David Kipen, the literature director at the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has challenged the residents of Kellys Island, Ohio—all 131 of them—to read Harper Lee's 1960 classic To Kill a Mockingbird as part of the independent federal agency's Big Read program. If they do? He'll buy them pizza. If they don't? He'll eat a copy of the book.
The Big Read is the NEA's initiative to get the residents of cities, towns, and other communities across the country to read a single book together. Back in October 2007, Kippen wrote on the Big Read's blog about his dream of one day getting 100-percent participation in any given community. Last June, Kipen reportedly mentioned this dream at a Big Read orientation in Minneapolis when he was approached by someone from Kellys Island, and the challenge eventually took shape.
Seventy Kelleys Island residents have pledged to read the book; Kipen needs fifty more in order to avoid a forty-nine-year-old, 300-plus-page meal.