Arts & Culture

Big Read a big deal for KC

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."