Big Read a big deal for KC

10/03/2007 10:26 AM

05/16/2014 4:59 PM

This story originally published in the July 7, 2007 edition of The Kansas City Star

Kansas City will join more than 100 cities this fall in the Big Read, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts that encourages Americans to read and discuss a single book within their communities.

Kansas City’s Big Read will be of A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway’s World War I novel about a young American who offers his services as an ambulance driver on the Italian front and falls in love with a beautiful nurse.

The Kansas City Public Library, Park University and the National World War I Museum at the Liberty Memorial won an NEA grant approval to host the Big Read from mid-October to mid-November in Kansas City.

More than 500 copies of the book will be given away to participants, with lectures, exhibits, film screenings and book discussions among the events. A complete schedule is to be released later this month.

Henry Fortunato, director of public affairs for the Kansas City Public Library, was delighted that A Farewell to Arms was on the list of Big Read book choices.

"There are ideal connections between this book and Kansas City," Fortunato said. "After Hemingway was a reporter for The Kansas City Star, he went to the Italian front to be an ambulance driver. And it was from those experiences that he wrote A Farewell to Arms.

"And a portion of the book was written in Kansas City. In fact, in A Farewell to Arms there is a Caesarean birth. Well, he wrote that while his child was being born in Kansas City and the wife was having a Caesarean."

Beyond local ties, Fortunato said that A Farewell to Arms is a great work of American literature that continues to enthrall readers nearly 80 years after its original publication.

"It’s a story of love and war," Fortunato said. "And we have people who are in love and war right now. I think it should resonate."

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