September 11, 2009KR BlogKRReading

Surprise, Delight, McIntoshes, Bike Rides and THE BIG READ

Just yesterday I was welcoming 25 new KR Associates into the fold. This is the largest group of volunteers we’ve ever taken on, from the largest group of applications–nearly 70. The selection process took several days because of the incredibly high quality, the passion, the articulateness both of the applicants and of their referees.
So in my first little talk to the Associates I go into my riff about Surprise and Delight–that all successful art contains elements of Surprise (otherwise it would be boring) and Delight (the engagement of one’s emotions is what separates art from other intellectual and cultural activities).

And on my way home I pull into the gravel and dust outside the Glen Hill Orchard, an establishment in the hills just outside of Gambier that has been there forever. I’d stopped by last week as well, grabbed a bag of fine apples. But the McIntoshes (and you thought I’d be talking about laptops) were just then being picked.
So, yesterday, one of the seminal moments of the year. The first bite of the first McIntosh, firm but not too firm, clean, tart and sweet in an impossible clash. One of the great events of the year. And like great art, I knew what was coming, I’d done this before (often on bike rides into the country outside DC with my old pal John), but the knowing never deflects or lessens the intense pleasure. Still and new: Surprise and Delight.
Which has nothing to do, and everything to do, with the launch tomorrow of KR’s Big Read, in collaboration with the NEA. We’ll be at the weekly Mt. Vernon Farmer’s Market, right on the square. There will be apples. And corn, tomatoes, baked goods, etc, etc. And free copies of Louise Erdrich’s LOVE MEDICINE. We’ll be sponsoring book discussions locally and online throughout the next couple of months. Four local schools will also be using the books in their literature classes.

It all grows out of a great coincidence and, I hate the word, synergy. Louise Erdrich will be receiving the 2009 Kenyon Review Award for Literary Achievement at the Four Seasons Restaurant in New York on November 5th. Next day, we’ll fly back to Ohio for the KR Literary Festival, which in recent years has reached out into the community with library events, special readings, seminars, book and lit mag sales, etc. Louise will give the keynote address on Saturday evening.

The fact that LOVE MEDICINE was on the NEA’s list for Big Read proposals was happy chance, and we’re making the most of it.
Stay tuned!