'AZ 100: Reflections on Essential Books of the Grand Canyon State' Lecture
Bruce Dinges, director of publications at the Arizona Historical Society and editor-in-chief of The Journal of Arizona History, delivers the opening talk in the Reading Arizona Lecture Series being held in conjunction with Special Collections’ current exhibition “Arizona 100: Essential Books for the Centennial.” Dinges’ talk will offer insights into the yearlong selection process that resulted in the state’s Centennial bibliography. The lecture will be followed by a reception.
Inspired by Arizona’s Centennial, last year a group of seven bibliophiles set out to develop a readily accessible list of fiction and nonfiction books that define Arizona. Surveying more than 200 titles from Spanish times to the present, the final 100 titles were selected for having “diverse geographical, cultural and political literary merit” for Arizona.
The current edition of The Journal of Arizona History presents the culmination of this yearlong effort and offers an in-depth bibliography of the selected titles with a summary, assessment of significance and suggestions for further reading for each title. Special Collections’ exhibition and related lecture series is an opportunity for the community to participate in this statewide literary project.
With more than 30 years of experience in reviewing, recommending and discussing Arizona’s literary tradition, Bruce Dinges was one of the seven selectors for the “Arizona 100” bibliography. In addition to his role as editor-in-chief of "The Journal of Arizona History," Dinges is currently executive director of the Arizona History Convention, has been a member of the Writers of the Purple Sage program, a contributor to the Southwest Books of the Year program and served on the editorial advisory board of the Journal of the West.
In his talk, Dinges will reflect on the extensive, and sometimes surprising, process of selecting a collection of emblematic works that, if read collectively, express who and what Arizonans are. Although some authors were immediately included, notably Edward Abbey, Byrd Baylor and Barbara Kingsolver, other works called for review and rereading. Dinges recalls one example that the selectors initially thought was a shoo-in: Cormac McCarthy’s "Blood Meridian." After a close reread, however, the selectors realized that, as only about 30 pages of the novel were set in Arizona, the work was more about the region than the state. For that reason the title, although a great Southwest novel, does not appear on the “Arizona 100” bibliography.
Dinges will also share the stories of other titles that warranted discussion and debate among the selectors. Because it is a community literary project, the audience is encouraged to ask questions about the selection process and present alternative views on what was and was not included in the “Arizona 100” bibliography.
Readers interested in purchasing the special edition of The Journal of Arizona History can contact the Arizona Historical Society. Additionally, as many of the 100 titles are still in print, the UA BookStores is creating a dedicated website from which readers can purchase books included in the “Arizona 100” bibliography.