Gertrude Stein marathon! Get ready for 52 grueling hours of action, literature

Gertrude Stein marathon! Get ready for 52 grueling hours of action, literature
Marathon read-in: Editor Dan Visel will host a weekend-long marathon reading of Gertrude Stein’s verbose, but classic novel “The Making of Americans: Being a History of a Family’s Progress.”
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

A long, dense, and difficult book calls — and Brooklyn answers.

More than a hundred renowned New York-based artists, writers, publishers, and scholars, including novelist Joseph McElroy, poet Anna Moschovakis, and music critic Sasha Frere-Jones will come together in Greenpoint and take turns reciting Gertrude Stein’s notoriously difficult to read 952-page classic “The Making of Americans: Being a History of a Family’s Progress” in a marathon reading expected to last 52 brutal hours.

Event organizer Dan Visel said the reading was a New York art-world tradition — Manhattan’s Paula Cooper Gallery hosted marathon readings of the famed novel around New Year’s Eve for decades. The Brooklyn event is an effort to bring that tradition back and breathe life into a text that begs for an out-loud reading.

“Gertrude Stein thought of this book as her great work, but she had to massively struggle with publishers to put it out because the book was massively long and unreadable,” said Visel, a contributing editor at Triple Canopy, the web-based arts and culture magazine organizing the event.

“It’s just a very dense novel that seems dead on the page, but when it’s read out loud it comes alive.”

Stein’s long-winded, more than a century old novel depicting the immigrant experience in America makes for a fascinating tale when read aloud due to the rhythmic nature of the famed modernist author’s prose, said Visel.

“Stein was interested in the sounds of the English language. It looks like a novel, but you can make a case that its really poetry,” he said, adding that the listeners’ experience completely changes depending on if it is day or night, how many people are in the room, and who is actually doing the reading.

“It’s fruitful for discussion because there is no clear right way to be read the book and different people get different things out of the same text, which proves that it is a rich text,” he said.

The readers, who can even be walk-ins off the street who want to give Stein’s work a go, will likely not just read, but also sing, or chant excerpts in 15-minute time slots before handing the text off, said Visel.

Listeners are welcome to stay for as little or as long as they want in the 75-seat space, which will also have refreshments and copies of the novel for sale and loan.

Gertrude Stein’s “The Making of Americans,” marathon reading at Triple Canopy [155 Freeman St., near Manhattan Ave. in Greenpoint. (347) 529–5182, www.canopycanopycanopy.com]. Jan. 18, 7 pm through Jan. 20, 11 pm. Free.

Reach reporter Natalie Musumeci at nmusumeci@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her at twitter.com/souleddout.

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