By Dante DeAmicis
October was Big Read project month for Lake County. They chose Joy Luck Club to beat to death. What for? For the $4,000 of course. That’s what funneled down to us from the NEA. Actually, I have no idea if they beat it to death. For all I know the books are still in the shipping crate as mother-daughter relationships and Chinese culture are being explored in other ways this month.
The requirements are loose to qualify for this $4,000 but I assume there is some accounting requirement. Predictably, there are several teacher and councilor led discussion groups. How many readers are showing up? How many show up because they have to? How many who show up had a voice in choosing the project book? It would be nice to get some numbers after October.
The Big Read schedule of events is posted around the County. Most activities are organized by existing groups who have tweaked what they do anyway to tie in with themes and action in the book. Other than a hiking club that is stopping every so often to allow Joy Luck Club toting fans to read their “favorite” passages from the book, the groups’ spin offs can stand alone from the novel.
There is a Chinese food cooking class, a dinner theater producer who wrote a play with a Chinese theme, a Chinese film festival, mahjong lessons, a chess tournament, and book inspired art exhibits. I wonder how much the activities support the book and how much the book is boosting ongoing functions. I know you can’t be too original for a program that disappears in a month. Perhaps if there were a shell program that regularly launched coordinated projects. But I guess no one is handing out money for that brainstorm.
There are already designated months for this or that. Occasionally bookstores select an anointed month or holiday, for a window display. Streets are closed off for festivals. But again, this is a lot of hoopla for one book, and novels at that. An ongoing book club could be the source of broader themed reading projects that follow each other. It sends a bad message to shut down a community based reading project as soon as a check is blown.
When October comes to a close the reading community could ask themselves, “What’s happening in November?” It just so happens that the 50th anniversary of America’s coup d’etat, commonly remembered as the JFK Assassination, rolls up on the 22nd. Conveniently, a ton of conspiracy research and theories has been published on the subject. But no one is giving the Homeland Security Book Review Club a $4,000 check to pull it off. Still, if enough of a splash is made on the 50th with some events on my list we can develop more ideas for future Novembers. Keep it fresh. Check out the list.
Get any books on the subject by Harrison Livingstone or Harold Weisberg. Study up for the Grassy Knoll Trivia Game. Take turns reading selections one night a week, as “Bedtime Stories”, in the wee hours on KPFZ. The Photo Shop Art Show will show your skills in matching up body parts on different bodies. Run the Dealey Plaza obstacle course mock-up and dodge paint balls. Write and perform your own assassination slams. For the kiddies we’ll have the Toss-the-Bean-Bag-Brains-Back-into-the-Paper-Mache-JFK-Head game and the Conspirator Coloring Book contest.
Test your memory and reflexes at the Magic Bullet Shooting Match where non target friends become target enemies depending on what event flashes on screen. Read official testimony with friends on video and edit for most hilarious effect. We’ll cap off the month with the assassinated witness zombie costume party. Dance to the Warren Commission Trio (actually a full band but they swear there’s only three of them.)
The official Big Read for 2013 managed to tie two chess events to The Joy Luck Club so I feel obligated to create one of my own. The coup d’etat chess tournament will have customized pieces on a board embossed with the Dealey Plaza. Here are my pieces. There were no shortage of villains and Quislings to choose from but I had to scrape for heroes.
The white king and queen would be JFK and Jackie while the black counterparts would be LBJ and Ladybird. These pieces are chosen because of power positions before and after the assassination, not because LBJ was at the head of the conspiracy.
Going to the opposite end of the power spectrum we have the pawn positions, occupied by 8 identical white cigar chomping Castros and 8 black pinhead-on-bodybuilder Oswalds.
In the corners, I’m designating the non personality rooks as two white hands holding a movie camera. Without the Zapruder film the conspiracy opponents would never have gotten any traction. In opposition to the magic of celluloid we have the real alternate reality of the anti-hero black caped magic bullet rook characters, holding a wand over a top hat.
Out on the front lines we have the black knights Allen Dulles, the defrocked CIA head, and mafioso Carlos Marcello. commanders of their respective columns. Leading the counterattack is Cyril Wecht, Allegheny County, PA Coroner and District Attorney Jim Garrison.
The official gospel is defended by black bishops Supreme Court Justice Warren and future Senator Arlen Specter. In the best position to promote a reformation are white bishops Attorney General Robert Kennedy and House Select Committee on Assassinations founder Congressman Henry Gonzalez.
Let the “big think” games begin.