INA, Ill. – Rend Lake College is bringing The Big Read the area for the third and final year. The final installment is a celebration of the 1920s crime fiction novel, “The Maltese Falcon,” by Dashiell Hammett. The Big Read at RLC will officially launch the night of Feb. 24 during the college’s Homecoming ceremonies.
Administered by the National Endowment for the Arts, The Big Read is meant to address the national decline in literary reading. Partners, such as RLC, are able to choose one title from a list of great novels that they would like to promote for readership in their respective communities.
“We don’t anticipate applying for The Big Read next year, so we want this year to be the best one we have had so far,” said Sandy West, coordinator of technical services and collection management at the college.
RLC chose “The Joy Luck Club” by Amy Tan in 2007 and Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” in 2008.
“The Big Read 2010 award is the largest the NEA has granted to the college yet, and we hope the events we have planned to promote ‘The Maltese Falcon’ will inspire people in the area to read this great novel,” West added.
“The Maltese Falcon” is a crime fiction novel about “a treasure worth killing for,” as defined by the novel’s first publisher, Vintage Books. “Sam Spade is a slightly shopworn private eye with his own solitary code of ethics.” The main character is perhaps an extension of Hammett himself, who worked as an operative for Pinkerton’s Detective Agency before and after serving as a sergeant in World War I.
Those with their eyes on the deadly prize include “a perfumed grafter named Joel Cairo, a fat man named Gutman, and Brigid O’Shaughnessy, a beautiful and treacherous woman whose loyalties shift at the drop of a dime. These are the ingredients of Dashiell Hammett’s coolly glittering gem of detective fiction, a novel that has haunted generations of readers.”
Hammett became the 20s’ unquestioned master of detective story fiction in America. He served in both World Wars and died in 1961. The Big Read grant to RLC will allow the college to bring his novel to more than a thousand readers in RLC District #521. Many of those will be distributed at Big Read events organized by West, Reference Librarian Beth Mandrell and RLC’s area partners in Benton Public Library, The Buzz in Benton, C. E. Brehm Memorial Library District, Cedarhurst Center for the Arts, Green Tree Assisted Living Center, and local high schools in McLeansboro, Christopher, Benton, Bluford, Mt. Vernon and Thompsonville.
Events planned throughout the area to promote the reading of this great American novel include a play titled “Maltese Murder” by the Benton Public Library TAP group in March, “Slay It Again Sam” Mystery Dinner Theater with Upstage Productions in April and a haunted Mystery Walk through Lebanon, also in April, as well as numerous book discussions, a showing of “The Maltese Falcon” the movie, and much more. For a complete listing of events coming up, go online to www.neabigread.org and enter 62846 in the zip code table.
The Big Read is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and Arts Midwest.