Daily Archives: September 8, 2010

“One Book, One Chicago” Fall 2010 – Kickoff!

For the 19th go-round of the One Book, One Chicago program, the powers that be at the Chicago Public Library have selected Toni Morrison’s 2008 novel, “A Mercy.”

From early September until the end of October, the libraries and universities around the Chicago-land area will be focusing on reading this book, as a way to unite readers and get them talking about a great piece of literature.

Each season, this event begins with a kick-off.

Last night, kick-off was held at the Cindy Pritzker Auditorium in the Harold Washington Library in downtown Chicago, and I fortunate enough to get out of work early to make the 6pm start time.

(Meanwhile, you know you’re with book people when, over a half-hour before the evening begins, the room is nearly packed and filled with people killing time by reading. )

A packed house gathered to hear Dr. Dwight McBride of University of Chicago – Illinois speak about the power and influence of Ms. Morrison’s writings and legacy.  He should know – he was once her research assistant at Princeton University.  Dr. McBride is a wonderful speaker and clearly knows his way around Morrison.  He spoke of her style, her common themes, and the fact that she’s so popular despite being a challenging (even difficult) writer to read.

The evening concluded with the positively lovely Kimberly Jones of the Chicago Lyric Opera performing “Lullaby,” an aria from the opera “Margaret Garner,” which Toni Morrison wrote the libretto for (and which is also based on the same source material as Ms. Morrison’s Pulitzer-Prize winning novel “Beloved.”) Jones delivered a lovely and chilling performance of a simple and elegant piece of music.

Also cool — The first 385 people in the door were also given free copies of “A Mercy,” which was a lovely gesture and much appreciated by everyone there.

The whole evening was a nice way to kick off a few months devoted to a notable book.

Personally, my experience with Morrison is seriously limited, so I look forward to reading the book and discovering the magic of this author.  There has to be magic. 300+ people don’t often gather at 6pm on a Tuesday in downtown Chicago to hear a lecture about something that has had no personal effect on them.  Several people during the Q&A that followed Dr. McBride’s speech spoke up and said they loved Morrison as a writer because of how her words are like music.  The only Morrison I’ve ever read was “Paradise,” which I found an incredibly challenging read, and also a hard book to enjoy due to it’s sadness and violence.  However, there’s no denying her power as a writer.

So, long story short, I look forward to reading “A Mercy” and seeing if it turns me into a Morrison devotee.  From all accounts, if any book can do it .. this is the one.

(Also, the kick-off was being recorded by Chicago Public Radio/Amplify and should be up there in a few days, if you’re interested to hear Dr. McBride’s lecture – or Kimberly Jones’ performance.)

(P.P.S. Toni Morrison herself will be speaking on 10/19 at the Symphony Center. Free tickets are available in-person at the box office, or you can order them for a $5 handling fee from the C.S.O. website. I’ll be there!)