Over at the National Endowment for the Arts, they are working overtime to squeeze out the 200k they need to organize giant reading groups around the country to read one of four American novels: "Their Eyes Were Watching God", "The Great Gatsby", "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Fahrenheit 451". I say "squeeze" sarcastically because it seems like a pittance compared to what they should be putting out for this project. I applaud the NEA for doing something to get people interested in books and reading, but they should have come up with three times that amount. Still, considering the political climate towards anything cultural in these United States, we should be grateful that there is any money at all.
The program looks to be the result of a study the NEA did last year called "Reading at Risk" in which, based on questions from the 2000 Census, they apparently found a steep decline in reading across a wide range of Americans. I've downloaded the free pdf file and am reading it now. Pick up one for yourself here.
Er...I have to admit I haven't read "Their Eyes Were Watching God" yet, but I hope to remedy that situation this year. Personally, I like the list of books the NEA are using. I would have thrown in a Mark Twain or a J.D. Salinger, but I suppose they don't want any controversy. Too bad, controversy gets the blood pumping and the brain thinking.
"When a thing ceases to be a subject of controversy, it ceases to be a subject of interest"
-William Hazlitt (1778-1830)
PS. At Grand Text Auto there's a lively critique of the NEA report. Check it out here.