The Big Read Blog (Archive)

What they’re reading in Hartland

September 25, 2007
Hartland, Michigan

"Road work ahead," say many of the signs in Michigan -- the unofficially nicknamed Orange Barrel State, I'm told -- and truer bumblebee-colored words were never posted. So much roadwork will define this blog/job this fall that they aptly combine into one commingled blob.

Oh, I'll still keep busy driving the office crazy by stetting most of my previous edits in the upcoming round of materials. I'll still keep trying to distract the Big Read staff from how shamelessly we're overworking them. I'll still be kibitzing with Jo Reed on XM Radio till the shellfire of A Farewell to Arms and the hellfire of Fahrenheit 451 go up in twined smoke. (Come to think of it, maybe I won't be spending quite half my time on The Big Ride after all.)

Today, though, finds me in Hartland, Mich., though not without some searching. As the name suggests, Hartland is a dreamy American town, dappled in fall by torn cloud and nourished this day on burgers, franks, and the Garden Club's hard, tart, delicious apples. I wish I could say ? as I did in remarks to several score assembled Hartlanders ? that their Big Read kickoff was timed to boost turnout at their annual Heritage Days festival, with its classic car show and displays of Hartlandia. Alas, skeptical titters suggested vice versa.

Whichever, unfailingly jazzed organizer Carol Taggart's attendance clicker had passed 500 last time I asked. Entering a raffle earned attendees a chance at some hardcover Bradburies. In addition, this photo I snapped before the camera batteries got thirsty shows a steady stream of locals collecting a paperback Fahrenheit apiece from the hundreds of copies bought and donated by the local paper, the Daily Press & Argus. (Some newspapers still know which side of the next circulation audit their bread is buttered on.)

In case you haven't twigged to it already, I had a riproaring good time. So, apparently, did Congressman Mike Rogers, tickled over his 13-year-old daughter's recent disappearance into a Gandhi biography. Also present were a respectful row of lay lobbyists for peace and universal health care, taking Bradbury's message of free speech proudly to heart. Couple this with all the no less galvanizing Big Read days like this one last spring, and the sign on my way out of town looked wildly inappropriate. "END ROAD WORK"? I'm just getting warmed up?