The Big Read Blog (Archive)

Stellar E-Clips

April 6, 2009
Washington, DC

I'm picketing my muse. I'm on strike against the generally scarce and subpar blog ideas I've been getting lately. Luckily, just when inspiration flags, an endless stream of blogworthy ideas lands in my inbox daily in the form of "the clips," an agreeably archaic term for internal e-links to each day's NEA-related stories in every decent-sized news outlet in the country.

Usually a goodly number of these e-clips pertain to The Big Read. Even a relatively sleepy day like yesterday was no exception, yielding five Big Read clips out of ten -- and two from Marshall, Texas. Marshall is just getting started with a read of Ernest J. Gaines' A Lesson Before Dying, and Wiley College's Big Read organizer Dr. Evelyn Bonner has obviously been beating the bushes for support. The Marshall News Messenger itself has signed on as a sponsor, as has the local Rotary Club, to which the Messenger sent a reporter to catch a speech from Bonner.

All this just on Tuesday, followed by a gala kickoff Wednesday at which Gaines himself participated from his home in Louisiana. The accompanying photo in Wednesday's Messenger of Gaines, posing gamely on a Skype screen in his beret before a reportedly rapt town-gown audience at the college, neatly encapsulates part of The Big Read's partial mission: to bring great writing and writers into corners of America that don't get to enjoy them very often.

Per these same virtual clippings, Amy Tan will skip the Skype and visit Columbus, Ohio, in person for their Big Read kickoff of The Joy Luck Club, as reported in the nearby Delaware News. And the Oxford Press of Oxford, Ohio, wrote warmly of the finale of their Call of the Wild Read, which took the form of a dog training event in the Uptown Memorial Park:

"Present was Karen Ross, a fourth-grade Kramer Elementary teacher who owns a therapy dog named Biscuit. According to Ross, Biscuit loves visiting second- and third-grade classes and spending time with students. "(Biscuit) likes to be with kids and listen to them read," Ross said. Biscuit's friends from Kramer Elementary also came Uptown to say hello to the friendly pup." I wish I could've sat with Biscuit and listened to the kids of Kramer Elementary read too.

Finally, the Southern Food and Beverage Museum of New Orleans has really outdone itself, as detailed in a McClatchy wire story datelined Charlotte, NC -- and reprinted in the Chicago Tribune. They've prepared a lesson plan for teachers called "Food in To Kill a Mockingbird." Care to hazard a guess how many different foods and beverages Harper Lee mentions in her classic novel? Try 52 -- from ambrosia salad to scuppernongs -- large southern grapes that bake well into the pie of the same name.

What all these undertakings have in common -- one writer's televised talk, another's visit in person, a dog show, an investigation of food's role in a beloved book -- is an attempt to make a book come alive for somebody who might need a little coaxing to take the leap and read it. I'm just relieved that the Southern Food and Beverage Museum didn't have New Orleans read The Call of the Wild instead of Mockingbird. There's only so much you can do with salt pork?

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