Literature

Slutty nurse out, bloody Shakespeare heroine in at Halloween by the Book

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Lavinia from Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus came to gory life at Halloween by the Book.
Photo: Bill Hughes
Molly O'Donnell

It’s early on a Saturday night at a pub on the east side, but it still seems unusually slow. A few regulars tap their video poker machines or glance disinterestedly at the football game. A half hour later, a motley crew of characters has flipped the script, elbowing past light-beer drinkers in over-the-top costumes. A twig-handed Lavinia is the living recreation of bloody Titus Andronicus. Hamlet and Gertrude are chatting up Hunter S. Thompson and Dr. Gonzo, while Gatsby poses for a picture near Mark Twain.

Halloween by the Book invaded Murphy’s Law Irish Bar & Grill Saturday with dozens of creative costumes inspired by literature. Some people clearly took the literary challenge seriously. Hadley Hemingway toted around the valise filled with her husband’s lost manuscripts and Bukowski carried a purse of boxed wine. Even with some duplication—two Poes, two Snapes—participants’ innovation and DIY spirit trumped your average Satan and sexy nurse get-together. This attention to detail is probably attributable to the fact that most of the attendees were writers and literary nerds from UNLV’s English Department. (Full disclosure: I’m an instructor in that department, and I helped organize the event.)

An autumn escape from the midterm and paper grading, the party filled the bar and made judging the costume contest a real trial. Six categories were up for grabs, with prizes ranging from gift cards to an ’80s bra. The green light from Gatsby accepted her character award but not without pointing out that she was really a motif.

A night filled with two usually incompatible things, booze and books, proved to be a success, with the bartender snapping pictures and some already planning their costumes for next year.

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