Library program takes deep dive into reading

Published 6:56 pm Tuesday, April 11, 2023

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In an effort to facilitate discussion and reading, the Austin Public Library will be hosting its second webinar in its Reading for Life program.

The online events are part of a year-long program that centers around book lectures, presented by Michael Verde.

Termed as a movement of the imagination toward the realization of genuine community, the discussions open unique insight into the minds of authors and the books themselves as well as the literary process.

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“The idea is that it’s kind of a cross section of different kinds of readers,” Verde said. “Just kind of representing a sampling and hearing the kinds of conversations that might come up in a book discussion.”

The idea of using technological mediums is another way to facilitate a community-generated gathering and discussion.

Not only are the webinars played through Facebook, but they are later rebroadcast through KSMQ.

“The idea there is you’re leveraging different kinds of technology to make this experience available to a larger number of people,” Verde said. “It’s an interesting way of leveraging communication mediums to develop community.”

This next show will be Thursday at noon through both KSMQ’s and the Austin Public Library’s Facebook page with the rebroadcast coming in May.

It’s the second of four planned shows with the next two coming in the summer and fall of this year. It will also feature author Tim O’Brien and his deeply influential book “The Things They Carry,” which was the Austin Page Turner’s 2003 City Wide Read.

The book, printed in 1990, is a collection of short stories by O’Brien revolving around American soldiers fighting in Vietnam and is his third book based on his own experiences as a member of the 23rd Infantry Division.

“I look forward to the Reading for Life discussion of my novel, “‘The Things They Carried,’” O’Brien said. “Books remain a vital and important force in generating community engagement with ideas, values, controversies, and issues of war and peace.  I am particularly excited by the fact that Austin, Minnesota — where I was born and where I spent my earliest years — is sponsoring this discussion.”

The discussion held during the Reading for Life conversations expand well past the books themselves or even the themes.

They are in a lot of ways deep dives into all of those things as well as the language of books themselves that oftentimes can become lost in other forms of book discussions.

Reading for Life seeks to get to the core of what can be exciting in a book.

“When it gets this core … books start to transmute the closer you get to the center of intensity,” Verde said. “For people who have not had those experiences … they start seeing how parts of the book come together in ways they never noticed.”

Indeed, the core also represents both the conscious and unconscious reasons behind what perhaps the author was intending and into that comes the imagination side of writing.

“Did his imagination intend it?” Verde asks. “These combinations don’t get there through accident. They are coming from a place in the psyche. The imagination speaks in the images of language.”

Verde said that “The Things They Carried” is considered a masterpiece and one of the great novels of the 20th century, “and I don’t say that lightly.”

He described the book as not just a war story and he hopes those who tune in will dive deep enough to see that as well.

“I want people to have the experience of words communicating at a depth and in a way they may not be aware of now and understand that depth of experience. Books are consciousness transforming and thereby life changing.”