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Archive: Arts & Culture / Spokane and North Idaho

GSI asks you to #BuyLocal on Saturday

While the day after Thanksgiving (Black Friday) once signaled the start of the Christmas shopping season, many retailers opened their doors on Thursday evening and online discounts have been advertised for weeks.

Our friends at Greater Spokane Incorporated want community members to think differently during the holiday season. If you still have some shopping to do this year, GSI encourages shoppers to #BuyLocal and support local business owners with Small Business Saturday on Nov. 28, 2015.

"Because local shop owners are more likely to do business with other local companies, shopping with a locally owned small business means your money stays right here, in our community, where it matters most," said Heather Hamlin, Small Business Programs & Services Manager at GSI, in a recent press release.

They have been highlighting Small Business Saturday participants on Facebook throughout November, and have outfitted participating businesses with bright blue SHOP SMALL posters, banners and balloons.

Here are a few participating businesses that you may want to visit on Saturday to show your support for local commerce:

For more information, visit greaterspokane.org.

Warm up to Christie’s first novel tonight at Auntie’s

Reports are that, despite the hard work put in by those intrepid Avista workers, many area residents are still without power. I write this post from the warmth of my sister-in-law's house in York, Pa., but I can relate: During Ice Storm of 1996, my house went without power for nine long days.

I began to think about that when I was looking over the Spokane-area public offerings. You know, public events that offer people a chance to get in and out of the cold, even if that isn't the primary reason?

And one I came up with involves Auntie's Bookstore. It's the store's Mystery/Thriller Book Group, which meets tonight at 6 and features a discussion of Agatha Christie's first published novel, 1920's "The Mysterious Affair at Styles." The novel marks the debut of one of Christie's most notable characters, Hercule Poirot.

Here is one of the more sterling critical commentaries, even if it is of the audiobook edition :

The Boston Globe: "Though first released in 1929 this murder mystery is every bit as entertaining now as it was then…This is just one in a series of audio adaptations from Audio Renaissance, the only US publisher approved by the Christie estate to adapt her stories for audio format…Hugh Fraser was well chosen as the narrator…Best of all is the Belgian accent he uses for Poirot. Not only is the accent spot on, but Fraser speaks with a flourish and a lightness in tone that befit the brilliant, if preening, little detective."

Quite a warm reception. As warm as Auntie's itself.

Tis the season to think of Boo Radley’s

Thanksgiving and its unholy mercantile partner Black Friday, are still more than a week away. But some early birds, when they're not arguing with Starbucks and other cultural touchstones about what the real reason for the season is, are already filling out their Christmas gift lists.

Me, I like to wait until Christmas Eve before I give holiday gift purchasing any thought at all.

But whether you buy weeks in advance, or at the last second, one dependable place to find offbeat gifts is Spokane's favorite novelty store, Boo Radley's. Or, if you prefer something a bit more upscale, its partner Atticus Coffee & Gifts just a couple of doors to the south.

Anyway, the sign above — which sits on the sidewalk outside the store named after a Harper Lee character — pretty much says it all. Boo Radley's presents do equal joy.

Veterans Day: This photo needs no cutline

The appropriate response: respectful silence.

Author Ray unveils first novel at Bing tonight

It's not often that a first-time novelist earns words of praise such as the following: It "fuses tragedy into rebirth, covering a timeline of nearly four decades in a narrative as natural, pure, and clear as water flowing from a snow-covered peak."

That is what Kirkus Reviews has to say about "American Copper," a novel written by Shann Ray. "American Copper" will be the focus of a release party at 7 tonight at the Bing Crosby Theater; Ray will appear with another well-known author with regional credentials, Sherman Alexie. Click here for more information.

Actually, calling Shann Ray a "first-time novelist" is a bit of a misnomer. Ray, a licensed clinical psychologist who teaches at Gonzaga University, has written short stories, poetry and nonfiction. So, writing a novel seems like a logical next step.

Logical next steps, though, don't always qualify for sterling reviews.

Author/historian Nisbet to visit Moscow tonight

When I was a kid, history wasn’t so much involved with actual facts as it was in perpetuating myths. Not that myths are bad. But they’re analogous to the truth, not a substitute for it.

Which is why it’s so satisfying – for me, at least – to check out the work of historians/naturalists who delve into actual science to reveal the past. And one of those historians is Jack NIsbet, Spokane-based author of such books as “Visible Bones,” “Sources of the River” and the collection of essays “Ancient Places: People and Landscape in the Emerging Northwest.”

As reviewer Tim McNulty wrote in the Seattle Times, “Nisbet combines historic research with field work, personal interviews, and the kind of local knowledge that is gained only through decades of living in a place. He pays attention to stories told by longtime residents and tribal people, as well as geologists, paleontologists, anthropologists and university researchers.”

Nisbet will share and sign copies of “Ancient Places” at 6 p.m. tonight at Moscow’s BookPeople,  521 S. Main St. He will be joined by Dennis Baird and Diane Mallickan, co-edtors of “Encounters with the People: Written and Oral Accounts of Nez Perce Life to 1858 (Voices from Nez Perce Country).”

The event is free and open to the public.

Oops, Bradley book event is tonight

Asa Maria Bradley's launch of her novel "Viking Warrior Rising" will be held at 7 tonight at Auntie's Bookstore. In a blog post below, I'd written that the event was set for Monday. That was an error.

Everything else, though, is just what Joe Friday would have said: just the facts, ma'am. Just the facts.

Is there life beyond Earth? Hand may have the answer

One of my favorite movie/book genres is science fiction. From "2001: A Space Odyssey" to Alastair Reynolds' "Revelation Space" series, I enjoy it all. And, too, I enjoy learning about the actual science behind the fiction.

Astrobiologist Kevin Hand is someone who works in that science. As a member of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Hand is involved in the search for extraterrestrial life. He is part of the team that is overseeing a planned mission to Jupiter's moon Europa, the ice-bound sphere that some suspect could harbor primitive forms of organic life.

In his presentation "The Search for Life Beyond Earth," which he will present at 7 tonight at the INB Performing Arts Center, Hand will discuss his work — from the Europa mission to his treks across Earth to seek out life in the most inhospitable spots, from ocean depths to the frigid shores of Antarctica.

Hand's presentation is part of a four-part series titled "National Geographic Live!" Future presentations include photographer Steve Minter and “On the Trail of Big Cats: Tigers, Cougars & Snow Leopards” (Feb. 9); photographer Vincent J. Musi on “Where the Wild Things Live” (March 8); and filmmaker/rock climber Cedar Wright on “Sufferfest: 700 Miles of Pain and Glory” (April 19).

Click here for ticket information. And check out the embed below to get a preview of Hand's work.

Meet ‘Viking’ author Bradley tonight

Note: This event is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 4. The date mentioned below is in error.

Used to be that genres of literary fiction were pretty simple. Crime and mystery, Western, romance, "serious," etc. But those days are long past.

For example, one example of a contemporary fiction sub-genre will be on display at 7 tonight at Auntie's Bookstore. Asa Maria Bradley, who splits time between teaching physics at Spokane Falls Community College and writing novels, will read from her paranormal romance "Viking Warrior Rising."

The "paranormal" part involves this (courtesy of Bradley's website): "Leif Skarsganger and his elite band of immortal warriors have been charged to protect humanity from the evil Norse god Loki."

The Viking part? Bradley is originally from Sweden. And who doesn't love Loki?

One way or the other, check out ‘Hour of Lead’

If you live in Spokane, you're not likely to drive the 70-some miles to the Whitman County town of Endicott, even if the purpose was to listen to an award-winning writer read from his book.

So you might not take advantage of Bruce Holbert's reading at 6 tonight at the Endicott Library.

But you know what? You could do the next best thing. You could pick up a copy of Holbert's novel "The Hour of Lead," which won the 2015 Washington Book Award for fiction. Here are some comments about the book from various reviewers:

Adam Woog, Seattle Times: "a portrait of a disappearing way of life, lovingly told in gorgeous and moving prose."

Kirkus Reviews: "Holbert’s work rings out with the hard, clean truths of love and loyalty, family and friendship, all flowering from thickets of poetic language, some simple ('work was praying the same prayer everyday'), some gut-wrenching ('When he finally took the baby from her and held her bloody stillness in his hands, he wept')… a masterpiece."

Carolyn Lamberson, The Spokesman-Review: "Holbert’s writing brings a lyrical sense to even the most gruesome scenes as he traces the history of the Grand Coulee country through the first half of the 20th century. It’s a severe and gorgeous place to visit, and Holbert makes for a fine tour guide."

And if you're feeling ambitious, pick up Holbert's other novel, "Lonesome Animals." You can see a list of all Holbert's writing by clicking here.

Walter’s story in ‘Best American’ debuted at Bedtime Stories 2013

Two years ago, Jess Walter was among the writers invited to participate in Bedtime Stories, the annual fundraiser for Humanities Washington. The four writers that night (the others were Sharma Shields, Shawn Vestal and then Washington poet laureate Kathleen Flenniken) were tasked with writing and reading a new short story based on the theme “Pillow Talk.”

That night, Walter introduced “Mr. Voice,” a story about a girl whose mother marries “Mr. Voice,” a local radio announcer whose basso profundo “narrated our daily life in Spokane, Washington.

Looking for AM/FM-deluxe-turntable-8-track-stereo-speaker sound with psychedelic lights that rock to the music? Come to Wall of Sound Waterbed on East Sprague, next to the Two Swabbies —”

It’s a bittersweet tale about the families we fall into. It’s also full of the Spokane details we love. After hearing the story that night, I walked around for weeks with the old “Two Swabbies – shoes!” commercial running through my head. 

The story was published the fall 2014 edition of Tin House, a literary journal. Soon, it caught the attention of T.C. Boyle and Heidi Pitlor, editors of “The Best American Short Stories 2015.” That esteemed collection, which came out earlier this month, features Walter’s “Mr. Voice” alongside works by Louise Erdrich and Thomas McGuane. 

As Boyle noted in his introduction, “Mr. Voice” was a first-round choice, a story “about what it means to be family, with one extraordinary character at the center of it and a last line that punched me right in the place where my emotions go to hide.”

All of this is meant to remind folks that Bedtime Stories 2015 is coming up. Friday, in fact, at 7 p.m. at the Spokane Club. The theme is “A Hard Day’s Night.” Walter is back this year, as is returning writer Shields. Newcomers to the show Kris Dinnison, whose novel “You and Me and Him” came out this summer, and Sam Ligon, whose new book, “Among the Dead and Dreaming,” is set for release next year. Also, Tod Marshall, the Spokane poet and Gonzaga University professor, will receive the Humanities Washington Award for service and scholarship. My candidate for Spokane’s current Mr. Voice, KSPS general manger Gary Stokes, will emcee. 

Bedtime Stories 2015

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Where: Spokane Club, 1002 W. Riverside Ave.

Cost: $75 (registration is closed)

Info: (206) 682-1770 or www.humanities.org/

Dragons and more are inhabiting Riverfront Park

When you attend a festival that is designed to "celebrate" another culture, it's worth attending that festival with actual members of the culture in question. That's what I was able to do on Friday at the Spokane Chinese Lantern Festival.

My wife and her colleague Ann, both of whom are professors at Gonzaga Law School, arranged the date with two Chinese students who are taking law classes through a special international program. The students, who were introduced to me as Yin and Li, are young (Yin is only 18). But they proved to be able guides as we walked through the various set-ups and they explained the significance of both the Chinese symbols at every display and their overall meaning: the traditional importance of family during marriage ceremonies, the annual thanks given for bountiful harvests, etc.

When it came time to eat, both were polite with our waiter, correcting his pronunciation of the dishes — which he seemed to appreciate. And they seemed to enjoy the food that came with the Jing Cuisine from the Beijing region: Peking Duck with pancakes, Hot & Sour soup, Roujiamo (shredded pork and veggies served on a bun) and a dessert called Sugar-coated Haws. In fact, they seemed to enjoy them far better than I did (especially the steamed rice that came with the meal, which by the time it arrived at our table was both cold and dried out).

What they seemed to most enjoy, though, were the displays that had nothing to do with China at all — the various zebras, giraffes and especially the kangaroos. "Kangaroos aren't from China," Li laughed. "They are from Australia!"

We stopped and took obligatory photos in front of the large dragon, which the young women marveled at. And then we left.

If you haven't yet attended the festival, you now have two extra weeks in which to do so. News just broke that the festival's run has been extended for two weeks. If you do go, see if you can't find some actual Chinese to accompany you.

They'll love the kangaroos.

Religious author Young to read at Auntie’s

The Canadian author William Paul Young will present his latest book, "Eve," at 7 tonight at the Bing Crosby Theater. Young's previous books include "The Shack" and "Cross Roads." Admission is $3.

Click here to read (or hear) an interview with Young on National Public Radio.

Holbert, Marshall, Farrell, Gordon earn Washington Book Award nominations

Six East Side writers – four of them from Spokane – are finalists for the Washington State Book Awards, the Washington Center for the Book announced on Friday.

The Spokane nominees are Bruce Holbert, Tod Marshall, Mary Cronk Farrell and Greg Gordon. Joining them are Moses Lake native Heather Brittain Bergstrom, who now lives in California, and Richland writer Maureen McQuerry.

Holbert (pictured above) and Bergstrom are finalists in the fiction category, he for “The Hour of Lead,” she for “Steal the North.”

Holbert’s novel, his second, was released in July 2014 from Counterpoint Press. The work of historical fiction centers on Matt Lawson, whose family life is marred by tragedy and who struggles to find love. It’s a tough story where the landscape – Eastern Washington’s coulees, scablands, and wheat fields – is as much a character as any person. Bergstrom’s book touches on questions of faith and family when a teenage girl is sent to stay in Eastern Washington with an aunt and uncle she never knew.

The other finalists in the fiction category are “A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain” by Adrianne Harun of Port Townsend; “The Iron Sickle” by Seattle’s Martin Limon; and “The Dismal Science” by Peter Mountford, also of Seattle.

Holbert, a teacher at Mount Spokane High School, is also the author of the 2012 novel “Lonesome Animals.”

Marshall (above), who teaches at Gonzaga University, is a finalist in the poetry category for his acclaimed collection, “Bugle.” It’s a tough collection, as Rich Smith noted in a review for Poetry Northwest: “Here and throughout, Marshall tries to use poetry to redeem humankind’s brutality, reaching back to the old masters for formal guidance. But when he plies his trade, he finds that we don’t deserve redemption. We bludgeon the natural world with our fear of death, and we’ll continue to do so as long as that fear maintains.” "Bugle" is his third poetry collection.

Other finalists in the poetry category are “Hourglass Museum” by Kelli Russell Agodon of Kingston; “In Orbit” by the late Kim-An Lieberman of Seattle; and “The Mountain Poems of Stonehouse” (Copper Canyon Press) by Red Pine, of Port Townsend.

In the books for young adults category, Farrell (below) earned an nod for “Pure Grit: How American World War II Nurses Survived Battle and Prison Camp in the Pacific.” A Junior Library Guild selection, the book tells the story of Army and Navy nurses caught up in the war in the Pacific.

Farrell’s fellow finalists are three Seattle authors: “Between Two Worlds” by Katherine Kirkpatrick; “Six Feet Over It” by Jennifer Longo; and “The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender” by Leslye Walton.

In the history/general nonfiction section, Gonzaga University’s Gordon earned a nod for “When Money Grew on Trees: A.B. Hammond and the Age of the Timber Baron.” He’s up against “In Season: Culinary Adventures of a Pacific Northwest Chef” by Greg Atkinson of Bainbridge Island; “The North Cascades: Finding Beauty and Renewal in the Wild Nearby” by William Dietrich of Anacortes; “Mary Randlett Portraits” by Frances McCue  of Seattle; and “Trying Home: The Rise and Fall of an Anarchist Utopia on Puget Sound” by Tacoma’s Justin Wadland.

McQuerry’s “Time Out of Time: Book One: Beyond the Door,” is a finalist in the middle readers category, along with “Phoebe and Her Unicorn” by Dana Simpson of Des Moines, and “Ken Jennings’ Junior Genius Guides: Maps and Geography” by Seattle “Jeopardy!” champion Ken Jennings.

The awards will be presented on Oct. 10 at the Seattle Central Library. For more information, visit www.spl.org/audiences/adults/washington-state-book-awards.

An acting career for Martin?

Entertainment Weekly reported this week that “Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin has a cameo in an upcoming episode of the SyFy zombie series “Z Nation,” which is filmed in Spokane.

Martin, who was in town this summer for Sasquan, the international science-fiction convention, took some time to appear as a zombie in the series’ eighth episode of the new season. As EW reports, the zombie Martin is being held captive by the Collector, who keeps celebrity zombies.

The second season of “Z Nation” debuts today at 10 p.m. Catch the premiere on the big screen starting at 8 p.m. at the Garland Theater. There will be a costume contest and actors from the show will be on hand. Admission is $10, with proceeds to benefit KRYS Thin Air Community Radio.

Writers are heading to GU

Gonzaga University’s Visiting Writers Series will kick off Oct. 1 with a presentation by Kimberly Meyer, whose latest is “The Book of Wanderings,” released in March.

In it, Meyer writes about her travels with her daughter, Ellie, as the two women form a tighter bond and face their futures and their pasts.

Meyer has been heard on “This American Life” and has had her nonfiction featured in The Southern Review, Ecotone, Best American Travel Writing 2012 and Agni. (Oct. 1, Cataldo Globe Room, 7:30 pm.)

The rest of the schedule follows.

Oct. 28:  “What is Eco-poetry: a forum and reading,” featuring Roger Dunsmore, Megan Kaminski, Linda Russo, and Derek Sheffield. (7:30 p.m., Cataldo Globe Room, with a forum at 2:10 p.m. in the Foley Library Writing Center, moderated by Eastern Washington University’s Paul Lindholdt)

Nov. 19: Rattawut Lapcharoensap, whose stories have appeared in Granta and Zoetrope. His first collection, “Sightseeing,” was released in 2005. (7:30 p.m., Cataldo Globe Room)

Jan. 27: Manuel Gonzales, the author of “The Miniature Wife and Other Stories” (Riverhead) and the forthcoming novel, “The Regional Office is Under Attack.” (7:30 p.m., Cataldo Globe Room)

Feb. 16: Tony Hoagland, whose five volumes of poetry are “Application for Release from the Dream” (being released this fall), “Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty,” “Sweet Ruin,” “Donkey Gospel,” and “What Narcissism Means to Me,” all from Graywolf Press. (7:30 p.m., Hemmingson Ballroom)

March Robyn Schiff, the author of the poetry collections “Revolver” and “Worth.” A third collection, from Penguin, is due out in 2016. (7:30 p.m., Wolff Auditorium).

The series is organized by Tod Marshall, and presented by the GU English, religious studies and environmental studies departments, the Unity and Multicultural Education Center, Spokane Falls Community College and the Davenport Hotel.

See prolific J.A. Jance tonight at The Bing

Some writers work all their lives to craft a couple of books. Others, like Stephen King, seem to be able to slap out one a day. Judy Jance, who will appear at 7 onstage at the Bing Crosby Theater tonight, belongs in that second category.

Jance — whose pen name is J.A. Jance — splits time between Seattle and Arizona (she grew up in Bisbee). And these days, she writes mysteries that are set in both places. She began in Seattle, her protagonist being Seattle Police Detective J.P. Beaumont. But she's since stretched to include series around three other protagonists: Sheriff Joanna Brady, former L.A. newscaster Ali Reynolds and an ex-sheriff named Brandon Walker.

In all, Jance — according to her website — has written 24 books in the Beaumont series, 17 in the Brady series, 11 in the Reynolds series, five in the Walker series, plus a poetry collection and a number of short stories. By my count that's some 58 books. And she's done it all in just over 30 years.

By anyone's measure, that's an admirable feat. Jance will appear in support of her latest novel, which features Beaumont and Walker, tonight at The Bing. A $3 donation is suggested.

If you go, pay attention. Jance just might dash out a novel in between signing autographs.