With the ringing of the bells, another year of reading has begun for the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle.
More than 75 people gathered around Miller Bell Tower Saturday morning for Bryant Day, a tradition that rings in the new reading year and serves as the first time CLSC selections are announced publicly.
“This is the symbolic, and literal, ringing-in of the reading year,” said Jeff Miller, CLSC activities coordinator. “You should be inspired for the next however many — too many — weeks before you come back here.”
Bryant Day was originally held in the fall, and commemorates William Cullen Bryant’s support of the original CLSC class. In honoring Bryant and, this year, the Class of 2015, the ceremony began with CLSC Alumni Association President Dick Karslake reading a poem, several choruses of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and greetings and responses between Miller and the attendees. A song, sung to the tune of “America,” followed — all scored by the ringing bells of the Miller Bell Tower and the Bryant Bell housed within.
“That was the past. This is the present, and now, for the future,” Miller said.
With that, Babcock announced the first CLSC books for 2016: Homer’s Iliad, translated by Stanley Lombardo; The Bully of Order, by Brian Hart; and Euphoria, by Lily King.
Lombardo’s translation of the Iliad is the CLSC book for Week Eight, “War and Its Warriors.”
“If you see [the cover of this particular publication], it had modern warriors on the cover,” Babcock said. “It’s a good complement to the week.”
The timelessness of war — whether it’s in ancient times or modern world wars — is explored through Iliad, a work that notably begins with the word “rage.”
Hart’s book is the CLSC selection for Week Six, “The Future of Cities.”
“This is a novel about the founding of cities in the Northwest, particularly Seattle,” Babcock said. “It’s a gritty book. It’s a character study of the roughness that begins in the frontiers.”
Babcock said that, in a week dedicated to the future of cities, it’s also appropriate to look to the past, and the beginnings of urban centers.
“We have opportunities for selecting books that complement the week in some way, but isn’t about the week,” she said.
Euphoria is the CLSC selection for Week Five, “People and Environment.” Both Euphoria and The Bully of Order were 2015 finalists for The Chautauqua Prize.
“This, again is a novel, about an imagined person based on the life of [anthropologist] Margaret Mead, who of course has spoken at Chautauqua,” Babcock said.
Careful to avoid spoilers, Babcock cautioned those gathered that Euphoria is not a picture of Mead’s life, but a study in humanity.
The vertical theme for the CLSC next summer is “What Does It Mean To Be Human?” — the same umbrella theme for all of 2016’s programming.
“You will find that question in all these books,” Babcock said.
As bells began the ceremony, bells ushered it to a close, and people lined up for their chance to ring the Bryant Bell. As they dispersed, people in the crowd were already discussing the books — which they had already read and which were next on their list.
Some referred back to the calls-and-responses they had read minutes earlier with Miller.
“All that mankind has done, thought, gained, or been, is lying in magic preservation in the pages of books,” Miller had read. “They are the chosen possession of man.”