Wichitans are cordially invited to spend the coming weeks in the alluring company of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.” The Big Read is back – and flashing back to the 1920s via the vivid writing of perhaps the best American novel of them all.
Its backdrops include the decadent parties hosted by the mysterious Jay Gatsby on long Long Island summer nights. “In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars,” says narrator Nick Carraway. At the book’s heart, though, is Gatsby’s quiet, destructive love for another man’s wife.
The 1925 novel should give people plenty to talk about during the fifth-annual Big Read from Monday through Nov. 21. In addition to presentations, programs and discussions spanning all age groups and sites from Derby, Goddard and Newton to Pratt as well as Wichita, this Big Read will offer jazz performances, movie nights, three one-act plays by Fitzgerald, and some unexpected tie-ins (a Monopoly tournament?). The kickoff will be 2 to 4 p.m. Oct. 6 at the Wichita Art Museum, with key events including Pat O’Connor’s talk “Bootlegging in Wichita” at 2 p.m. Oct. 14 at the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum; Wichita State University faculty member Kerry Jones’ talk “F. Scott Fitzgerald, ‘The Great Gatsby,’ and the American Dream” at 2:30 p.m. Oct. 28 at the Central Library; and Debra Conner’s show “Zelda Fitzgerald: Muse to Madness” at 2 p.m. Nov. 3 in Friends University’s Alumni Auditorium. For the full schedule, visit www.bigreadwichita.org.
After all that, it will be too bad that Baz Luhrmann’s new film adaptation of the novel, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan, won’t open as planned in December, having been delayed until May.
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Though there are many partners, the biggest thanks for the Big Read Wichita go to the Wichita Public Library and the national Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest. Their efforts to promote reading enrich the community and region.
“Though ‘The Great Gatsby’ runs to fewer than 200 pages, there is no bigger read in American literature,” the NEA has noted.
And there will be no better time or place to read or reread it than the next few weeks in Wichita.
For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman