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Thursday, August 9, 2007

One Book, One Community, One Terrible Read

Last night I was reading a local paper that's delivered once a week mainly to let us know what the food specials will be at the various food markets around the county. There's usually some tips and pointers on how to do things like get wine stains out of the carpet along with Senior Citizen News and what's going on around the city and state. That's where I saw the information about One Book, One Community.

I'd never heard of this idea, but apparently it's being done all over the country with various states or communities within individual states choosing a book that everyone reads. There's just one selection made, and I don't know who is in charge of making the choice, but if the book isn't something you're interested in, you're SOOL for a whole year until the process of choosing and reading begins again. I tried to access the web page designated for my area, but, wouldn't you know, the browser continually timed out before I got to see what book has been chosen for me.

I googled the subject One Book, One Community and got lots of returns. That's when I discovered that communities all over the country are participating in this exercise as a way to get people interested in reading and also to promote discussions about issues raised in the book they've read.

I began looking through these pages of results just to see what books had been chosen. And that's when I became aware that those poor people in Rhode Island are stuck with a terrible book to read for this cause.

The book chosen for their population to read is Memory of Running by Ron McLarty.

We have Stephen King to thank that this book ever got published at all. He featured it in one of his articles for Entertainment Weekly, and he referred to it as "the best book you'll never read." If I remember correctly, McLarty's book had been released in audio format, but he couldn't get a publisher to release it in hardcover or paperback format. That is until Stephen King wrote that column. Within a short time McLarty got a book contract for two books, Memory Of Running came out in hardcover, and thanks to Stephen King, people bought it in respectable numbers.

The problem is, the book was awful. I was one of those taken in by King's high praise of the book (well, he did rave about The Ruins and Simple Plan by Scott Smith, and he was absolutely correct about those books, right?); as a matter of fact, I ordered it from as soon as it became available. It was a terrible disappointment.

Did you ever read a book and stick with it no matter how impossible it gets to like it because it was recommended, and you feel sure if you just hang in there, it will have to get better? Memory of Running was exactly like that for me. And I wasn't the only one. Beans read it too, and she felt the same way I did. We had the same reaction when we both finished reading it -- Who cares?

Now some mental giant has used Memory of Running for an event that takes place once a year, so no doubt people are looking forward to whatever book is chosen because readers love to discuss books, and this is such a great opportunity to do just that. Only they're stuck with a real lemon.

While it's true, and believe me, I do know this, that you can't please all the people all the time, and while it's also true that of all the books written in any one given year much less since publishing actually began, it is a monumental task to choose just one book for a whole state to read, I still feel very sorry for the readers of the state of Rhode Island. You guys have my sympathy. And if I were in your shoes, I'd be more careful about who gets to choose my reading material for OBOC in the future.


Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for taking the time to explain One Book, One Community. We have it advertised in our libraries. (I picked up a couple of the

And more thanks for reviewing the book. I'll make sure it doesn't see surface on my!

I've run across a few books King's recommended only to dislike them. After that, I've learn to stick my big toe in the pond by getting them at the library verses taking the plunge with a purchase.

Ma said...
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Ma said...

King has recommended some very good books -- Case Histories being one of them. But every now and then, he comes up with a real clunker. But then, don't we all? Another of his disasters was The Mad Cook of Pymatuning. That one was worse than Memory of Running... if that's even possible. :)