At about 7:45 p.m. on Friday, February 18, the tenth annual Paradise Lost All-Night Readathon began in Cornell House on the campus of Mary Washington College of the University of Mary Washington. Over the next twelve hours, a total of twenty or so hardy souls traveled through Hell, Heaven, Chaos, and Paradise with John Milton, and with each other. Once again, we read with increasing confidence, and wrote our impressions in the journal that now has ten years worth of reading notes. We dozed off, ate pizza, admired my Gustav Dore blacklight poster of Satan on Mt. Niphates, stretched and yawned, and as myth gave way to history at the end of the epic, heard the birds singing in the gray dawn outside our window.
Each year brings something special to the experience. This year I had several former students come to read, some of them for the eighth or ninth time, and I was also joined by my college roommate Michael Thomas, who stayed for the entire reading.
Another innovation this year was electronic: I recorded the entire reading on my tablet computer. I thought it better not to podcast all twelve hours of the reading. Instead, I’ve created a little medley of the readers who were there at the outset for the first two books. Although the excerpts you’ll hear are in order, they won’t make much sense in isolation. Instead, try listening for the various voices and their diverse approaches to the verse, and enjoy the images and sounds as Milton draws them past your ear. Among the voices here are those of my son Ian, my daughter Jenny, and my wife Alice.
At the beginning of the reading, you’ll hear me lay out the ground rules. At the end, you’ll hear the last forty lines or so read in unison by the five Miltonauts who made it to the end of the reading. The crude recording doesn’t do justice to the readers, and truth to tell it’s probably a little hard to make out what’s being said unless you know the poem, but nevertheless I hope this podcast captures a little of what the evening and morning were like. Here, then, is the 2005 Paradise Lost Readathon Medley.
EDIT: On the off chance someone’s already downloaded the podcast, I should mention that I redid it early this morning with an intro in which I read the blog entry above. Now the podcast stands on its own.