There are some stories that unite Bostonians — that get even chilly New Englanders talking on the T, on bar stools, or in line at Dunks. Usually there’s a ball involved, or a demented referee. If the Boston Book Festival has its way, though, the story that brings us together this fall could be literary in nature.
For their recently announced initiative, "One City, One Story," 30,000 copies of a short story by an established local author will be bound into booklets and circulated throughout Boston. In the weeks before the second annual Festival, to be held in Copley Square on October 16, copies of the featured 5,000- to 8,000-word story will be available for free at the Boston Public Library, in subway stations and at other public locations, as well as on the Festival Web site.
Says Boston Book Festival Executive Director Emily D’Amour Pardo in a press release, the booklet will be "beautiful, lightweight, and easy to carry, and the online version will be available to anyone who wants it."
The initiative was inspired by the Brooklyn-based One Story literary magazine, which mails one short story to subscribers every three weeks. According to One Story’s Web site, the booklet format "allows readers to experience each story as a stand-alone work of art and a simple form of entertainment" and is "designed to fit into your purse or pocket, and into your life."
Says Boston Book Festival Founding President, Deborah Z Porter, "stories were requested from almost two dozen established authors who have ties to New England," and the final selection committee, made up of "a designee from the Mayor’s office, several branch librarians, several Boston Book Festival Board members and one or two other representatives of the community," will pick the winner from the best four or five manuscripts. The featured writer, whose name will be announced later this summer, will make multiple local appearances in the weeks prior to Festival and will lead a talk at the event. It’s a great opportunity for the writer, but the real focus of "One City, One story" is to get readers talking to each other.
"We love the idea of many thousands of people in Boston reading the same story and talking about it against the backdrop of the Boston Book Festival," explains Porter. "Boston has a passion for reading. We want to explore this further by uniting the city around a single story and examining it from the many different perspectives that exist here."
Boston mayor Thomas M. Menino shares her vision. "’One City, One Story’ is a wonderful idea for engaging many people in the joy of reading for pleasure and a great way to start a citywide conversation about a work of fiction," he said.
At a time when library branches are closing around the city, obituaries for the book are being written every other week and media is increasingly tailor-made for "niche markets," it will worth seeing if, just for a couple of weeks, the Boston Book Festival can get us all on the same page.
Jason Rabin of the Blast staff contributed to this report