‘The Great Gatsby’ chosen for "One Book, One City" program

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Malibu residents are encouraged to read the 1925 novel and attend a series of events that will take place this month dealing with the book. Some of the money raised through the program will go toward the Malibu Library and a Malibu Labor Exchange program that teaches reading English as a second language.

By Jonathan Friedman/Staff Writer

This month, Malibu goes back in time to the Jazz Age. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby’s” is the selected novel for the second annual “One Book, One City-Malibu” month. While Malibuites are reading the book for the first time or refreshing their memories of Nick Carroway’s experiences in West Egg, a series of Gatsby-themed events will take place throughout the city. The program is designed to promote reading, and money raised from it will go toward the Malibu Library.

Malibu resident Alexis Deutsch-Adler got the idea for “One Book” after reading a New York Times article about similar programs in Seattle and Chicago. She then approached the Friends of the Malibu Library, a nonprofit group that donates money to the library, about doing a similar program in Malibu. The book chosen for that year was J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye.” The month-long program got the community talking about Holden Caulfield, the disaffected youth in “Catcher,” and funds were raised for the library through a grant from Starbucks.

Kathy Sullivan, who is on the board in charge of “One Book, One City,” said the program has already raised more money this year. She added the money is desperately needed because with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed budget, about 40 percent of county library services will be cut.

“They’ve cut the book budget down to smithereens,” she said. “Whenever budget cuts come up, libraries are one of the first to be affected. Unfortunately, nobody is marching in the streets for libraries.”

This year the program has already received a donation from Wells Fargo and a private contributor. The “One Book” board has also applied for a grant from Starbucks. In addition, more money will be raised through the selling of copies of “Catcher in the Rye” at various locations in Malibu. Sullivan said the money would be used to purchase a public address system, shelving and more books for the library. Also, some money will be given to a program conducted through the Malibu Labor Exchange that teaches reading English as a second language.

“The Great Gatsby,” first published in 1925, is about a man from Minnesota named Nick Carroway who moves to West Egg, a wealthy district on Long Island. Carroway meets many rich people, including Jay Gatsby, who throws lavish parties. Through his interactions with these people, Carroway learns that many of them might be rich but are not necessarily happy or of good moral character.

“It’s about wealth and class, which is very much a part of our culture here in Malibu,” Sullivan said. “Even though it is 80 years since the book was published, it still parallels many things in Malibu.”

Mayor Pro Tem Sharon Barovsky, who is also on the “One Book” board, said, “The Great Gatsby” is a complex novel although it might not appear to be on the surface. She called Jay Gatsby, a rich man from a poor background who is unable to gain the full acceptance of wealthy society, “a fascinating character.”

The “One Book” program begins on Saturday with a kick-off event at the Malibu Library. Barovsky and Mayor Ken Kearsley will be there, as well as Lynn Itagaki, who teaches a class on “The Great Gatsby” at UCLA, and actor Leigh McCloskey. Other events taking place this month include a discussion with film critic and writer John Truby at the Malibu Library on April 10, a yet-to-be announced event dealing with the book at Starbucks on April 15, a discussion entitled, “Gatsby – Too Cool for Words” with Topanga author Carolyn See at the Malibu Library on April 17, and a discussion with Professor James Thomas on April 24 at the Malibu Library called, “Gatsby Goes to the Movies: Why ‘The Great American Novel’ may never be a Great American Film.”

On April 23, the 1974 movie version of the novel that starred Robert Redford as Gatsby will be screened at Malibu High School. At that time, the winners will also be announced for a contest in which students made artifacts dealing with the novel.

A number of copies of the “The Great Gatsby” will be available for checkout at the Malibu Library during April. The “One Book” events are listed in The Malibu Times calendar on page A2.