By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
To commemorate the ninth year of The Big Read, the Pioneer Library System is bringing a Pulitzer Prize-winning author to Oklahoma.
Michael Chabon is a celebrated fantasy author in literature circles, not just for his writing, but also his “lively” public speaking appearances. His work “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay” was awarded the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
The Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) designed to restore reading to the center of American culture. Managed by Arts Midwest, The Big Read provides competitive grants to support innovative reading programs in selected communities.
Chabon will make three appearances as part of the start of The Big Read for 2015. This year’s event is centered on the Ursula K. Le Guin novel “A Wizard of Earthsea,” with discussions and activities planned throughout the library system’s three-county area.
Partnering with Chabon to kick off The Big Read, this year’s event is designed for readers who are already fans of the fantasy genre, or to entice new readers.
On Wednesday evening, March 25, Chabon will be the featured guest at a reception that will be held in the home of Jim and Lisa Bowers in Oklahoma City. This special event is presented by the Pioneer Library System Foundation. Tickets are $100.
Funds raised will help to support system-wide initiatives of the Pioneer Library System, including The Big Read and Summer Reading programs. For reception details, call the PLS Foundation at 405-801-4520.
Chabon will make two free public appearances on Thursday, March 26. He will speak at 10 a.m. at the Geiger Center on the campus of Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee.
At 6:30 p.m. Chabon will speak in Norman at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History on the University of Oklahoma campus.
After a 2004 NEA report found that literary reading had declined, particularly in young people, The Big Read program was developed. Since its national launch in 2007, PLS has participated in The Big Read every year.
This is the first year PLS has selected a novel from the fantasy genre.
“Fantasy crosses generation lines like no other literature,” Le Guin said in a 2008 interview with the NEA. “People who like fantasy often begin liking it as kids, and then 20 years later, they will go back to these books and find a whole new joy in them.”
Chabon has received more than two dozen awards for his writing since 1997.
Originally written for his master’s thesis at U.C. Irvine, Chabon’s achieved literary fame at age twenty-four with his first novel “The Mysteries of Pittsburgh,” which was published in 1988 becoming a New York Times bestseller.
Also a bestseller, his second novel, “Wonder Boys,” was made into a critically acclaimed film featuring Michael Douglas and Tobey McGuire.
In 2000, Random House published his third novel, “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.” Chabon also is the author of two collections of short stories, a young adult novel, and numerous articles, essays and screenplays, including John Carter.
Chabon has lectured about fantasy and the art of storytelling at Pixar Animation Studios, Industrial Light and Magic, and to numerous literary and corporate organizations.
While in Oklahoma, Chabon will discuss the art and process of fantasy writing and will also take a deeper look at “Earthsea” and the impact he has had on that genre and writing in general.
The Big Read is funded by grant support from NEA, the Norman Arts Council, Oklahoma Humanities Council, the Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation, Friends of the Norman Public Library and the Pioneer Library System Foundation.
For more information, visit www.plsfdn.org.