October has been Mark Twain month in Sacramento. Not officially, but it seems like it.
What brought "the father of American literature" to town was a partnership between The Sacramento Bee, the Sacramento Public Library, Access Sacramento cable TV, and four Barnes & Noble bookstores in the region.
The Twain bandwagon began to roll in March, when the library announced "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" as the choice for its Big Read/One Book Sacramento program.
The Big Read, which kicked off Sept. 29 and concludes Monday, asked everyone to read "Tom Sawyer" and participate in 75 related programs held at the library's 28 locations.
"More people have read 'Tom Sawyer' (in English, Spanish and Vietnamese) in October than in any other month in previous years," said Don Burns, the library's public information coordinator. "We've loaned it as books, as CD audiobooks and in Playaway format. It was very successful in our Bookclub in a Box program. (For that) we loan 16 kits, each containing eight copies of 'Tom Sawyer,' and couldn't keep up with the demand."
Barnes & Noble community relations manager Michael Troyan reports "a significant rise in sales of all Mark Twain titles at our four stores. We still have 'Tom Sawyer' and the 'Autobiography' displayed on an endcap because sales have not stopped. People are buying 'Huckleberry Finn,' too."
As part of its Mark Twain Project, The Bee recruited 35 community leaders to read one chapter each of the classic novel; Access Sacramento taped the readings over the summer, and in late September The Bee invited its readers to watch them at www.sacbee.com/tomsawyer.
To launch the joint venture, Twain scholar Robert Hirst of UC-Berkeley, and Twain impersonator McAvoy Layne appeared Sept. 29 at the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria in front of 350 people. At that event, Bee Book Club bookseller Barnes & Noble sold out of its copies of "Tom Sawyer" and "The Autobiography of Mark Twain."
Access Sacramento taped that night's 90-minute program and has aired it several times since.
It will be rebroadcast at 10 tonight, 2 p.m. Monday (Internet only) and 6 a.m. Tuesday on Comcast/Surewest Channel 17 and AT&T U-Verse Channel 99. The program can also be viewed at those times at www.accesssacramento.org.
As of Friday, nearly 15,000 Bee readers have visited the taped readings at www.sacbee.com/tomsawyer.
Perhaps all this reinforces the spirit of Twain's most-misquoted line: "The report of my death was an exaggeration."