On a bright–lit Youtube screen, Olivia Matlin (C'18) chews and swallows page after page.
This New York native is the creative brain behind Read It and Eat It, an online show that "pushes consumption of knowledge to the fullest." As an artist, Olivia considers herself as a provocateur and is inspired by cringe comedy and gross–out humor. She's also deeply affected by the books she reads, both intellectually and physically. That's where the idea of Read It and Eat It originated.
The show's title can be interpreted quite literally: it features Olivia reading and eating a book. Directed by award–winning Cinema Studies majors Arlo Gordon (C'18) and Elvire Audi (C'17), the first episode is called "Catcher in the Rye Bread Sandwich." Olivia selected the book because it is a critically acclaimed classical novel and prepared the ingredients based on the title. Juxtaposing the consumption of knowledge and nutrients, Olivia performed a "weird, alternative comedy," a hybrid of SparkNotes book summary and BuzzFeed Tasty video.
In the 11–minute episode, Olivia makes a sandwich out of rye bread, turkey, mayonnaise, mustard and book leaves from Catcher in the Rye and eats it bits by bits in a pair of silky white gloves and a 1950s style black dress. Presenting to the audience a stark contrast between the image of an innocent and clean housewife and the process of an absurd activity, Olivia successfully integrates messiness and cleanliness, the grotesque and the sublime into one empathetic performance.
When editing the video, Arlo decided to keep the parts where Olivia gagged on the roughness of the paper. In fact, Olivia had consulted with multiple health professionals on the side effects of absorbing fiber and ink. The resulting irresistible realness of book–eating presents the "spectacular aspect of shock value." And this shock factor demonstrates the ultimate dedication of Olivia in expressing how she feels about the book, Arlo comments. "I had no choice. I had to eat the book!" Olivia said.
To Arlo, the project's "molding of reading and eating into the most avant-garde and shocking way" is unprecedented. In the future, they hope to "establish a brand through this project" and "make it as professional as possible," Olivia adds.
Until then, let's keep reading and eating.