Thursday, 7 October 2010

Reading Under The Volcano 6th November 2010

Part interactive theater, part Día de los Muertos festival, part celebration of alcohol: come experience the hot music of Malcolm Lowry’s “Under the Volcano” in a 12 hour group marathon reading. On the Day of the Dead, 1938, Yvonne returns to her husband, a British Consul in Mexico, a year after having left him. His drunkenness intensifies as they spiral downward during their final 12 hours. Bring a pillow. —Saturday, November 6th at noon—High Concept Laboratories, 1401 Wabansia Ave, Chicago—tacos and tequila— Donations to benefit Literacy Works: an adult literacy organization in Chicago.

Peter Weathers, the organiser of the reading has contacted me to help publicise this worthy event.

Reading Under the Volcano from Praxis on Vimeo.

The novel can be read simply as a story which you can skip if you want. It can be read as a story you will get more out of if you don’t skip. It can be regarded as a kind of symphony, or in another way as a kind of opera—or even a horse opera. It is hot music, a poem, a song, a comedy, a farce, and so forth. It is superficial, profound, entertaining, and boring, according to taste. It is a prophecy, a political warning, a cryptogram, a preposterous movie.— Malcolm Lowry

Here is what Peter has to say about the event:

Lets be honest here. Reading this book requires some endurance, some tenacity. Most great things do. You can go on not reading it, of course. Or, you could read it. You could read it out loud. You could hear it read to you. The quote above makes me think that reading it together is a fruitful option. You can skip it and not skip it. You can get the force of the opera—horse opera being a cheeky reference to the novel’s potential kitsch. You can hear it as music, with music. You can see the movie, and taste the alcohol.

Here’s what I think will be involved on November 6th:

—The reading will begin with chapter 2, at noon. This is to bypass some of the difficulty of the first chapter, but is mainly so that we have a chance of reaching the end of the novel by midnight. Ten or fifteen-minute sections will be available to sign-up and read out loud. You can read out loud it if you want, or not if you don’t want to.

—You’ll get bored. You can come and go when you want to. You’ll get interested again. You can go to sleep. Step out and have a cigarette. The makeup and flow of the event relies on the people who come.

—There’ll be food and drink. It’s pretty much impossible not to drink while reading the most famous novel about alcohol ever written. Beer. Tequila. Mescal. More on this later.

—Technology. The reading will be live broadcast online. Others from around the world will be able to participate as well.

—A DJ will mix original, popular, referred and relevant music during the reading.

—The film version will be on loop in another part of the space. Directed by John Huston and starring Albert Finney and Jacqueline Bisset, it’ll be an interesting counterpoint to the original work. It can also help orient people who need some support in following the plot (yea—its easy to get lost.) A Canadian documentary on Lowry will also be on loop.

—The second floor of High Concept Laboratories will be transformed into a space celebrating the Day of the Dead. Altars to the deceased will mark the continuing presence of the past. Sugar and chocolate skulls; pan de muerto; Mexican marigolds; skeletons… Yeah.

—Also, there will be visual art. Art about the inevitability of death. Art about the trouble and rewards of relationships. Art about volcanos. Art about Mexico. Art about Día de los muertos. Some will be for sale; some will be for auction. All funds will benefit Literacy Works, a non-profit dedicated to improving adult literacy in Chicago.

I’d love your thoughts. I’d really love your suggestions?.

Contact Peter by email:

Reading Under The Volcano Blog

I will be back with further posts on the event!


  1. That sounds like a great event to be part of. Wish I could go, alas, in Chicago, it's a two day trip.

  2. I was hoping someone would have a public reading. I think you really need to start at the beginning when M. Laruelle reads the letter. The book begins where it ends, at the bar in Farolito, where Geoffry has written the undelivered letter. The color and mood of the story are painted there. We learn of Yvonne's attraction to M. Laruelle as he flattered her to be an actress. It is a very important part of the story.