The Big Read is an NEA project "to restore reading to the center of American culture."
The Big Read answers a big need. Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America, a 2004 report by the National Endowment for the Arts, found that not only is literary reading in America declining rapidly among all groups, but that the rate of decline has accelerated, especially among the young. The concerned citizen in search of good news about American literary culture would study the pages of this report in vain.Seeing Amy Tan's picture in my library branch on each recent visit made me wonder if she had recovered from her terrible bout with Lyme disease, so I was happy to read in a Reuter's India dispatch today that she is doing much better and is working hard at her writing again. The article ends with this interesting quote from Tan regarding her decision never to release information about any of her "in progress" work.
The Big Read aims to address this crisis squarely and effectively. It provides citizens with the opportunity to read and discuss a single book within their communities. The initiative includes innovative reading programs in selected cities and towns, comprehensive resources for discussing classic literature, an ambitious national publicity campaign, and an extensive Web site providing comprehensive information on authors and their works.
Each community event lasts approximately one month and includes a kick-off event to launch the program locally, ideally attended by the mayor and other local luminaries; major events devoted specifically to the book (panel discussions, author reading, and the like); events using the book as a point of departure (film screenings, theatrical readings, and so forth); and book discussions in diverse locations and aimed at a wide range of audiences.
"I never talk about what a new book is about as it will leave me. There is a story in Chinese where a man goes to a magical place and is overwhelmed by the beauty and the peace. He has to leave and they tell him that if he tells anyone where this place is he will never find it again. That is the metaphor for writing. You are in a secret place and discovering it but once you tell people it is gone."I find this to be an extremely graceful refusal to an interview question she didn't want to answer, a response perfectly in character for my image of the author.