Expect to see a lot of Wichitans in the coming days carrying around Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried,” as they come to better appreciate not only the daily burdens of Vietnam War soldiers but also the power and joy of reading.
“War is hell, but that’s not the half of it, because war is also mystery and terror and adventure and courage and discovery and holiness and pity and despair and longing and love,” O’Brien’s narrator muses in the 1990 book, the surprisingly gritty selection for the 2011 Big Read Wichita.
The Big Read begins at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Wichita Art Museum, where hundreds of free copies will be available, and continues through Nov. 15 with book discussions, talks, storytelling and events from Wichita to Andover to North Newton, as well as a special appearance by the author: O’Brien, a 64-year-old Minnesota native and Vietnam vet who teaches creative writing at Texas State University-San Marcos, will speak at
7 p.m. Nov. 3 at Wichita State University’s Hughes Metropolitan Complex.
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The Big Read Wichita happens thanks to the Wichita Public Library and the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest, among other sponsors. For details, including titles and events suitable for young readers, go to www.bigreadwichita.org.
The Wichita school board this week challenged Mayor Carl Brewer and the City Council to read along with the Big Read. Now, the rest of the community should join this fourth-annual community celebration of literature’s ability to spark conversations, imaginations and — most important of all — the desire to read more.