In honor of National Library Week (April 11-17, 2010), Brian Feldman organized a week long performance where 67 Orange County Library System (OCLS) card holders read aloud for one hour at a time from any book they choose from the OCLS collection, on the entry roof of the Orlando Public Library downtown branch. The event is an independent production of Brian Feldman Projects and is supported through in-kind donations of area businesses and individuals, and has not been paid for by the Orange County Library System.
Every reader to this point had been taken up to the roof overlooking the entryway to the library. This area is like a large never used balcony with a grand view of the street below, and makes for an impressive staging area. Mary Hill was open to the idea of me sketching her as she read Thomas Morton's book "Contemplative Prayer." She was set up with a wireless mic and she then began to read. Speakers carried her voice to any passersby, and on rare occasions someone would look up and notice her perched high above the entry. When she reached for a sip of water, a homeless man across the street threw his hands up in the air and cheered. The sun was pounding down that afternoon and I sketched from the only patch of shade on the roof. After Mary had been replaced with another reader, she said her eyes had dried out and she had trouble focusing. She laid down for a while and rested on the concrete ledge before we both went back down to ground level using the scissor lift.
Harriett Lake is a renowned Orlando philanthropist and supporter of the arts. When I discovered she was going to be a reader, I knew I had to sketch her. Her choice of "The Catcher in the Rye" was also a bit controversial since this book at times has been banned from school curricula. Harriet told Brian she couldn't go up in the lift because of her age and slight disability. She was seated in one of the two red camping chairs Brian had set up on the street level near the computer which was mission central. Harriet needed a more comfortable chair so a wheelchair was bought out for her to sit in. Harriet's enthusiasm for the book was evident from the start as she read a newspaper article about the book and author, J. D. Salinger. She lost her grip on the article when she finished and the paper started to blow down the street. A passerby picked it up and tried to hand it back, but she was already reading the book and didn't notice him.
Amanda Chadwick came over with her very frightened dachshund. She tried to calm the dog, but it would jump and scurry any time there was aloud noise. In front of the public library, there are many loud noises. Ambulances rushed by, the electronic lift screeched and groaned. People exiting the library bust out with loud laughter and joking as they escape the deafening silence from inside. Through it all, Harriet read with enjoyment the small orange paperback.
She read, "Pencey was full of crooks. Quite a few guys came from these wealthy families, but it was full of crooks anyway. The more expensive school is, the more crooks it has - I'm not kidding." Twice she stopped reading and started laughing. She shouted out, "This is a funny book, I forgot how darn funny it is." I laughed out loud as well sharing her delight. Homeless men with backpacks and business men in suits shuffled by. A few times people stopped, surprised by all the camera equipment and lights and they listened for a brief moment before hurrying off.
She read aloud, "People never notice anything." This seemed so appropriate as people rushed all around her always focused on a destination rather than savoring this moment here and now. Harriet was the last reader for the day and when her hour was up Brian approached her and let her know. She shouted back, "What? THAT was an hour?! It didn't feel like an hour!" I laughed out loud again. When you're doing something you love, time flies and life always finds a way to interrupt the process. There was magic in the moments Harriet was reading in front of the library. The fact that she was so much closer to all the activity on the street, and the fact that nothing phased her made this feel like an important and meaningful sign that art endures amidst life's chaos.
I will be reading as part of 67 Books on Saturday April 17th from 3 to 4 PM. I am not entirely sure which book I am reading yet, but in the running are "The Fountainhead" by Ann Rand and "Book of Sketches" by Jack Kerouac. Which do you think I should read, any suggestions?