Friday, October 11, 2013

You're Doing What? For How Long?? - Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon

For all my plans for upcoming reviews and reflections, it's been a slow month for reading. Some of that has to do with the way I've tackled the challenge of my reading list, which has been much less "one book at a time" and far more "read ALL the books!". I always realize, after the fact, that amassing a sizable workload all in one place only serves to daunt me into submission, but for once the approach might actually work. Maybe it hasn't just been the construction of a literary mountain too tall to scale, maybe it's been the lack of compatriots, cheerleaders, mini-challenges with prizes...enter Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon.

I was only recently introduced to the Read-a-Thon, thanks to my friends over at A Reader's Respite. According to the Read-a-Thon's History page, Dewey was inspired by her family's participation in the annual 24 Hour Comics Day. The idea was simple: Get some people together and celebrate literature and the love of it, by dedicating an entire day to reading. That first year, 2007, there were 37 participants in the Read-a-Thon; the latest tally for 2013 includes 426 bloggers who will spend the day alternating between the books they've chosen and sharing their experiences on their blogs, Dewey's Facebook page, the Read-a-Thon's Twitter feed (#Readathon, #Dewey, #MiniChallenge, #RahRahReadathon), and even Instagram.

As it's my first Read-a-Thon, I'm not sure how well I'll be able to juggle tasks; I have enough trouble focusing on Twitter when it's the only thing I'm doing. But I've got some simple meals lined up for the day, plenty of tea and coffee to keep me going, and three solid choices to hold my attention as the day progresses. First on the list is The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger.

My first encounter with this title was the movie, which caught me completely off-guard and left me in tears (more on this in a future Page-to-Screen review). It's a bittersweet exploration of causality, determinism, and free-will, set against the backdrop of a relationship that unfolds in a different order for each of its participants.

By the end of my second read-through, it had become my favorite book. I found myself yearning to follow the last page with the first and begin reading it anew. Since then, I've made a habit of re-reading it once a year, but this time around I've faltered quite a bit—I've been stuck on page 110 since mid-September. So I've decided to make it the priority when Read-a-Thon begins tomorrow morning at 8am.

For my second choice, provided I finish The Time Traveler's Wife, I've selected About a Mountain, by John D'Agata.

I know little about this book, but it comes highly recommended by one of my closest writer friends. I was first intrigued by this quote, which he had posted some time ago:

"This is not an honorable place. It is not the marker of a glorious deed. Here is nothing at all of worth buried. This place is a message and a portion of a message-world. Pay attention well. We are earnest. This message-giving was great for us. It seemed to us that we were a very great people."

The blurb on the back of the book describes it thusly: "When John D'Agata helps his mother move to Las Vegas one summer, he begins to follow a story about the federal government's plan to store nuclear waste at a place called Yucca Mountain, a desert range near Las Vegas. Here is the work of a penetrating thinker whose startling portrait of a mountain in the desert compels a reexamination of the future of human life."

I expect that I will, after all's said and done, regret not having read this promising book sooner.

Should I complete both The Time Traveler's Wife and About a Mountain before 8am Sunday morning, my final choice is Henry Miller's Tropic of Capricorn.

Miller's Tropic of Cancer—the first in a trilogy, of which Capricorn is the last volume—is renown for being one of the first major victories against censorship in the 20th century. All three volumes (Cancer, Black Spring, and Capricorn) explore Miller's life and struggles as a writer. I had begun reading this back in June, but my introduction to Miller was quickly supplanted by numerous volumes of Hemingway's work. By the end of the month I'd taken up fishing, and left Miller's deftly woven proto-Beat stylings by the wayside.

Before that had happened, though, I had come to appreciate the way that Miller had turned his life into literary material, and was struck by how much I identified with much of his experiences. Having previously experienced some difficulty convincing myself to write my story, I was emboldened by his success, and became inspired to attempt a similar effort. As my NaNoWriMo novel will be written in this vein, it behooves me to immerse myself further in Miller's world, and I can think of no better time to do so than amidst the obsessive reading frenzy of Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon

So for now, I'm doing my best to clear a number of comfortable reading places, prepping the coffee maker, and hopping off to bed at an uncharacteristically early hour. 8:00am comes pretty quickly, and I'm going to need my rest—it's going to be a long, exciting, amazing day of reading.


  1. You are so much more cultured in your reading line up than I am. I'm jealous. We shall keep each other awake tomorrow!

  2. I'm trying to tie it in with WriMo prep, otherwise I'd just marathon Conan the Barbarian novels. Good to know I've got back-up!