Free Literary Events at Eugene Public Library, March 2014

All events are free and open to the public.

More information: 541-682-5450 or

These events are part of The Big Read: a Eugene/Springfield community celebration of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby. The Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest, co-sponsored locally by Eugene Public Library, Springfield Public Library, and Oregon Contemporary Theatre. For a complete calendar of Big Read events, visit or call Eugene Public Library at 541-682-5450.

Big Read Book Groups
Take your pick!
The Big Read project encourages everyone in Eugene/Springfield to read and talk about The Great Gatsby this month. Share your views and hear your neighbors’ at drop-in book groups at Eugene Public Library:

  • Bethel Branch, Saturday, March 1, 1:00 p.m. or Wednesday, March 19, 3:00 p.m.
  • Sheldon Branch, Wednesday, March 12, 3:00 p.m. or Saturday, March 22, 11:00 a.m.
  • Downtown Library, Sunday, March 23, 2:00 p.m.
  • Or join in the discussion at Springfield Public Library on Monday, March 17, 6:00 p.m. in English, or Tuesday, March 18, 6:00 p.m. in Spanish.
  • Springfield Public Library will also hold a book group about another Fitzgerald classic, This Side of Paradise, on Tuesday, March 4, 10:30 a.m.

The Big Read will also hold an ongoing online book group at the Eugene Public Library website: Additionally, youth are invited to the Downtown Eugene Public Library’s Teen Book Group or Tween Scene Book Group on Thursday, March 27, 4:00 p.m.; teens will read The Great Gatsby and tweens, Dave at Night.

The Big Read Kick-Off
First Friday, March 7, theater 5:00 p.m., live music 6:00 p.m.
Downtown Eugene Public Library, 10th & Olive
At 5:00 p.m., Debra Conner performs Muse to Madness, a dramatic one-woman show about the life of Zelda Fitzgerald, from her glory to her disintegration. Zelda and her husband, writer F. Scott Fitzgerald, were the golden couple of the 1920s. Their brilliance and excesses defined the age—and like the decade itself, their brief, tempestuous lives ended in calamity. America’s first flapper and the model for Scott’s fictional heroines, Zelda spent much of her life after age 30 hospitalized for schizophrenia, ultimately perishing in a fire at age 48. A writer and teacher as well as a performer Debra Conner began portraying Emily Dickinson in 1997, thanks to a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Since then, she has also performed as author Margaret Mitchell and Civil War surgeon Dr. Mary Walker.

At 6:00 p.m., enjoy a high-energy Jazz Age concert by the Carl Woideck Quartet, featuring 1920s favorites including “Sweet Georgia Brown,” “Oh, Lady Be Good!,” “Bye Bye Blackbird,” and “Tea for Two.” The Quartet is comprised of Carl Woideck (saxophone), Tony Glausi (trumpet), Torrey Newhart (keyboard), and Sean Peterson (bass). The Downtown Library stays open until 8:00 p.m. on the First Friday of each month.

The Crack Up: Fitzgerald’s Last Years
Saturday, March 8, 3:00 p.m., Downtown Eugene Public Library, 10th & Olive
F. Scott Fitzgerald spent his last years in emotional and financial ruin. In 1936, just four years before he died at age 44, Fitzgerald wrote and published several gloomy autobiographical essays (“part self-autopsy and part funeral sermon,” according to literary biographer Jeffrey Meyers). Presenter Debra Conner will explore the reasons behind Fitzgerald’s “crack up” and how his reputation as a writer was rescued after his death.

What Makes Gatsby Great
Saturday, March 15, 2:00 p.m., Downtown Eugene Public Library, 10th & Olive
Dr. Jackson Bryer, noted Fitzgerald scholar and president of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Society, talks about why The Great Gatsby was a radical departure from the author’s previous work, and why it is widely considered a masterpiece.

In the spring of 1925, Fitzgerald, the author of two highly autobiographical novels, This Side of Paradise and The Beautiful and Damned, suddenly and surprisingly published The Great Gatsby, a novel that both in subject matter and, above all in style, was unlike any of his previous fiction. It has since become an iconic work of American fiction, selling well over 500,000 copies annually and inspiring 4 major Hollywood movies.

Bryer is a Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Maryland, where he taught undergraduate and graduate courses for 41 years. He is the co-founder and president of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Society. Among the books he has authored, edited, or co-edited on Fitzgerald are Approaches to Teaching Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Dear Scott, Dearest Zelda: The Love Letters of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, New Essays on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Neglected Stories, The Critical Reputation of F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Bibliographical Study, The Short Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald: New Approaches in Criticism, F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Critical Reception, Dear Scott/Dear Max: The Fitzgerald-Perkins Correspondence, and F. Scott Fitzgerald in His Own Time: A Miscellany.

Gatsby and the 99%
Monday, March 17, 5:30 p.m., Downtown Eugene Public Library, 10th & Olive
Legend has it that F. Scott Fitzgerald once said to Ernest Hemingway, “The rich are different from you and me.” (Hemingway allegedly replied, “Yes, they have more money.”) At this gathering, Daniel Pope and Marcus Widenor will give a brief presentation and lead group discussion about the role of class in The Great Gatsby.

Explore both the subtleties of class distinctions among the rich that Fitzgerald traced in his great novel and the realities of the poor and working class majority of New Yorkers in the 1920s that lurk in the story’s background. The journeys of Fitzgerald’s characters through the “ash heaps of Flushing” represented a social as well as a physical landscape, a context for the psychological and moral complexities of their lives.

Pope is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Oregon, where he has taught classes ranging from the history of American business to radical movements in American history. He is the author of The Making of Modern Advertising, Nuclear Implosions: The Rise and Fall of the Washington Public Power Supply System, and editor of a collection of articles, American Radicalism.

Widenor is Associate Professor Emeritus at the Labor Education and Research Center, University of Oregon. His career began as a union organizer, followed by 35 years as a university based labor educator, specializing in labor history, workplace dispute resolution, and collective bargaining. He grew up on Long Island, not very far from Gatsby’s “East Egg.”

More Events in March

From Animal House to Our House: A Love Story
Monday, March 3, 6:00 p.m., Downtown Eugene Public Library, 10th & Olive
Award-winning writer and DIY (do-it-yourself) expert Ron Tanner presents a hilarious, heart-warming, illustrated monologue about his book From Animal House to Our House: A Love Story.

Twelve years ago, Ron Tanner and his then-girlfriend, Jill, did the impossible. They bought a condemned property—a big Baltimore Victorian brownstone—and vowed to bring it back to its original glory. The house had been home to Baltimore’s most notorious fraternity for a decade and now, wrecked and abandoned, it was filled with garbage. As if that weren’t daunting enough: Ron and Jill had been dating for only 6 months and they knew nothing about fixing up old houses. Friends, family, and concerned onlookers told them not to do it—they would surely lose their shirts and their love in the bargain.

A story for inspiration-seekers, old house lovers, DIYers, and American dreamers, Tanner’s book, From Animal House to Our House: A Love Story, tells how the couple “learned the hard way about love, life, and saving precious things from ruin.” In 2003, they got married in the house. In 2008, This Old House magazine featured their work in an article went viral online. They now run the popular home renovation website, and Tanner has become a licensed house inspector.

According to Chris Jones in Esquire, “Ron Tanner’s life is a testament to the power of hard work, a big heart, blind romance, and even outright idiocy. What does he have to show for it? Only a beautiful house, a loving marriage, and now this inspiration of a book. Pass me my hammer!”

Widely published, Ron Tanner has received writing awards including a Faulkner Society gold medal, a Pushcart Prize, a New Letters Award, a Best of the Web Award, and many others. He is the author of the story collection A Bed of Nails and an illustrated novel, Kiss Me Stranger. He teaches writing at Loyola University in Baltimore, Maryland, and directs the Marshall Islands Story Project and the Preservation America project.

Intro to Blogging
Thursday, March 6, 1:30 p.m., Downtown Eugene Public Library, 10th & Olive
Create your own blog with the free website Blogger. Plus an introduction to RSS and Google Reader, tools that deliver automatic updates from your preferred online sources for news, opinion, entertainment, and more. Internet experience and e-mail account required.

Writer Terry Brooks
Sunday, March 9, 1:30 p.m., Downtown Eugene Public Library, 10th & Olive
Hear a talk by Terry Brooks, the New York Times bestselling author of more than 25 books. He is best known for the phenomenally popular Shannara novels, considered by many to be one of the greatest fantasy epics ever written. The series is currently being adapted into a show for MTV. Among Brooks’ works is also Sometimes the Magic Works: Lessons From a Writing Life, a memoir and writing guide.

A writer since high school, Brooks wrote many stories within the genres of science fiction, western, fiction, and non-fiction, until one day in college when he was given a copy of The Lord of the Rings. That moment changed his life, because in Tolkien’s great work he found a way to combine all the elements of his writing in one genre. A practicing attorney for many years, Brooks now writes full-time from his home in the Pacific Northwest.

With books for purchase and signing courtesy of the UO Duck Store. Sponsored by Eugene Public Library and Wordcrafters in Eugene.

Windfall Reading: Tom Titus and Michael Heald
Tuesday, March 18, 5:30 p.m., Downtown Eugene Public Library, 10th & Olive
The Windfall Reading Series this month features writers Tom Titus and Jenny Root.

Michael Heald’s debut essay collection, Goodbye to the Nervous Apprehension, was one of Willamette Week’s Best Books of 2012, and has been praised as “truly brilliant” by Baltimore City Paper and “sneaky-deep” by The Oregonian. Heald’s work has also appeared in Runner’s World, the LA Review of Books, Silk Road Review, and other publications. He lives in Portland, where he is the publisher of Perfect Day Publishing.

Tom Titus’ Blackberries in July: A Forager’s Field Guide to Inner Peace grew from a search for the Oregon of his youth: old orchards, bay clams, wild mushrooms, and spawning salmon. Raised in the rural Willamette Valley foothills near Eugene, Titus grew up to become a research geneticist and instructor at the University of Oregon. His book is a year-long chronology of a spiritual “hunting and gathering,” a reunion with the local land and intergenerational traditions.

The Windfall Reading Series is sponsored by Eugene Public Library, Lane Literary Guild, Friends of Eugene Public Library, Eugene Public Library Foundation, and Cultural Services Division of Lane Arts Council. Refreshments served at intermission.

Print Your Book
Monday, March 24, 5:30 p.m., Downtown Eugene Public Library, 10th & Olive
This 2-hour class offers an introduction to the many self-publishing resources available online. Whether you have written a book you want to print and sell widely, or you want to print just a few copies of a family history or recipe collection, self-publishing is now easier and more affordable than ever. Intermediate computer and Internet skills required.

Writer Carl Hoffman – “Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller’s Tragic Quest for Primitive Art”
Thursday, March 27, 6:00 p.m., Downtown Eugene Public Library, 10th & Olive
Bestselling writer Carl Hoffman returns to Eugene to talk about his new book, Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller’s Tragic Quest for Primitive Art.

The 1961 disappearance of primitive art enthusiast Michael Rockefeller in New Guinea has remained a mystery ever since. Despite exhaustive searches, no trace of Rockefeller was ever found. Soon after his disappearance, rumors surfaced that he’d been killed and ceremonially eaten by the local Asmat, a native tribe of warriors whose complex culture was built around sacred, reciprocal violence, head hunting, and ritual cannibalism. The Dutch government and the Rockefeller family denied the story, and Michael’s death was officially ruled a drowning. Yet doubts lingered. Sensational rumors and stories circulated, fueling speculation and intrigue for decades.

Retracing Rockefeller’s steps, award-winning journalist Carl Hoffman traveled to the jungles of New Guinea, immersing himself in a world of headhunters and cannibals, secret spirits and customs, and getting to know generations of Asmat. Through exhaustive archival research, he uncovered never-before-seen original documents and located witnesses willing to speak publically after fifty years.

In Savage Harvest, he finally solves this decades-old mystery and illuminates a culture transformed by years of colonial rule, whose people continue to be shaped by ancient customs and lore. Combining history, art, colonialism, adventure, and ethnography, the book is a mesmerizing whodunit and a fascinating portrait of the clash between two civilizations that resulted in the death of one of America’s richest and most powerful scions.

Carl Hoffman is a contributing editor at National Geographic Traveler and the author of The Lunatic Express: Discovering the World Via Its Most Dangerous Buses, Boats, Trains, and Planes and Hunting Warbirds: The Obsessive Quest for the Lost Aircraft of World War II. A veteran journalist who has won 4 Lowell Thomas Awards from the Society of American Travel Writers Foundation, Hoffman has traveled to more than 70 countries on assignment for Outside, Smithsonian, National Geographic Adventure, ESPN The Magazine, The Wall Street Journal Magazine, Wired, and many other publications.