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A small band of Herman Melville devotees orated their...

PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- A small band of Herman Melville devotees orated their way through a marathon reading of 'Moby Dick' during the weekend, winding up bleary-eyed and toungue-tied, but looking forward to next year.

Huddled in a second-floor study of Arrowhead, the spot in Melville's former home where the author penned 'Moby Dick,' the group began Saturday morning with dramatic enunciation and finished Sunday morning, giggling over their oratorical slips.

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In all, the 135-chapter opus took 22 hours and 38 minutes to complete and raised $700 for the restoration of the study.

The marathon stopped only once. Readers paused 15 minutes for donated chowder, bagels and dessert.

'We were a little disappointed that there weren't more people,' Arrowhead administrative assistant Colleen Bucher said.

A dozen readers had volunteered to participate in the marathon sponsored by the Berkshire County Historical Society, but several either canceled or failed to show, said Liselle LaFrance, acting director of the society.

In fact, there never were more than six participants at Arrowhead at any one time, and for a period of 10 chapters Saturday night, LaFrance and Bucher read to one another.

By 6 a.m., Sunday, three dogged readers sat erect in their chairs as the opus neared its finist -- Ahab closing in on the great white whale.

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One reader took two tries to correctly pronounce 'similarly,' causing Bucher and LaFrance to start giggling. Bucher then read 'Abraham' for 'Ahab' and the giggles returned.

Despite the difficulty of the task, Bucher said she for one is willing to wade through Melville again next year.

'Sure,' she said. 'We may do it again if there's enough interest.'

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