Although David Kipen, NEA director of literature, National Reading Initiatives, has been laid off and his position eliminated, he expects that the Big Read initiative that he has spearheaded since 2006 will continue. The Big Read seeks to restore reading to Americans’ cultural lives by assisting communities in selecting a common book to read and discuss. As of June 2010, the Big Read will have awarded grants, conducted publicity campaigns, and produced resource guides and other materials on 31 recommended works of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for more than 800 communities across the country.

The deadline for communities to apply to participate in the NEA’s Big Read program for September 2010-June 2011 is February 2.

While referring PW to NEA spokespersons for information about the fate of the Big Read program (no one returned calls by press time), Kipen passed along a link to a Congressional report on the Appropriations to the Deptartment of Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Act, 2010, in which NEA was commended specifically for its Big Read program and was instructed to “report to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations, no later than 60 days after enactment of this Act, with a detailed funding plan for the continuation of this popular and successful program.”

Kipen, previously the book editor for the San Francisco Chronicle, joined the NEA in 2005 as Director of Literature. Prior to working for the Chronicle, Kipen was senior editor for Buzz magazine. He is the author of The Schreiber Theory: A Radical Rewrite of American Film History, and translated Cervantes' The Dialogue of the Dogs. His collection of essays, A Raft of Books: How American Literature Saved Our Lives, is forthcoming from Bloomsbury. He will continue as book critic on the Bob Edwards Show on XMSirius Radio, and Bob Edwards Weekend on public radio.