Editorial: UConn Reads finalists were all non-living authors
Published: Monday, October 15, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 15, 2012 21:10
Last year, President Susan Herbst instituted the “UConn Reads” project, selecting one book for the whole university community–faculty, students and staff alike–to read. The selection of “Half the Sky” by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn proved successful. Book discussions and other events were held throughout the spring semester, with numerous copies purchased at discount rates from the Co-op. But the undisputed highlight was Kristof himself, a two-time Pulitzer Prize journalism winner and weekly New York Times columnist, presenting a free lecture in the Student Union Theatre near the semester’s end, a talk which filled the venue to capacity.
The entire UConn Reads venture was popular enough for UConn to revive it again next semester under a different book. After submissions were solicited over the past few months, the winner was selected last week: “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald. This selection came from four finalists, also including “The Sun Also Rises” by Ernest Hemingway, “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston and “One Hundred Years Of Solitude” by Gabriel García Márquez. Of those, only Márquez is still alive, at age 85. Seemingly, it would make sense for the Steering Committee to narrow their options to works whose authors could be alive to stop by.
We understand that this year the committee is attempting to select a book of “classic fiction” as a counterpoint to the relatively modern nonfiction selection last year, which was originally published in 2009. While there is nothing wrong with this approach, we believe it would be best if the work was not such a “classic” as to preclude the possibility of an author visiting in person. To hear from the writer himself as opposed to solely scholars or English professors is to do full justice to the work.
UConn Reads was a project that brought people from all spectra of the university community together, a project culminating in bringing one of the most famous, accomplished and respected journalists of the past few decades right here to our doorstep. It would be a shame if such an opportunity was squandered this year – regardless of how important or moving the writing of Fitzgerald, Hemingway or Hurston may have been.