Wednesday, May 11, 2011

'Things They Carried' Recent "Big Read" Events

The Big Read 2011
The Big Read, created by the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and in cooperation with Arts Midwest, is designed to draw communities together around a single book through a month long series of related literary events. The goal is to restore reading to the center of a community’s culture. According to a 2004 report by the National Endowment for the Arts, Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America, “not only is literary reading in America declining rapidly among all groups, but the rate of decline has accelerated, especially among the young.” The Big Read aims to address this crisis by celebrating some of the greatest books.

For 2011, Get Lit! Programs is hosting Spokane County’s third Big Read series March 4th through April 16th. This year’s selection, Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, is a collection of stories about soldiers who served during the Vietnam War. O’Brien is a combat veteran of the Vietnam War and his book was chosen because it exemplifies the festival theme: “Telling the American Story.” Tracing the tour of one American platoon, The Things They Carried is considered one of the finest books ever written about combat and was a finalist for both the 1990 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Our goal is to encourage as many people as possible to read and discuss this book in 2011.

Tim O’Brien received the 1979 National Book Award in fiction for Going After Cacciato. His other works include July, July and In the Lake of the Woods, which received the James Fenimore Cooper Prize from the Society of American Historians and was named the best novel of 1994 by Time.

The Big Read opens on March 4 with a reception hosted by Spokane mayor, Mary Verner, featuring stories by veterans of foreign wars. Following the kick-off, there will be multiple tie-in events related to the book. For example, Eastern Washington University’s Theater Department wrote an adaptation of the book which will be staged from March 4-12. There will be a Wednesday night film series related to the 1960’s and/or wars in general at one of two locations downtown. Multiple book discussions will be open to the public at local libraries, bookstores, and community spots. The Big Read will then culminate in an evening with Vietnam-War veteran Tim O’Brien and Iraq-War veteran and poet Brian Turner, during the Get Lit! Festival on April 16th at The Bing Crosby Theater.

For more information about the national efforts made by The Big Read, visit