The Big Read Blog (Archive)

Captions for a Scrapbook Yet to Come

September 25, 2008
On the road

My inbox is jammed. Literally, with several unopened emails from the office just since yesterday, but also figuratively, with panoramic mental images from the last 10 days on the road, hopscotching from one burg to another for The Big Read. The idea for the trip was to help stitch up this inspired, but somehow episodic program into a narrative that might make sense to a casual observer, somebody who didn't live and breathe it every day as I do. I had hoped to clarify The Big Read in people's minds as the national reading initiative it truly is, over and above the 200 wonderfully local cityreads this year that make it fly. What I didn't expect -- in addition to the daily physical challenge of visiting one or two cities, recording my experiences, and driving up to 10 or 12 hours along the way? was the privilege of having my own commitment to The Big Read profoundly recharged.

It's not exactly postcard quality, but yes, that is the Golden Gate in the background daring Rosie to compete in the iconic, eye-catching shades of red dept. Photo by David Kipen

I'm on the way back now, with Rosie the Big Read Mobile (aka Arts Force One) just a day or so away from a much-needed wax job before the National Book Festival on Saturday. Before we hit the finish line, though, there's just time enough for a first backward glance at all the flags on the office Big Read map that have become so real and so dear to me over the last week. Snapshots can shape and even supplant our memories, so here, even before looking mine over, are some pre-captions for all the pictures I took, or tried, or meant to take:

Aurora, CO -- a shy boy, holding in one hand a dogsled he'd just made out of popsicle sticks, in the other his skinny Dover trade paperback of The Call of the Wild , which the library's Jamie Jurgensen tells me kids prefer to the fatter mass market edition that adults favor

Greeley, CO -- a faux bookburning, with everything from Fahrenheit 451 to Colorado's own Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Got His Gun consigned to the flames under the gimlet eye of the fire chief

Fallon, NV -- the Fallon Theater marquee, which, if a certain visiting G-man is humored, will soon temporarily read ?FALCON? in honor of Dashiell Hammett

Sonoma County, CA -- radio station KRCB, whose book show host Suzanne Lang strikes a pose as smoothly professional as ?this town square of the air's? ambitious Big Read plans for To Kill a Mockingbird

Pleasanton, CA -- a speakeasy chute, down which clubgoers and Gatsby readers now slide as efficiently as bootleg hooch once did

Corpus Christi, TX -- speaking of rapid descents, the stationhouse firepole down which a certain visiting G-man resisted the impulse to slide

Mesquite, TX -- breakfast with the morning Rotary Club at the Dallas Athletic Club, shortly and even more tastily followed by lunch at the impressive Mesquite Arts Center, which is spearheading a read of Fahrenheit 451

Hattiesburg, MS -- Seymour, the University of Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles' mascot, finally finding a book he can bury his considerable nose in, Their Eyes Were Watching God

Douglasville, GA -- Rosie, cooling her engines before the welcoming portico of the Douglasville Arts Council and its Big Read of To Kill a Mockingbird

Atlanta, GA -- the Margaret Mitchell House, already astir with plans months before its Big Read of Gatsby begins

Roxboro, NC ? Steinbeck scholar Susan Shillinglaw, returning to her Tarheel roots to regale a capacity crowd

Winston-Salem, NC ? much-honored, much-banned author Chris Crutcher, doing his part for Winston-Salem's Big Read of Fahrenheit 451

Captions without pictures make for an odd sort of IOU, but our computers and yours can take only so much information at a time. The pictures are coming, and with them impressions enough to last me through the long winter. I hope to illustrate and flesh out these memories in the coming days, sift through them like seed corn for clues to making The Big Read even better, and the next Big Ride a little saner. Meantime, enjoy the shot above of Rosie at her apogee on the Pacific Coast...