped a passage from “The 1,001 Arabian Nights” during
the English department’s annual Marathon Reading.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a moderately fantastic rapper,
but even I will admit that my delivery could have used a good
polishing.

I decided to attend the reading in the Rolfe Sculpture Courtyard
because I love the Disney film “Aladdin” and I wanted
to check out the Marathon Reading late at night, when the event
gets pretty raucous.

For the 10th anniversary of the reading, Antoine Galland’s
epic tome was chosen because it is a collection of tales, which
allowed the casual listener to take in one short tale if was all he
desired. The event began on Thursday at noon and ended 24 hours
later. I first showed up around 2 p.m. on Thursday for some
reconnaissance. I later showed up again at 2 a.m. with a flask of
Seagram’s Seven Crown Blended Whiskey, but more on that
later.

As I first approached the courtyard that afternoon, I could hear
a voice booming over loudspeakers. Upon arrival, I found veteran
marathon reader Jeanette Gilkison commanding the podium.

“I kind of get a feel for the book beforehand in order to
develop my character,” said Gilkison, the English department
office supervisor.

Yes, people do read passages in funny voices, but this is surely
amplified when sobriety is thrown out the window.

Gilkison said that she was aware the event got a bit wilder at
night, but intimated that was not her scene. I sought out Elizabeth
Goodhue, the event’s co-chairwoman, in order to get an idea
for what I would be experiencing later that night.

“In the middle of the night it’s crowded with a
different crowd,” Goodhue said. “We’ve definitely
had some interesting characters in the past.”

Apparently, “interesting” means homeless people.
But, I don’t deal in vague terms, so I told Goodhue that I
would show up later that night, and that in order to fit in, I
would be drunk. She didn’t seem to believe me.
(Editor’s note: Not necessarily everyone is drunk at
night.)

My sober friend, former engineering student Anthony DeFrenza,
picked me up in front of U-Dog around midnight. He would be
transporting me and several inebriated compatriots to campus in his
1987 forest green Ford Ranger. It is a small truck, so I was forced
to lie down in the truck bed with fourth-year chemistry student
Matt Susnow and fourth-year history student Nate Thompson for the
duration of the ride.

In retrospect, this was not a very smart move, but at the time
it seemed like the best way to get to the reading, and the stars
did look beautiful as we whizzed through campus.

The scene in the courtyard was confusing. With drinks in hand, a
few participants were offering up a chanted reading of the text,
while some bleary-eyed English graduate students sipped on
wine.

For some reason, my friends and I were focused on the Disney
version of the Aladdin story (which was modified from the original
tale in Galland’s book), and spontaneously broke out into a
medley of songs from that epic film.

I volunteered to read and was quickly given an opportunity.
Flask in hand, I walked up to the podium. I had expected to be
nervous about reading in front of these bookish English students,
but there was no adrenaline coursing through my veins, only
alcohol.

My first reading went off without a hitch, though it did take a
while to get used to the long, laboring sentences.

As I took my seat amid my friends, I was approached by former
Daily Bruin sex columnist and current English graduate student
Carrie Meathrell. Meathrell said she had been drinking various
spirits since her 9:30 p.m. arrival. She said she enjoyed
participating in the reading.

“I love the sound of my voice in a microphone and I love
the sound of my voice in class,” she said.

My attention then swerved back to my Aladdin fixation. This
time, not in the form of song, but in the form of investigative
journalism. I asked first-year computer science and engineering
student Ryan Baker about it.

DM: Where’s that talking monkey and that parrot?

RB: That version was animated and for kids. This isn’t for
children.

DM: Where’s Jafar? Where’s Abu?

I then participated in a group-read with Thompson and former
history and English student Laura Ottersen. We decided to start
rapping, though I think our rapping skills diminished as minutes
ticked away, and we wound up reading the tale in a bizarre
chant.

Then things got really crazy, as Thompson started inserting
dialogue from “Da Ali G Show” directly into the text.
Not one of the six people in attendance seemed to notice.

Some other stuff happened, but it’s hard to remember, and
the rest of my notes are illegible. I do remember, that during my
last reading, I inserted lyrics from Kelly Clarkson’s seminal
song “Since U Been Gone,” into the tale. It went
something like this:

“Her eyes were those of the wild heifer or the gazelle,
with eyebrows like the crescent moon which ends Sha’aban and
begins Ramazan. … Here’s the thing, we started out friends,
it was cool but it was all pretend.”

“Yeah, yeah. Since you been gone.”

E-mail Miller at [email protected]

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