All of the arts are about expression, of course, but perhaps none is more direct about communication than writing and speaking. Although reading and listening are solitary activities, the circle of communication is not complete until people gather to talk about what's been written or said. This fall, there are plenty of opportunities to exchange ideas - thought-provoking, soul-stirring ideas - right here in the Inland Northwest.
Spokane Is Reading
Spokane is known for its oversized community events, so perhaps it's no surprise that a community-wide reading event should spring up here. Spokane Is Reading brings readers together from all corners of the area to focus on a single book, and this year's selection is Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. Set in an indefinite future time, after Earth has sustained two devastating attacks by aliens, the book follows young Ender Wiggin as he trains for the next war. The trainees hone their skills in a series of games - but are they really just games? The book has sold more than two million copies since its release nearly 20 years ago and is popular with both science fiction fans and general readers.
Author Orson Scott Card will make two appearances in Spokane on Thursday, Oct. 28, to read from Ender's Game, field questions and sign books. Card grew up in Richland, so his visit to Spokane is something of a homecoming. He'll be at the North Spokane County Library at 1:30 pm and at 7 pm at the Commandery Room of the Masonic Temple.
In addition, local libraries will host discussions of the book; check with your local branch for details. The libraries also suggest additional reading for those who want to delve further into the issues raised by Ender's story. A complete schedule of events and recommended titles can be found at any branch library or online at www.spokaneisreading.org.
Local libraries host many other events as well, including meetings of the Eastern Washington Civil War Roundtable. The group holds its first meeting of the season at the North Spokane County Library at 7 pm on Wednesday, Sept. 22. No prior knowledge of the Civil War is required to take part in this evening of speakers and discussion. The library is located at 44 E. Hawthorne Rd.
Spokane's inimitable independent bookseller, Auntie's, can be counted on for a full lineup of author events, and this fall is no exception. Complete details can be found in the store's bimonthly newsletter, Auntie Notes, or from any one of the knowledgeable staff. All events take place at 7:30 pm on the second floor unless otherwise noted.
Irish writer Cathal Liam comes to Spokane from Cincinnati on Friday, Sept. 24 to read from and discuss his historical novel of Ireland's 1916 Easter uprising and subsequent events, Consumed In Freedom's Flame, and his collection of stories, poems and essays, Forever Green: Ireland Now and Again. Liam's appearance here is sponsored by the Spokane-Limerick Sister City Society and the All Things Irish store in Coeur d'Alene.
From Ireland, the scene shifts to the fictional Midwestern town of Partonville, where terror reigns - in a low-key way - whenever 87-year-old Dorothy Jean Westra climbs behind the wheel of her formidable car. Dorothy's creator, author Charlene Ann Baumbich, presents the newest adventure in the Dearest Dorothy series on Tuesday, Sept. 28. Baumbich's vision of Partonville has been compared to Jan Karon's Mitford series, full of delightfully quirky characters set in the midst of timeless small town Americana.
Now, a heads-up for all Tolkien aficionados - this October is the 50th anniversary of the American publication of The Fellowship of the Ring, the first installment in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. To celebrate, Auntie's will host two hours of public readings from Fellowship on Saturday, Oct. 23, beginning at 1 pm. To sign up for a time slot to read, call 838-0206. No Orcs need apply.
Back in 1981, Rabbi Harold S. Kushner came to prominence with the publication of his now-classic When Bad Things Happen To Good People, a book that grew out of his response to his young son's death and went on to become a bestseller. Since then, the book has been translated into 14 languages and Rabbi Kushner's words have guided millions through grief and spiritual crisis. Now his latest book, The Lord Is My Shepherd: Healing Wisdom of the Twenty-Third Psalm, has just been released in paperback and he will visit Spokane on Monday, Oct. 25, to talk about his books, his faith and his life.
Poet Michael Van Walleghen reads from his work on Friday, Nov. 5, at Auntie's as part of the Eastern Washington University Creative Writing Program's speaker series. The program's series of readings by visiting writers has moved to a new home on Auntie's stage for this season. Van Walleghen is the author of five books of poetry and teaches in the MFA program at the University of Illinois.
Bestselling novelist Jeff Shaara, whose earlier military sagas on the Revolutionary War and the Civil War gained him a loyal following, continues writing his way through America's wars with his newest effort, To The Last Man, a novel of the first World War. Known for epic, character-driven fiction like his father, Michael, Shaara comes to Auntie's on Monday, Nov. 22 as part of his national book tour.
Come December, the schedule is still a bit tentative, but Idaho author John Rember plans to stop by on Wednesday, Dec. 15, to read from his latest book, Traplines: Coming Home to Sawtooth Valley. After a 30-year career as a Harvard-educated English professor, Rember returns to his childhood home in Stanley, Idaho, to find that many things have changed - including himself. He laments the loss of unmediated wildness while relishing the stories embedded in a landscape that's both familiar and unfamiliar.
Other booksellers in the area - Barnes & amp; Noble, Borders, Hastings - offer author readings as well; check with your local store for the latest schedule.
Local College Scene
Local universities and colleges provide countless benefits to the community, of course, but hosting forums for outstanding speakers is one of the best. At Gonzaga University, historian, actor and Fulbright Lecturer, John "Chuck" Chalberg brings his one-person show, An Evening With G. K. Chesterton, to the Jundt Lecture Hall (Room 110) on Monday, Sept. 27 at 7:30 pm. Chesterton, the British Catholic author, apologist, and man of letters, was part of a literary circle that included C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Doug Kries, associate professor of philosophy, at 323-6720.
GU continues its popular Catholicism for a New Millennium series, co-sponsored by the religious studies department and the GU honors program, with four lectures this fall. Professor Patricia Beattie Jung, the Roman Catholic Associate Professor of Theology at Loyola University Chicago, will speak on "Gay Marriage and Civil Unions: A Catholic Reflection" on Thursday, Sept. 30. Professor Jung is a theological ethicist who is working on a paper about the theological aspects of same-sex marriage. She has consulted with DignityUSA, an organization of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Catholics. On Thursday, Oct. 7, Professor Vincent J. Miller, Assistant Professor of Theology at Georgetown University, will lecture on, "Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture." His recent book of the same title examines consumerism and the effects of consumer culture from a theological perspective.
The series continues on Nov. 11 when Professor Jeannette Rodriguez, Associate Professor of Theology and Religious Studies at Seattle University, comes to town for a talk called, "The Gospel of the Americas." Professor Rodriguez wrote Our Lady of Guadalupe: Faith and Empowerment Among Mexican American Women and is the founding director of the Center for the Study of Justice in Society. The clergy sex abuse scandal that has rocked the church in recent years will be the topic of a Nov. 18 lecture entitled, "The Sex Abuse Scandal: What Now?" The speaker is Alice Bourke Hayes, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops National Review Board Member and former President of the University of San Diego. All lectures in the series begin at 7:30 pm in the Globe Room at GU's Cataldo Hall. For further information about the series, contact Dr. Patrick McCormick, associate professor of religious studies, at 323-6715
Across town, Spokane Community College plans a quarter-long look at the place of food in culture - in films and literature as well as in the food choices people make every day. Called Culinary Culture, the program of readings, panel discussions, lectures and films will examine issues of food production and consumption and will celebrate the role of food in cultures across the globe. A program of the Center for the Humanities at SCC, Culinary Culture encourages students, staff and faculty to read Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser as a basis for discussions all over campus. The public events kick off on Thursday, Sept. 30, with a panel discussion of "Carbs and Calories: America's Consumer-Driven Diet Craze," at 11:30 am. Two more panels are planned: "Food in the Schools" on Oct. 14 and "Where Does Your Food Come From?" on Nov. 12, both at 11:30 am.
A series of lectures brings faculty and other experts to the forefront as they link food with their academic disciplines. Marcel Arpin of the SCC Arts faculty begins with "Food and Art" on Wednesday, Oct. 6, at 11:30 am. Later highlights include Stacy Kowtko's historical perspective on food and revolution, "Let Them Eat Cake," (Nov. 3) and Rob Vogel's connection of food and interpersonal communication called "Talking Turkey" (Nov. 17).
A series of three symposia will step back and study food from a broader perspective with the topics "Eating in America: Cultural Identity and Food" (Oct. 21), "Will Work for Food: Careers in the Food Industry" (Oct. 28), and "Food and Religion" (Nov. 8). All of the symposia begin at 12:30 pm.
On the Palouse
Of course, culture doesn't end at the Spokane County line. Bookpeople in Moscow offers author readings throughout the fall; check the reader board at the store to see what's coming up. And the local universities host a stream of events throughout the semester to keep up the intellectual stimulation.
The Department of English at Washington State University begins its Visiting Writer Series on Wednesday, Sept. 22, with poet and performer Dick Bakken. (He'll be at Auntie's a few days later, on September 30.) Bakken is a Northwest boy who now directs the Bisbee Poetry Festival in Arizona and he'll be reading from his newest collection, Twelve Greatest Hits. On Tuesday, Oct. 5, the series continues with writer and humorist Michael Martone, who comes to WSU from the University of Alabama. Martone grew up in Indiana and often muses on the Midwestern landscape in his writing. The events begin at 7:30 pm in the Museum of Art at WSU. A book signing and reception will follow.
Over the state line in Moscow, the University of Idaho's Creative Writing program hosts a series of visiting writers in the Law Building Courtroom. Award-winning writer Margot Livesey visits on Wednesday, Oct. 13, just before the release of her new novel, Banishing Verona, due out in early November. Livesey, born in Scotland and now living near Boston, previously taught at the Iowa Writers Workshop and now teaches at Emerson College. She's a frequent contributor to literary journals and the New York Times Book Review. Poet Gaylord Brewer lands in town on Tuesday, Oct. 19, from his position with the English department at Middle Tennessee State University, and essayist and educator Rebecca McClanahan brings the fall series to a close on Wednesday, Nov. 3.