This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, March 29, 2000

March 29, 2000 - Great Books and the Lone Tree Coffeehouse

It is my pleasure to announce two exciting new literary events in Douglas County.

The first is the "Difficult Gifts" Great Books Seminar, jointly sponsored by the Douglas County Educational Foundation and the Douglas Public Library District. Credit for the idea goes to John Sheehan, a member of the Douglas County School District Board of Education. John recently attended a Great Books Seminar back east. He came back inspired.

It happens that when I was in 7th and 8th grade, I was fortunate enough to be involved in the Junior Great Books program, in part because the Great Books Foundation had begun at the University of Chicago, not fifty miles from my home town.

Frankly, if someone had told me beforehand that we were going to read a series of classics, then sit around and talk about them, I would have thought there was no better description of boredom and torture.

But I learned to my astonishment that there's a reason classics are classics. They contain powerful and challenging writing.

The next part of the program was equally surprising. My class contained the usual number of kids trying to figure out what the adult world was like, and how we were going to fit in. By talking about the readings, we began to develop a vocabulary, a series of approaches, to talk about the deepest issues we faced.

This period became my favorite of the week. I discovered the difference between little questions -- what should I wear today, what should I watch on TV, I wonder if she likes me? -- and big questions -- how shall I live my life, what is the meaning of honor, is it better to be rich than wise?

I also learned that reading, then talking about what you read with others, can be a time of high excitement and drama.

So I was inclined to go along with John's infectious enthusiasm for the "Difficult Gifts" program. But what I especially liked was its focus: first, it was multigenerational -- students AND adults. Second, the theme was "The Disappearance of Childhood." I would argue that this may be one of the most thought-provoking and incisive themes for our time. Third, the readings themselves are superb choices: "The Social Me," by William James; "Barn Burning," by William Faulkner; and excerpts from Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein."

At this point, most of the student participants have been selected. But there's still room for a few more adults. I strongly urge you to sign up. Your obligations would include: reading the provided selections (8 pages, 40 pages, and 71 pages), having dinner on three separate nights (April 3, 5, and 6), then discussing the readings in groups of 16, guided by one of the highly skilled and experienced Great Book facilitators. The sessions will be held at the Chaparral High School.

In the post-Columbine world, many adults have talked ABOUT the next generation. Here's an opportunity to actually talk WITH them. Not only that, I can promise a rendezvous with great literature you will not soon forget. Just call Lori Orzech at 303-814-5271, e-mail her at Lori_Orzech@ceo.cudenver.edu, or visit the school district website at www.dcsd.k12.co.us. But do it soon! Applications must be in by this Friday, March 31.

The second event will occur for just one night at the Lone Tree Library, 8827 Lone Tree Parkway, just south of the Park Meadows Mall. Beginning at 7 p.m., Saturday, April 15, we will host the first Lone Tree Coffeehouse poetry reading. Our main hope is to flush out some young adults with a keen urge to write, and a willingness to share, although all are welcome. Refreshments will be served, then we'll have an open microphone.

I have been strong armed into performing some of my own poetry, and I saw one flier that suggested I would bring a guitar, which just goes to show that you can't believe everything you read. No registration is necessary.

Both of the above programs are free.

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