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Student Salutes Author With 24-Hour Recital

By David S. Kurnick

Guinness Lager, strong coffee, deconstructionist fiction and Irish accents abounded this weekend in the Adams House Lower Common Room, as Richard Eoin Nash '92-'93 attempted a 24-hour long reading of Flann O'Brien's 1939 novel AT SWIM TWO BIRDS.

The spectacle commemorated what would have been the Irish cult writer's 80th birthday.

Nash fortified himself for the grueling reading by downing a bowl of Life cereal and a pile of potato chips prior to starting at 12:10 Saturday afternoon-"late, in true Irish style," he said. For liquids, Nash confined himself to drinks both "black and diuretic--coffee and Guinness" only.

Nash, an actor and Adams resident who is Irish by birth, embarked with gusto on his reading, modulating his accent according to which character he was reading.

His reverberating brogue attracted curious glances from passersby on Plympton St., and several Adams House residents peered in at the door for awhile, distracted from lunch by the one-man show.

The four-member audience present at the start on Saturday, however, was rapt. Greer I. Gilman, who works at the Widener Library Preservation Department, was among those witnessing the start of the reading. Greer, who brought along her own dog-eared copy of the "obscure and very attractive book," said she appreciated Nash's "passion and his fanatic heart."

Nash originally planned to continue reading until 12 p.m. on Sunday. Close to midnight he completed the novel much ahead of schedule, and then began another of O'Brien's novels.

By 1 a.m., only two spectators lingered, one of them sleeping. At approximately 1:15 a.m., Nash called off the reading. He explained that a few minutes earlier, his "neck and cheek muscles had started going into spasms."

Nash had postered extensively for his reading, inviting his audience members to "come and go as they please." Nash, who sees himself as a "proselytizer" on O'Brien's behalf, said he hoped to draw attention to the greatness of this often-overlooked author. According to Nash, O'Brien "took the novel apart at its seams when [deconstructionist philosopher Jacques] Derrida was still in his nappies."

At Swim-Two-Birds is reputedly the last book Irish author James Joyce read before going blind.

The reading was not the first tribute to O'Brien that Nash has conducted. Last year he staged a one-man show based on O'Brien's works called, "The Hair of the Dogma." The show ran last August at the Loeb Experimental Theatre and Nash performed it in Berlin and Dublin this summer.

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