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Marathon reading of 'Moby-Dick' returns to Sag Harbor

A T-shirt printed with a cover of the

A T-shirt printed with a cover of the Herman Melville novel, "Moby Dick," was on display June 4, 2015, outside Canio's Books in Sag Harbor. The illustration is by artist Rockwell Kent. Photo Credit: Gordon M. Grant

It'll be a whale of a weekend.

A marathon reading of the American classic "Moby-Dick" is returning to a Sag Harbor bookstore after more than a decadelong hiatus.

The former whaling village is mentioned in Herman Melville's 1851 novel, so it's an apt setting for the reading, organized by Canio's Books, a longtime independent bookstore in the village.

The idea was originally sparked in the 1980s after Canio Pavone, founder and past owner of the shop, had a conversation with a friend about a marathon reading of James Joyce's "Ulysses" on WBAI, a New York radio station.

"We were already doing a lot of readings," says Pavone, 80. "I said, 'Let's do something that hasn't been done.' So, with Sag Harbor being a whaling town, I thought of 'Moby-Dick.'"

The store's current owners decided to bring it back by popular demand.

"Random customers would come in and tell us their memories of the marathon readings all the time," says Maryann Calendrille, co-owner of the book shop with Kathryn Szoka.


Unlike in the past, it's less of a marathon and more of a carefully orchestrated series of readings, with people taking turns reading for 10 minutes over a 27-hour period spread across three days.

"We've modified it a little bit, to be saner about it," Calendrille notes. She and Szoka bought the bookshop in 1999, and have hosted only a few marathon readings since then.

The book will be read in its entirety, beginning with its famous first line, "Call me Ishmael," through Captain Ahab's obsessive search for the white whale to the dramatic sinking of the Pequod.

Just like the readings of the past, celebrated authors will be on hand, including author, ecologist and marine scientist Carl Safina; historical novelist Alan Furst; and poet and memoirist Mark Doty. Actors Sloane Shelton and Harris Yulin will be among the readers, too, as well as Pavone, who still volunteers once a week at the bookstore, and Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst.

Anyone can read, and there are a few slots still open. If interested, see the website or call the shop.

Feel free to dress up as a 19th century sailor or other characters from the book, say organizers.


The event coincides with the 375th anniversary of Southampton Town, and the readings take place all over Sag Harbor, including the Old Whalers' Church, Bay Street Theater, John Jermain Memorial Library and the Eastville Community Historical Society, which serves to preserve the African-American historical experience in the Eastville section of town.

"All of Sag Harbor is the right place for anything to do with whaling," says Sag Harbor Whaling Museum manager Greg Therriault, which will have a whaling exhibition open at the same time. Called "A Whale of a Show, " it focuses on the mammal's connection to the history of the village through art and literature.

There's a celebration after the readings end Sunday evening at the bookstore.

"There'll be snacks, refreshments and general merriment," says Calendrille. "Everyone's invited."


WHEN | WHERE Friday, June 12, noon-9 p.m.; Saturday, June 13, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday, June 14, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Canio's Books, 290 Main St., and other locations in Sag Harbor. See the website for a schedule.

INFO 631-725-4926,

COST Free; copies of "Moby-Dick" available for purchase.


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