As Americans read fewer and fewer books and feel generally more isolated in the technological age, there has emerged a response among lovers of literature that seems to address both issues—mass public book readings that engage attendees both literarily and socially.
One such event, April Toole’s Day: A Celebration of John Kennedy Toole’s Confederacy of Dunces, will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 1, at the Irish House (1432 St. Charles Ave). The event, at which local thespians and the public will read from the misanthropic New Orleans masterpiece, is presented by Gulf Coast a Nostra Productions.
Such marathon readings are not new. Celebrating Bloomsday—which takes place each June 16, the single day on which James Joyce’s Ulysses is set—is a longstanding tradition, with events all over the world that gather together literature lovers to read the Irish classic in succession. The Irish House in New Orleans has hosted the annual event for years.
But other events of this kind have been taking place more often, experimenting with books that speak to different tastes. Some include “celebrity” guest readers to spice up the dockets with their fame. The second biennial Moby Dick Marathon NYC took place last year in Manhattan, featuring authors such as Joshua Ferris, Téa Obreht, Stephen Elliott (who, by the way, recently bought a house in New Orleans), and Room 220 friend Jami Attenberg. Since 2012, the avant-Internet publication Triple Canopy revived a tradition long held (but no longer held) at the Paula Cooper Gallery in New York when it began hosting an annual reading of Gertrude Stein’s The Making of Americans. This event in 2013 featured readers such as Sasha Frere-Jones, Ariana Reines, Lynne Tillman, and Mónica de la Torre.
The Confederacy of Dunces event will likewise feature “a slate of New Orleans’ premier actors and literary lights” (copying from the press release here), including Donald Lewis, Andrew Vaught, Kerri Cahill, Henry Griffin, Trixie Minx, and Chris Lane. Members of the audience will get the chance to step of the dais and read, at the whim of a spin of the Wheel of Fortuna.
Maple Street Book Shop will be on hand selling copies of O’Toole’s masterwork as well as related titles, and Irish House chef Matt Murphy will be serving his full menu as well as a selection of foods that correspond to Ignatius J. Reilly’s gastronomical proclivities.
This event is free and open to the public.