Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Big Read

In conjunction with the National Endowment for the Arts, some local educational and literary organizations are sponsoring this community event: The Big Read. The idea is to choose one book for "everybody" to read and discuss.

This is a national program, and the NEA selected four books for the local committees to decide among. Florida's selection is Farenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury.

Ray Bradbury was one of my favorite authors when I was young. His books, especially Dandelion Wine, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and The Illustrated Man provide some of my most vivid reading memories. For example, in Dandelion Wine, there's a scene in which three children encounter an elderly woman. She buys them ice cream, they sit on her porch, and during the course of conversation she tries to convince them that she was once young. They find the idea ludicrous. When I read the book, I was the age of those children, and the idea was as new to me as it was to them. I remain loyal to authors who introduce entirely new ideas to me.

I put Bradbury on my list of authors that everyone should read before they get too old--for most people who read, I'd say by age 25 you are likely to be too worldly, too jaded to be able to appreciate the work. I know I am. The books are almost irritating to me now--I tried to read Farenheit 451 last year when my daughter was reading it for English class, and I didn't get through it.

Other authors who share space on the read-'em-while-you're-young list include Taylor Caldwell, Ayn Rand, Howard Fast and C.S. Lewis. There are, on the other hand, some authors of "children's books" whose work I would recommend to anyone of any age. That list includes E.B. White, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and A.A. Milne.


yellojkt said...

Farenheit 451 sounds like a great choice. Shame they couldn't have picked something by MacDonald or Hiaasen.

Karen said...

It's quite a challenge to choose a book for "everyone"--I wouldn't want to be on that committee. But Farenheit 451 is good because it's a book about books. Also, it's not going to discourage anybody because of being overly intellectual, but at the same time, it's a book that teachers use in literature classes. I won't be reading it during The Big Read, but I do own a copy and I'm sure I'll be discussing the book with my daughter.

P.S. Hiaasen's new movie (HOOT) opens this weekend, to megapublicity from the Miami Herald (it's the least they could do) but a lukewarm review (two stars) from one of their second-string movie critics. I'm sure the main guy declined because he didn't want to have to say negative things about it.

The puff piece had me thinking I might have to go see it--Jimmy Buffet and Carl himself both make cameo appearances, that's fun. But the review changed my mind.