The New Bedford Whaling Museum's Moby-Dick Marathon is an annual non-stop reading of Herman Melville's literary masterpiece. The multi-day program of entertaining activities and events is presented every January. Admission to the Marathon is free.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

How to Be a Good Moby-Dick Marathon Reader, Part 1

The New Bedford Moby-Dick marathon, to its credit, involves a cast of hundreds.  The opportunity to be one of the readers is open to all, first come, first served.  About eight weeks before the marathon, the museum begins registering volunteers to read, and even on the two marathon days themselves, anyone who has not already registered may sign up to be a stand-by reader. 

When you register, no one inquires into your qualifications or lack thereof.  They don't even ask if you've read Moby-Dick or are a member of the museum.  Not unlike a Quaker meeting, where the Inner Light might move anyone to speak, the marathon denies nobody who registers the opportunity to be heard.  Eloquence or learning is not a prerequisite. 

Just as not everyone is a born preacher, not everyone is a born reader.  The quality of marathon readings varies as much as the backgrounds of the volunteers.  Still, I believe it's possible to agree on a handful of principles that, if observed, will help you read in a most pleasing manner.  We will propose these principles from time to time in a series of posts.

Rule 1:  Do not shout.

The podiums at which the readers stand are equipped with sensitive microphones.  They will pick up and amplify perfectly well whatever you say in a normal speaking voice.  If you come on board "shouting like a boatswain in a gale of wind," the amplified sound will knock the listeners out of their chairs.  It's painful.  The back row will hear you fine without shouting.


  1. Thank you for sharing guidelines for behaving and reading at the MDM. I am hoping to be an attendee and reader in 2012 as part of celebrating my 50th birthday. Keep the "how to be a good reader" advice coming!

  2. Ahoy, Ynot, and thanks for the support! We have plenty more tips that we'll be rolling out over the coming months. We'll also alert our readers when the sign-up date draws near, so you can be sure to call the museum to reserve a reading spot.