The Big Read: Fahrenheit 451
Column by Chris Graham
OK, have to admit something here. I haven’t read Fahrenheit 451. I know the premise, seems interesting, seems like the kind of book that I would just eat up, since the Cliff’s Notes people say it’s about book burning and information control and other things that get me riled up.
Haven’t read it. I’m starting it today. The Big Read has power!
I interviewed Christiana Shields from the Community Foundation of the Central Blue Ridge for the Monday AFP Show podcast to talk about The Big Read, a project led by the Community Foundation with matching-grant funds from the National Endowment for the Arts.
A quick history of The Big Read: The NEA back in 2002 found in a national study that literary reading was seriously on the decline, and that was even with them being pretty loose with what they defined as literary reading.
(The new Malcolm Gladwell book that I’m reading right now, What the Dog Saw, counts. So does the Mitch Albom book I just finished. I don’t know that my Calvin and Hobbes bound cartoon collection does.)
So the NEA jumpstarted the first Big Read as a pilot project. The Community Foundation came on board in 2008 with a Big Read around the Harper Lee classic To Kill a Mockingbird.
The concept: to bring the community together around a book with live readings and related events with the goal of getting people who aren’t right now reading regularly to get back in the good habit.
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is a good choice for 2010 because, hey, let’s put it like it is, “it’s fairly short,” as Shields admitted in our podcast interview, and of course there’s the message.
“It’s really very prescient in a lot of ways, talking about technology taking over our lives, to the extinction of books, I guess, which I hope is not happening. But it is pretty amazing when you think about a lot of the things he wrote about in his books are not coming true exactly, but are very prevalent,” Shields said.