14th annual Read-In highlights Moby Dick


Sam Summers

Readers tell the story of “Moby Dick” over the course of more than 16 hours at the 14th Annual English Department Read-In beginning Friday, Oct. 11.

The sound of an enthusiastic reader regaling the story of the Pequod could be heard from the Oakland Center’s Market Lounge on Friday, Oct. 11. Readers swiftly exchanged every 10 minutes in a marathon attempt to read “Moby Dick.”

The 14th Annual English Department Read-In began on Friday, Oct. 11 at 11 a.m., and lasted for over 16 hours until Saturday, Oct. 12 at 3 a.m. Students signed up to read aloud a passage of “Moby Dick” for 10 minutes at a time for anyone who stopped to listen. 

The event was planned to go until noon on Oct. 12, but was cut short due to a lack of readers in the early morning hours. 

Dr. Rob Anderson, English professor at Oakland University, has been organizing the annual read-in since it began. 

“The idea was that reading has become a real private experience,” Anderson said. “We read in our rooms by ourselves, when there’s something really social about reading. Traditionally, when literacy was not widespread, you’d have groups of people that would read books together and the ones that could would read out loud, and the other ones would listen. That’s part of what I wanted to recapture — is that experience of reading in a public atmosphere.” 

The decision to do “Moby Dick” is what makes this year’s read-in so unusual. According to Anderson, the English department likes to keep a variety when it comes to the books being read. “Moby Dick” was chosen this year in part to honor what would be author Herman Melville’s 200th birthday. 

Spanning 135 chapters and 585 pages, “Moby Dick” is the longest book attempted at the read-in. 

“When I first organized [the read-in] 14 years ago, the goal was to do something like ‘Moby Dick’ because it’s so long and it’s such a wonderful, strange and difficult book,” Anderson said. 

Readers often shy away from this book because of its length and difficulty level. The goal of the read-in was to make it more accessible for people to enjoy without the hassles that come with reading alone. 

“I’m really excited that it’s ‘Moby Dick’ because I think a lot of people feel very strongly against ‘Moby Dick,’” said Caitlyn Ulery, president of OU’s chapter of the Sigma Tau Delta English honor society. “They’re really not fans of the book at all, so I think this will be a really awesome opportunity for people to just connect a little more with the book than they might be capable of when reading it by themselves.”

Another goal of the read-in, according to Anderson, was to bring people together in a broader sense of community. 

Senior Mickey McGlinnen read aloud for 10 minutes around 2 p.m. on Friday. 

“I’m a theater minor, so I really love performing and reading out loud, so this sounded like a great chance,” McGlinnen said. “I love ‘Moby Dick’ a lot, I love the way it’s written, I love the language, and it’s nice to have that sense of community where you share it with a bunch of people. I wanted to know what that felt like to share a piece of literature.”

At the end of every read-in, Anderson likes to bring the group together to share in the last minutes of the event and read together. 

“I didn’t know this going in, when there’s a group of people who are there for the whole time or most of the time, when we come to the end, the last couple minutes or so, I try to have everyone who’s there to read together at the same time,” Anderson said. “There’s this wonderful feeling, like, ‘I did something different, something sometimes difficult, and I did it in this group.’”