One of the most legendary books of all time comes to Omaha, in what the library hopes will be a city wide book club.
The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton’s Pulitzer Prize winning, 1920 novel about forbidden romance in the Gilded Age Old New York, was chosen as the 2012 Omaha Reads Program book. The program is a local version of “One book, One city,” a national program that aims to get entire cities reading the same book, which are usually fiction. Gary Wasdin, Executive Director of the Omaha Public Library, calls the program “Omaha’s biggest book club.” It will feature multiple, The Age of Innocence, themed events around the Omaha area.
Wasdin sights a renewed interest in both Wharton and that time period as reasons why they settled on the classic novel. This year marks the 150 anniversary of Wharton’s birth, and shows like "Downton Abbey" have brought more attention to the Gilded Age.
Wasdin said that they also chose it for the simple fact that it’s a great book. “It’s a book that a lot of readers have fond memories from high school or college. This gives us a lot of chance to go back and re-read and appreciate more.” He also sited the 1993 Martin Scorsese film, staring Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Winona Ryder, as another reason to choose the book, because it’s still so loved by fans.
The first step in creating programs, Wasdin said, was choosing the book. Various library personnel including Wasdin re-read the book looking for inspiration in the book. “It was really a collective effort,” he said.
The first event was a lawn party at Joslyn Castle Sept. 2 The party featured a tour of the castle, finger sandwiches, "Downton Abbey" cocktails and lawn game of croquet and badminton.
The Castle was a perfect choice for the event, Wasdin says. The grounds, not just the castle are beautiful, he says. “It’s a setting that evokes The Age of Innocence.”
Omaha Reads will also feature two separate author meet and greet discussions. The first, being held at the W. Dale Clarke Library Sept. 13, will feature author Jennie Fields, author of The Age of Desire, a book published this year is about Wharton’s affair with journalist Marton Fullerton. The second discussion will be Sept. 20 at the downtown library and will be given by Francesca Segal, author of The Innocents, a modern retelling of The Age of Innocents.
Wasdin believes that people should come out for a fun opportunity. “Reading,” Wasdin says, “is such a solitary event, this is a chance to come together and connect with other people. It helps bring a different perspective.”
For more information about all events, including a Millionaires and Mansions North Gold Coast tour, visit omahalibrary.org.