Ryan McGinley, Paula Cooper, and More Will Join a 52-Hour Gertrude Stein Reading

The reading session picks up on a similar event once held at Paula Cooper Gallery.

A previous reading at Earth. Photo: Dean Kissick

A vast smattering of New York’s literati will take over Earth on the Lower East Side at 5 p.m. tonight for a 52-hour marathon reading of Gertrude Stein’s 1925 novel, The Making of Americans. The happening is the brainchild of writers Walt John Pearce and Sam Frank to organize the spectacle, and stems from a much longer tradition. Paula Cooper Gallery famously hosted the same event in its gallery every New Year’s Eve between 1974 and 2000—save for two years where composer John Cage suggested they read James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake instead.

Pearce is an avid Stein fan. While researching the writer and art-world fixture, he stumbled upon stories about Paula Cooper’s readings. What’s more, Pearce’s friend Frank—“one of the most well read people I know and a general genius,” Pearce told me—founded the literary magazine Triple Canopy, which last took the Stein marathon mantle from Cooper in 2013.

A dense list of 100 names and timeslots for this weekend's marathon reading

The lineup of the Gertrude Stein reading marathon at Earth. Photo: Dean Kissick

The Making of Americans explores familial identity without any dialogue or concrete plot. It’s often considered Stein’s most experimental work. “I have always loved the rhythm in Stein’s writing,” Pearce said. “She takes this to its extremes in MOA and what better way to feel the rhythm than to speak it. The endurance of reading this whole text out loud adds a danger and excitement to a reading, events which often feel safe and boring. We thought it was time to have a literary event for people to be excited about.” As an advocate for literature, Pearce’s other claims to infamy include introducing rapper Kodak Black to Richard Gaddis.

Together, Frank and Pearce pulled over 100 readers for this weekend’s marathon—mostly writers, though artist Ryan McGinley and Cooper herself will appear. “The timing of the final schedule is a combination of curation and convenience,” Pearce noted.

The organizers will be on site both days and nights to make sure microphone hand-offs go smoothly. Tea and snacks will be served, and there is a bathroom. And although some cushions will be available for seating, Pearce recommends that attendees bring their own. He spoke with Interview about the forthcoming event while acquiring a sleeping bag at Walmart, in the mountain town he calls home.

“I hope that people continue to care about literature,” Pearce said of his intentions for the event. The writer, who just finished his first novel, will arrive this evening with a suitcase in tow before heading off for a residency at the DiTrapano Foundation.

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