11/25/04 — 'Big Fish' picked for reading

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'Big Fish' picked for reading

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on November 25, 2004 1:56 PM

Edward Bloom could tame giants, outfox wild dogs, and ran faster than the wind. Or so he always said.

But as Bloom lies on his deathbed, his son realizes that he doesn't know his father other than through the wild stories he's always told. Is it too late to find out if there was any truth among the tall tales?

Local readers will get a chance to learn as well.

"Big Fish," a 1998 novel by Daniel Wallace of Chapel Hill, was chosen as the 2005 selection for Wayne County Reads. The countywide reading project, now in its second year, will kick off in January.

Wallace has agreed to come in late February for a public discussion of the book. Other "Wayne County Reads" events will include screenings of the 2003 movie adaptation and a story-telling festival at Wayne Community College on Saturday, March 12.

The organizing committee wanted to go ahead and announce the selection now so that people may consider buying the book as a holiday gift, said Library Director Jane Rustin. "That would allow them to be ready to go."

The library is also planning to stock as many copies of the novel as possible, as it did last spring with "To Kill a Mockingbird."

"Big Fish" was chosen in the summer by the committee, which includes representatives of the library and public school systems, Wayne Community College, Mount Olive College, and Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

The committee wanted to pick a North Carolina author this year so that readers could come, meet him and share their questions and comments, she said. "It'll be great to have that interaction."

The film connection helps, she added. People who loved Tim Burton's adaptation will enjoys reading the source material.

Also, the committee felt that children who are too young to read the book could still participate in Wayne County Reads by reading collections of tall tales, she said. "Big Fish" is a story about myths, which led to the story-telling festival.

Born in Birmingham, Ala., Daniel Wallace attended Emory University and then the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, which he left shortly before graduating. After two years in Nagoya, Japan, he moved back to Chapel Hill, where he lives his wife, Laura, and son, Henry.

"Big Fish," published in 1998 by Algonquin Books, earned rave reviews. The New York Times wrote that Wallace "adds legends and folk tales from the Southern backwoods, throws in a smattering of Greek myth and attaches a few of his own inventions. Applying all of these ... resulted in a story that is both comic and poignant."

Wallace followed with "Ray in Reverse" in 2000 and "The Watermelon King" in 2003. He also has had several stories published in magazines and anthologies.

Wayne County Reads is similar to efforts organized by other communities, sometimes called "One Book" projects. The first one is believed to have been "If All of Seattle Read the Same Book," which was initiated by the Washington Center for the Book in 1998. The goal of "One Book" projects is to strengthen community ties by giving people soemthing in common to discuss.

More than 1,000 people checked out copies of "To Kill A Mockingbird" from Wayne County libraries during the 2004 campaign.