October 22, 2014  

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The Big Read Returns to Hattiesburg with 'The Maltese Falcon' on Oct. 8

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“What page are you on?” This is a question Hattiesburg area book readers will be asking this October and November for The Big Read, which kicks off Friday, Oct. 8 at Live @ Five in Town Square Park in downtown Hattiesburg.

Jazz combo Falcon Noir will perform from 5 – 9 p.m. while Big Read volunteers distribute free copies of one of the best detective novels ever written – “The Maltese Falcon.”

The Big Read is a national literacy program sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and Arts Midwest, to encourage reading for enlightenment and enjoyment. The College of Arts and Letters received a $12,000 grant to bring the program to the Hattiesburg area for a second consecutive year.

“We’re pleased to host the Big Read again this year,” said Dr. Jeanne Gillespie, associate dean in the College of Arts and Letters. “It’s great to see people excited about reading and talking about good books. It is also important to connect the wonderful academic resources we have at Southern Miss with these community events so we can all benefit from using our talents and expertise.”

This year’s Big Read Scholar-in-Residence is Dr. Andrew Haley, assistant professor of history at Southern Miss.

Set in 1928 San Francisco, “The Maltese Falcon” is a thrilling love story filled with dark, dry comedy combined with an underlying moral message that solidifies its status as a private-eye classic and standard by which subsequent detective fiction would be judged, according to The Big Read Web site.

Written by Dashiell Hammett, it became iconic in the hands of film director John Huston, earning three Academy Award nominations. The book tells the tale of a tough investigator, Sam Spade, who is embroiled in dealings with three adventurers competing for the jewel-encrusted statuette of a falcon.

A series of programs are scheduled to promote discussion of the novel, including the following:

*Oct. 9, 10 a.m.– 5 p.m.: CSI Hattiesburg, Forrest Paper Co., grand opening, no charge.

*Oct. 12, 5:30 p.m.– 7:30 p.m: A Big Read Scholar event by Mary Anna Evans, a writer and native of Hattiesburg. Evans will lecture and read at the Oak Grove Public Library.

*Oct. 12, 6:30 p.m.: Film showing at the Library of Hattiesburg, Petal and Forrest County to celebrate the original film based on Hammett’s novel. Filmed in 1931, Roy Del Ruth’s film stays close to the book except for a twist at the end.The Friends of The Library will provide movie refreshments and Big Read materials free of charge.

*Oct. 18, 6:30 p.m.– 8 p.m.: Discussion with The Book Club at The Library of Hattiesburg, Petal, and Forrest County.

*Oct. 18, 7:30 p.m.: “European Roots of the Detective Novel” by Drs. Jeff Bowersox and Amy Milne-Smith. Location: TBA.

*Oct. 21, 7:30 p.m.: “The Historical Context of the Maltese Falcon” by Dr. Heather Stur. Location: TBA.

*Oct. 27, 4 p.m.: “The Maltese Falcon, Pop Culture, and Masculinity in the 20th Century” by Dr. Andrew Haley. Location: TBA.

*Oct. 26, 10 a.m. – 11 a.m.: Discussion with The Petal Book Club at The Library of Hattiesburg, Petal, and Forrest County in Petal, Miss.

*Oct. 26, 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.: Film showing at the Library of Hattiesburg, Petal and Forrest County to celebrate the second film based on Hammett’s novel. This 1936 version starring Bette Davis has been described as “strange, odd, verging on screwball.” The Friends of The Library will provide movie refreshments and Big Read materials at no cost.

Southern Miss is partnering with the Lamar Country Library System and Library of Hattiesburg, Petal and Forrest County on The Big Read. For more information, online visit www.usm.edu/thebigread or www.neabigread.org.