By 4 a.m., nine hours into the marathon reading of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers that's at the center of this weekend's J.R.R. Tolkien geekfest, you'd think that listeners would have just about enough of Frodo, Gandalf, and those damn hobbits. Not so, says Sadia Syed, who's on the planning committee. "There are some readers who aren't as well spoken as others," she admits. "But when you read it aloud with other people, it all feeds into the excitement."
Besides, says Syed, "it seems like an actual history."
"It's a great story of friendship, transformation, and redemption," adds Gordon Jardy, organizer of the Two Towers Marathon Reading Celebration.
With an agenda that includes academic workshops and lectures on Thursday, and a viewing of the special extended version of last year's film The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring on Friday, this all-things-Tolkien fête will explore numerous facets of the beloved author's work.
"Tolkien was very environmentally conscious," Jardy says. "You can't read these books without having this incredible appreciation for the world he created and his respect for [our] world."
Jardy initially hit upon the idea of the marathon reading session last year, after hearing of Oberlin College's similar undertaking of Homer's Greek trilogy. "I liked the idea of reading good literature in a communal atmosphere," says Jardy, who hosted a Fellowship reading last year. This year's event grew to include not only presentations on how The Lord of the Rings is relevant in "our time of terror," but also prize giveaways -- like boxed sets of the trilogy -- which will be handed out during the reading.
The marathon begins at 7 p.m. Friday, hopefully wrapping up sometime around 4 p.m. the next day. And it is indeed a celebration. A local jeweler has donated a necklace-ring combo so that readers can make like Frodo while they take turns at the podium, reciting verse, Jardy says, from a "beautifully illustrated edition."
The readers themselves will range from Jardy and Syed to local actors and fervent fans. One of the readers even "sang his section last year," according to Jardy.
"I try to think of my turn as an acting role," Syed says. "It's like I'm reading to my three-year-old nephew, who doesn't like me reading in a monotone. Whatever the story is telling you, you try to bring that to your voice. And hopefully, that will get people interested."
So what happens after next year, when the third and final book in the trilogy, The Return of the King, surely will be read aloud? "I don't know," says Jardy. "We'll just have to wait and see."
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