The City of Pittsfield and its many collaborative cultural institutions are amazingly serious about developing the minds of its citizens (not just students) into strong and flexible assets that will enable them to better solve problems, attract new and better jobs and make living in the Berkshires an ever more exciting and enjoyable prospect. Knowledge is a resource that can never be depleted.
While encouraging the reading of actual books, the more important focus is to develop a love of deep knowledge rather than superficial chatter. It is a trend we see in many forms in Pittsfield, from the programming of Barrington Stage Company (which has participated in these reading programs in the past) and the growing New Stage Performing Arts Project with a small performing space above the Beacon Cinema.
Some pretty stirring stuff, intellectually, has been going on in the city as its reinvents itself for the 21st Century.
So it is with a great deal of interest that we learn that the Berkshire Athenaeum will lead the City of Pittsfield’s book reading project (the fourth in as many years) in 2011. It has chosen Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 as its Big Read, and working with the larger community, scheduled eighteen special events around it for April 2011. They range from an innovative multi-media theatre production to a “give and take” with local authors at the Berkshire Athenaeum. The many events planned cover a range of interests so as to offer something for everyone, all with the focus on exploring ideas and expanding minds.
- Pittsfield Reads! is a community reading project that invites city readers to read – or reread – one book at the same time. Local cultural organizations have tradtionally participated in these efforts by scheduling their own related events, turning the project into a multi-media event. Many events are free; all are affordable.
- A Beacon Cinema screening of Francois Truffaut film (1966), with Oskar Werner and Julie Christie on Sunday, April 3, at 12 noon. FREE
- New Stage Performing Arts, located just above the Beacon Cinema, will be offering a multimedia dramatic production of Fahrenheit 451 on the first 3 weekends of April (Friday, Saturday and Sunday matinee performances) http://newstageperformingarts.org/
- Karen Arp-Sandel, a book artist on the faculty of IS183, will be offering two separate Book Arts Workshops at the Athenaeum (for Adults and Children 12 or older).
- On Saturday, April 2, 1 – 4 pm: Make a Book: Learn to Infuse Form with Content.
- On Saturday April 9, 1 – 4 pm: Exploring the Altered Book using Collage & Mixed Media. Space is limited and registration is required. email@example.com or 413 499 9480 x202 FREE
- On Tuesday, April 5, at 6 pm, at the Athenaeum, we’ll be screening Moby Dick [film starring Gregory Peck, screenplay by Ray Bradbury] introduced by former SUNYA professor Arthur Collins, who will read excerpts from Green Shadows, White Whale, Bradbury’s account of his trip to Ireland where he wrote the movie script. FREE
- A multi-part book discussion group has been planned on Thursday, March 17; Thursday, March 24; Monday, April 4; Thursday, April 7, 1 pm, at the Congregation Knesset Israel.
- At the April 7 meeting Rabbi Josh Breindel from Temple Anshe Amunim, a Bradbury aficionado, will speak about Fahrenheit 451, placing the book within its greater context of dystopian literature and reflecting on the connection between religion and preservation of text. FREE
- On Saturday, April 9, 10 am – 12 noon, the Athenaeum provides an opportunity to meet and converse with authors who live and write in Berkshire County. FREE
- Ray B & Me: A storytelling performance that celebrates the Art of the Story with Storyteller Darlene White is planned for Thursday, April 14, 6 – 8 pm at the Athenaeum. FREE
- Writing with Fire, A Poetry Workshop with Aaron M Beatty. Saturday, April 16, 1 – 4 pm at Chapters Bookstore. Space is limited and registration is required. firstname.lastname@example.org or 413 441 9702. FREE
- Chomsky’s Propaganda Model, A Forum Presentation by Berkshire Community College Professor of Psychology, Wayne Klug. Tuesday, April 19, 12:15. At Berkshire Community College. FREE
- Building an Image Pattern, A Writing Workshop with Vivian Dorsel. Thursday, April 21, 6 – 9 pm at Chapters Bookstore Space is limited and registration is required. email@example.com or 413 441 9702 FREE
- Sci-Fi Fiction: Genre and Idea, A Writing Workshop with Tim Callahan.
Thursday, April 28, 6 – 9 pm at Chapters Bookstore. Space is limited and registration is required. firstname.lastname@example.org or 413 441 9702 FREE
- Sci-Fi Landscapes: Prose, Cinema and Comic Books, A Writing Workshop with Tim Callahan. Saturday, April 30, 12 – 2 pm at Chapters Bookstore. Space is limited and registration is required. email@example.com or 413 441 9702 Location: FREE
- Art Books, an exhibit at the Intermodal Gallery, One Columbus Avenue, for the month of April 2011. FREE
- Book Discussions are planned at Chapters Bookstore (Details TBA)
- Our Finale: A Literary Feast at Marketplace Café on Saturday, April 30. (Details TBA)
Pittsfield Reads! is encouraging the reading of Bradbury’s novel as more than a science fiction story, with consideration of these timely themes that the novel evokes: the idea of the book as a physical object; the creation of community around collective memory; and the sharing and preservation of stories.
About Fahrenheit 451 – the day Science Fiction became Poetic
When did science fiction first cross over from genre writing to the mainstream of American literature? Almost certainly it happened on October 19, 1953, when a young Californian named Ray Bradbury published a novel with the odd title of Fahrenheit 451. In a gripping story at once disturbing and poetic, Bradbury takes the materials of pulp fiction and transforms them into a visionary parable of a society gone awry, in which firemen burn books and the state suppresses learning. Meanwhile, the citizenry sits by in a drug-induced and media-saturated indifference. More relevant than ever a half-century later, Fahrenheit 451 has achieved the rare distinction of being both a literary classic and a perennial bestseller.
The Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts designed to revitalize the role of literary reading in American popular culture. Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America, a 2004 NEA report, identified a critical decline in reading for pleasure among American adults. The Big Read addresses this issue by bringing communities together to read, discuss, and celebrate books and writers from American and world literature.
A great book combines enlightenment with enchantment. It awakens our imagination and enlarges our humanity. It can even offer harrowing insights that somehow console and comfort us. Whether you’re a regular reader already or making up for lost time, never stop learning .
About Pittsfield’s Focus on Reading
This is Pittsfield’s fourth community read. In 2010 Pittsfield read and discussed Tim O’Brien’s haunting and darkly reflective The Things They Carried, considering issues of service to one’s country, leadership, sacrifice, and honoring the veterans among us, as we observed the 35th anniversary of the fall of Saigon. In 2009 we enjoyed Harper Lee’s timeless work To Kill a Mockingbird, a novel exploring racial themes and rites of passage, screening its classic film interpretation and hosting a fine theatrical production. In 2008, as our inaugural reading project, we read Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods. A title with environmental themes, this is Bryson’s account of hiking the legendary Appalachian Trail, a portion of which we host here in the Berkshires. Bryson’s trademark wit and penchant for detail carried us along the trail with him, mile after aching mile.
More information about the book and about Bradbury, as well as an even more detailed Events Calendar is available at the Pittsfield Reads! website www.pittsfieldreads.org
Copies of Fahrenheit 451 are available for loan at the Berkshire Athenaeum; at city public and private high school libraries; and Berkshire Community College. Copies are available for purchase at Chapters Bookstore with 20% discount, for the duration of the project; and at Barnes & Noble Bookstore, all in Pittsfield.
A Project that Involves the Whole Community
There are many familiar names among the sponsors. You can help too, if you want. One of the newest institutions that is involved is New Stage Theatre, and they are in the midst of a Kickstarter Campaign to raise a modest amount of funds for their multi-meida production.
The 2011 Pittsfield Reads Partners represent the many facets of life in Pittsfield and include: Arrowhead; Barnes & Noble Booksellers; Barrington Stage; Beacon Cinema; Berkshire Athenaeum; Berkshire Community College; Berkshire Compact for Education; Berkshire County Community; Corrections Center/Phoenix House; Berkshire County Sheriff’s Office; Berkshire Eagle; Berkshire Museum; BerkshireNet; Chapters Bookstore; City of Pittsfield Department of Parks & Recreation; City of Pittsfield Fire Department; City of Pittsfield Office of Cultural Development; City of Pittsfield Office of Veterans Services; City of Pittsfield Public Schools; Colonial Theatre; Community Access to the Arts; Dottie’s Coffee Lounge; Downtown Pittsfield, Inc.; Ferrin Gallery; Friends of the Berkshire Athenaeum; Jewish Federation of the Berkshires; Miss Hall’s School; New Stage Performing Arts Center; Pittsfield 250; Pittsfield Colonials; Pittsfield Gazette; Pittsfield High School Library; RSVP; Ralph J Froio Senior Center; St Joseph High School; Storefront Artist Project; Taconic High School Library; Troop 20 Boy Scouts; upstreet literary magazine; WAM Theatre; WBRK; Wee Read.
The 2011 Pittsfield Reads project is receiving funding through the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners with monies from LSTA (Library Services and Technology Act), a federal source of library funding provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
BOOKS ARE THE REPOSITORY OF ALL HUMAN KNOWLEDGE, YET:
33% of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives.
42% of college graduates never read another book after college.
80% of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year.
70% of U.S. adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.