And it's none other than The Crucible, Arthur Miller's scathing 1953 indictment of the Joseph McCarthy communist witch-hunts going on in Congress at the time, retold through the lens of the 1600s literal witch-hunts in Salem, Massachusetts. For those who don't know, the "One Book, One Chicago" program is this ingenious little thing here in the city (stolen, frankly, from smaller cities who have done such programs in the past), whereby the city government (through the library system) picks a book four times a year and then tries to convince the entire city population to read it at once, so that you'll be constantly running into strangers on the train or at coffeehouses with it, sparking fun intelligent conversations all over Chicago about literature and culture. This is the 13th selection since the program started, in fact; I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that it's one of the more popular programs in the entire city, and one that a whole lot of people take advantage of whenever it rolls around.
Anyway, the usual will be happening with this newest selection -- all 80 branches of the library system, for example, will be loading up on extra copies of The Crucible, including six branches around the city which will have ten copies in a canvas bag you can check out at once, known cleverly as the "book club in a bag;" and then speaking of which, over 50 of the library branches around the city will then be sponsoring discussion clubs about the book this autumn too, as well as lots of tie-ins with many of the schools around the city (including a series of fascinating-sounding lectures at DePaul University this fall), panel discussions around the city, public screenings of the film version and a lot more. The Chicago Public Library has published a slick 15-page PDF with all the details; you can go to their website for more.
But wait, that's not all! Turns out that famed theatre company Steppenwolf (where such now-famous actors as John Malkovich, Gary Sinese, Terry Kinney, Laurie Metcalf, John Mahoney and more got their start) will also be doing a stage production of The Crucible this fall, and is apparently no coincidence since even the public library's PDF includes a big interview with Steppenwolf's artistic director, Martha Lavey. And not only that, but cast members will be doing free dramatic readings of the play at half a dozen library locations this autumn, as well as handing out over 500 free copies of the book next Thursday at Millennium Park. For all the details on that, you can of course stop by the Steppenwolf website.
So what do you think? Should CCLaP also sponsor a discussion night this fall in the city, to discuss the book? If any readers in the Chicago area would be interested in such a thing -- say, to happen in the beginning of October -- either email me at cclapcenter [at] gmail.com or leave a comment at the end of this entry. And needless to say, if nothing else I will be reading the book myself this autumn, and posting an essay here at the website about what I thought (in that, believe it or not, I've never actually read or seen the play at this point).
Oh, and since I could, here's a shot of the nerdily sexy young Arthur Miller. Yow, no wonder Marilyn Monroe married him.