Reading at the Crossroads

Reading at the Crossroads is an archive for columns and letters which appeared in the Terre Haute Tribune Star. I also blog here when my patience is exhausted by what I feel is irritating, irrational and/or ironic in life. --gary daily

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Location: Terre Haute, Indiana, United States

The material I post on this blog represents my views and mine alone. The material you post on this blog represents your views and yours alone.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Max Ehrmann--He's more than ashtrays and cocktail napkins

[gary daily col. 33 September 8, 2002]

“What place is lovelier than Terre Haute: /The foliage of her many trees”
--Max Ehrmann

Terre Haute will be celebrating “Max Ehrmann Day” on Sunday, September 15, 2002. This will be a tribute recognizing the 75th anniversary of this local writer’s most famous work, the inspiring prose-poem, “Desiderata.”

Max Ehrmann (1872-1945) made his home in Terre Haute for most of his life. Here he worked at making a living and making his art. Richard Dowell notes in his informative and insightful essay, “Max Ehrmann: A Centennial Tribute” (1972), how Ehrmann refused to turn his considerable writing talent to the production of hack novels or compromise his literary ideals. Today his “Desiderata” is known around the world.

And part of the world comes to Terre Haute each year because this was Ehrmann’s home. Inquiries, in the form of letters, messages over the internet, as well as visits by researchers studying Ehrmann’s life and work, are a common occurrence at the Vigo County Public Library Special Collections Department and Community Archives.

This all has a nice symmetry to it. Max Ehrmann wrote about Terre Haute in one of his poems: “Here may ambition all its talents use/ Here is the world in miniature.” That Terre Haute was once, and perhaps is today, “the world in miniature” should give us all pause for thought.

Do yourself the favor of reading Max Ehrmann’s work. Also, make it a point to get out and enjoy the events scheduled by the Friends of Max Ehrmann for next Saturday, September 14 and Sunday, September 15.

“If All of Vigo County Read the Same Book” is taking a new step. The Snow Falling on Cedars novel by David Guterson, the first If All book, has been so well received that we’re going to do it all again-with a few changes.

As you remember, Snow Falling on Cedars was chosen by the readers of Vigo County. Along with Guterson, books by Kent Haruf and Barbara Kingsolver were nominated by a selection committee. Special discussions of the three books were held, brochures about the nominated works were made available to the public, and the local media, particularly this newspaper and WTWO-TV, gave the initiative much support. The Vigo County Public Library served as the launching pad and the cornerstone for the program. Votes were cast by the readers in the community and the If All book was selected. It was a process that did much to get people involved and interested in this communal reading experience.

In 2003, the “If All of Vigo County Read the Same Book” will be selected in a different fashion. The Vigo County Public Library is taking book nominations today, tomorrow and through September 15. Individuals can nominate a book for consideration by calling Chris Schellenberg’s office at 232-1113, ext. 281 or 282, submitting a nomination at the main library, or through the library website.

What kinds of books can be nominated? They can be fiction or non-fiction works. Nominated books should be available in paperback. (Library staff will check this out for you.) Nominate a book you have read that you think would stimulate discussion. The book should be a “good read” and significant in terms of its themes, ideas and meanings. First ask yourself: Is this a book readers will read? Then ask: Can I talk someone who is not generally a reader of books into reading this book? Finally ask: If I get these dedicated readers and these dedicated non-readers to read the book, does the book raise questions or present a point of view that can lead to an interesting discussion?

After the public at large has submitted their nominations, a list of titles will be sent out to local book clubs. These clubs will sort through and discuss the nominations and then submit five titles to the If All selection committee. This committee will use these lists to make the decision on which book will be the “If All of Vigo County Read the Same Book” for 2003. The choice is scheduled to be announced on November 18, 2002.

It goes without saying that many, many books could serve admirably as the If All 2003 book. Make certain the book you would like to see everyone reading and discussing is nominated. Nominate a book today.


Anonymous Deb said...

Hi Gary,

This is Deb, of the TribStar and formerly of my favorite Terre Haute garden spot, Fruitridge Gardens.

I've long been a Max Ehrmann fan (carried copies of Desiderata with me everywhere during college), but I had no idea there was a "Friends of Max Ehrmann" group.

O'Duffy's essay, and Mark Bennett's commentary have re-inspired me. Are you in charge of the "Friends" group?

1:41 PM  

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