By Riley Manning/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The 2012 Tupelo Reads program came to a close with dramatic readings from this year’s selection – Marilynne Robinson’s “Gilead” – given by Pastor Rick Brooks.
“Tupelo Reads has been such a positive community-building exercise,” he said.
In recent weeks, Brooks has performed a “one-man act” of the book for English and theater classes at Tupelo High School, as well as Itawamba Community College’s Tupelo campus.
“I was afraid the high school-aged kids would be fidgeting and rolling their eyes, but they were really enraptured, even ones who hadn’t read the book,” Brooks said.
He said for the school performances, he selected passages earlier in the book, but for the Kiwanis Club luncheon Friday, he read the final dozen or so pages.
This section of the novel fulfills the long-running theme of the prodigal son.
John Ames, the protagonist, is finally able to bestow his pastoral blessing on his best friend’s son, Jack Boughton, a rascal and a source of angst, resentment, even disgust at times for Ames.
“The hardest part of preparing this reading was picking the passage,” he said. “In the end, I made my choice on which parts were most emotional for me. Ames’ blessing on Jack is a very touching moment, and I thought the theme would be extremely relevant.”
Brooks’ performance follows a pastor’s roundtable discussion of the novel last week, and a talk by journalist Sid Salter and his daughter Kate Salter, an English professor at Mississippi State University.
But Brooks feels the text’s language is just as powerful and valuable as interpretation.
“There is a power in hearing that we often discount these days, but reading out loud makes the text come alive,” he said.
Brooks has pastored St. Luke United Methodist Church in Tupelo since transferring from a Bay St. Louis church in 2009. He has become extensively involved in the Tupelo Community Theatre, most recently starring in productions of “Carousel” and “The Fantastics.”
Given his theater experience, Tupelo Reads organizer Lisa Reed said Brooks immediately came to her mind as a natural fit to give a dramatic reading.
Brooks will cap his performances with readings for the Rotary Club, Traceway and Civitan Club in the following weeks.