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Archive: Arts & Culture / Spokane and North Idaho

Hear a coroner’s secrets tonight at Auntie’s

For the past several years, some of the most popular shows on television have involved forensics. And crime scene investigation. And one of the integral parts of CSI involves the coroner, whose medical expertise aids the investigators in their attempts to ascertain the how and why of death — particularly murder.

That's television. In real life, coroners are far less expert than their fictional counterparts. And one person who is well aware of the limits facing real-life coroners is Robert West, former physician-coroner in Kootenai County, Idaho, and author of the book “It Can (and Does) Happen Here” (Abbott Press, 170 pages, $13.99 paperback).

Here's a short synopsis of West's book provided by the publisher: “When a loved one dies in a mysterious manner, we rely on coroners and medical examiners to tell us what happened. The stakes are high: Coroners seek justice for the dead, exoneration for the wrongfully accused, and closure for the families of victims. They are always on call and work closely with law enforcement.”

Smith will read from his book at 7 tonight at Auntie's Bookstore.

Auntie’s presents Jance tonight at The Bing

You may have heard of J.A. Jance. If you're a mystery fan, you probably have. If you're a fan of Pacific Northwest mysteries, you almost certainly have. Whatever, you might be interested to know that Jance will appear at 7 tonight at the Bing Crosby Theater to preview her latest novel “Remains of Innocence” (Morrow, 405 pages, $26.99).

Jance, who splits time between Seattle and Arizona, is the author of three different mystery series featuring the protagonists J.P. Beaumont, Joanna Brady and Ali Reynolds. “Remains of Innocence” is her 17th Brady book (she's written 22 Beaumont books and nine Reynolds novels), and it involves two cases — a death in New York, a murder in Arizona — that fall in Sheriff Brady's lap.

Tickets to the event, which are $3, are available at Auntie's Bookstore and at the door. Click here for more information.

Billboard project goes live

Friday morning, people wandering in downtown will have the chance to watch some art in action.

Jesse Pierpoint, and artist and creative director for Seven2 in Spokane, will be live-painting a billboard at 301 W. Main on Friday (today) from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The project, by Boom Creative and Global Credit Union, is part of the CU’s Global Citizen campaign; Pierpoint will be painting his interpretation of “legacy” on the 10-by-23-foot billboard, while perched atop a three-story scissor lift.

Down below, meanwhile, there’ll be a bit of a party. Local DJs Twin Towers will provide the music, and food will be available for sale from the Bistro Box food truck.

Summer’s a good time to blend books and food

Looking for a cultural event to attend tonight? Probably. So if you want to blend a bit of restaurant life with literary manners, show up at Auntie's Bookstore at 7 p.m. to hear Seattle author/restaurateur Molly Wizenberg read from her memoir, “Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Marriage.”

For more information on Wizenberg, go to her blog here.

And make sure to buy something. Auntie's can use the support.

Vestal’s ‘Godforsaken Idaho’ a PEN finalist

Congratulations to Shawn Vestal, staff writer and columnist at The Spokesman-Review — and a former colleague of mine. Vestal's short story collection “Godforsaken Idaho” has been named to the shortlist of the PEN Literary Awards. Vestal's collection is one of the five finalists in contention for the 2014 Robert W. Bingham Prize, an award for a debut work of fiction that carries with it a $25,000 reward.

Here are some of the comments made about Vestal's story collection:

From Kirkus: “A provocative and revelatory debut, filled with stories about losing faith and trying (often in vain) to find purpose, mainly set amid the sparsely populated Mormon country of the rugged Northwest.”

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: ” 'Godforsaken Idaho' is a rewarding introduction to a new author.”

From Oprah.com: ” 'Godforsaken Idaho' (New Harvest), Shawn Vestal's slam-dunk debut, casts a cinematic shadow on the American West.”

You can see the entire list by clicking here.

Ink auctioning off notable local books

Ink Art Space, a new program aimed at teaching children the arts, is hosting a fundraiser Friday. The Light Up the Sign Happy Hour from 5 to 8 p.m. will feature hors d’oeuvres and drinks, as well as a silent auction. Among the prizes in the auction are artworks, a day on the set of the SyFy series “Z Nation” currently shooting in Spokane, and a selection of books by Spokane-area authors, all autographed and curated by Ink board president Jess Walter.

Among the more than 50 titles – including some first and special editions – in the collection are works by Timothy Egan, Sherman Alexie, Chris Crutcher, Terry Trueman, Natalie Kusz, Shawn Vestal, Samuel Ligon and Walter.

The evening will feature beer from River City Brewing and wine from Townshend Cellar.

Ink is located at 228 W. Sprague Ave., in downtown. Admission is free. For information, visit Ink’s Facebook page or here.

Taking a slow stroll though the big city

Travel, especially these days, can be an exhausting exercise.

This applies particularly to flying. Just getting through security can take all the patience you can muster, and that’s even after negotiating the often long lines to check a bag (which can cost extra). Let’s not even bring up the boarding procedure, which can resemble fish attempting to ford a dam while carrying as many possessions as they can stuff into their two allowed carry-on bags, stopping to carefully pack them away in the overheads while dozens of their fellow travelers wait impatiently for their chance to hold up the process.

Yeah, traveling can be a real pain.

 Which is why, after flying somewhere, I like to stay put. No more city-a-day explorer quests for me. Get me to a city and let me find a nest so that I can do my daily walkabout at my leisure.

That’s what I’ve been doing since arriving Saturday at the Fort Green/Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn, New York. Just this morning, after dropping my granddaughter off at her elementary school, I took a long walk around Fort Green Park.

First I dropped by Red Lantern Bicycles, which is a combination coffee shop-eatery/bicycle-repair shop and ordered my special drink: a 16-ounce (double-shot) Americano, which turned out to be the perfect accompaniment to a cranberry-rhubarb muffin.

Then, because it’s what I always do, I did a Google search for Brooklyn bookstores. The closest one, Greenlight Bookstore, was barely a five-block walk away, which even strolling through a slightly cool, overcast NYC morning, took me only a matter of minutes. I did make sure to stroll, though, enjoying both the classic city brownstone apartments with their high stoops, shaded by the massive trees whose roots buckled the sidewalks as if they were made of peanut brittle instead of concrete.

And the store, nothing like the warehouse atmosphere of a Barnes & Noble or even Auntie’s, was worth the walk. It’s one of those chic, specialty kinds of stores that features the latest in hardback and paperback releases and a studiedly eclectic collection of offbeat and classic offerings in all genres.

I looked for, again as I always do, and found books by two of my favorite Washington authors, Jess Walter and Sherman Alexie. But as I have most of their works at home (including a couple of copies in Italian of Jess’ novels, such as “Il fiume deI cadaveri” and “Senza passato”), I passed on the opportunity to buy more.

Instead, after an hour-long search, I finally purchased a novel by the American novelist James Salter. “The Hunters” was his first book, published originally in 1956.

Then I walked home, again leisurely, enjoying more diversity in a few blocks than I tend to experience in Spokane over a full year.

Not a bad way to spend the day. And certainly the way I prefer to travel. 

Maya Angelou: 1928-2014

In honor of Maya Angelou, who died today at age 86, I offer the following lines from her poem “A Brave and Startling Truth”:

“When we come to it 
We, this people, on this minuscule and kithless globe 
Who reach daily for the bomb, the blade and the dagger 
Yet who petition in the dark for tokens of peace 
We, this people on this mote of matter 
In whose mouths abide cankerous words 
Which challenge our very existence 
Yet out of those same mouths 
Come songs of such exquisite sweetness 
That the heart falters in its labor 
And the body is quieted into awe” 

EWU Get Lit! festival struts its alumni today

Since its inception, Eastern Washington University's annual literary celebration, the tongue-in-cheek-titled Get Lit! has offered area lit lovers access to a range of writing talent. Today, from 5-7 p.m. at the Red Lion Inn at the Park, the festival — which officially runs from April 7-13 — offers a preview of things to come that boasts a local flavor. It's called the Get Lit! EWU Alumni Reading.

EWU alumni such as Asa Marie Bradley, Aimee R. Cervenka, Scott Eubanks, Liz Rognes and Spokesman-Review columnist Shawn Vestal (author of the story collection “Godforsaken Idaho”), will both read from their respective works and talk about their lives as writers.

Tickets are $10 at the door and include hors d'oeuvres and, most important, a drink ticket.

Enjoy a virtual winter’s trip to 1377 England

Winter is never an easy time. Yeah, yeah, I know people love winter sports. But it's cold and usually snowy and typically dark from the early afternoon until well after most working people throw their ringing alarms across the room.

Think about what it must have been like to be living in England in December of the year 1377. Author Ned Hayes did, and the process drove him to write “Sinful Folk,” a novel that he will read from at 7 tonight at Auntie's Bookstore.

Here's a short synopsis: “In December of 1377, four children were burned to death in a house fire. Villagers traveled hundreds of miles across England to demand justice for their children's deaths. 'Sinful Folk' is the story of this terrible mid-winter journey as seen by Mear, a former nun who has lived for a decade disguised as a mute man, raising her son quietly in this isolated village. For years, she has concealed herself and all her history. But on this journey, she will find the strength to redeem the promise of her past. Mear begins her journey in terror and heartache, and ends in triumph and transcendence.”

To access some reviews, click here. And make sure to bundle up.

Galileo: Learn about the man and his legend

I often find academic lectures a bit unappealing, if not actually boring. I had plenty of those kinds of experiences both as an undergraduate and graduate student. But the program titled “What Can We Learn From Galileo?” which will be held at 7 tonight at Gonzaga University's Jepson Center (in the center's Wolff Auditorium), could well prove to be an exception.

Gonzaga faculty members Brian Clayton and Eric Kincanon will be addressing the facts — and trying to differentiate those from the vast amount of fiction — surrounding the Italian astronomer Galileo Galiei. Clayton, an associate professor of philosophy,  will address Galileo's “legend” versus the “reality,” while Kincannon, a professor of physics, will outline the man's many scientific contributions.

Astronomy and the larger world of science are in the news today thanks both to the new “Cosmos” series and the release of the most recent study regarding the Big Bang Theory. And Galileo was one of the men who helped us begin to understand how the universe works, a process that has led humanity gradually away from the dark of superstition.

Tonight's program is free and open to the public.

Yes, the 2014 Limericks Contest is a go

In a post I wrote earlier today, I promised to reveal whether we're going to hold another in used to be an annual limericks contest. And the news is: The contest is a go.

Cosponsored by The Spokesman-Review, Spokane7.com and Auntie's Bookstore, the contest continues a tradition that I oversaw in the SR's print edition for more than a dozen years. This year’s theme is “Favorite Northwest Foliage,” which is another way of saying that we want entries to reflect on vegetation that is emblematic of the Northwest. You could, for example, write about Idaho potatoes, about Montana grasses, Oregon blackberries or even Washington's latest cash crop — legalized marijuana.

Start writing if you're interested. We’ll begin accepting entries Monday, Jan. 27, in two categories: school-age and open/adult. Final deadline will be Friday, March 7. And we'll announce winners on or before St. Patrick’s Day.

Limericks can be submitted to  contests@spokesman.com, uploaded at spokane7.com/contests or snail-mailed to 999 W. Riverside, Spokane WA 99201. Attn: Limerick Contest.

For more details visit www.spokane7.com/contests.

And if you're unclear about how to write a limerick: Click the embed below.

Sharpen your pens you local limerick artists

The above photo should give some people a clue as to what this post is about: It appears that we will again be hold an annual Limericks Contest. So far, the plan is to cosponsor the event — tied, as always, to St. Patrick's Day — through Spokane7.com, The Spokesman-Review and Auntie's Bookstore. I'll have more details as things develop.

Stay tuned. And bone up on your limerick fundamentals, (illustrated in the above cartoon featuring the great Edward Lear).

No middle ground for Sarah Palin, author

I have no idea how good, or bad, a writer Sarah Palin is. I've never read anything she's written. All I know is that, since quitting her job as governor of Alaska and unsuccessfully running for vice president beside Republican presidential candidate John McCain, at least three books have gone to print with her listed as their author.

The first two were “Going Rogue: An American Life,” which is described as a “bestselling memoir from Sarah Palin, one of America’s most beloved and controversial political figures,” and “America by Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag,” which promises that Palin's “reflections on faith, family, and patriotism will read like a bible of American virtues for anyone hoping to understand the truths that lie at the heart of the nation.”

And now we have “Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas,” a tome in which Palin “asserts the importance of preserving Jesus Christ in Christmas—in public displays, school concerts, pageants, and our expressions to one another other—and laments the over-commercialization and homogenization of Christmas in today's society.”

Again, as I say, I haven't read any of these. What I find interesting, though, is the review status of Palin's latest book on Amazon.com. It perfectly represents the current U.S. political status, which is as polarized as ever in my lifetime (and I was born in 1947). As I write this, “Good Tidings and Great Joy” has 191 Amazon reviews: 77 give it five stars (the highest rating), 3 give it four stars, 2 give it three stars, 6 give it two stars and a whopping 103 give it one star (Amazon doesn't allow you to give a 0 or minus rating).

To recap: 77 give it a highest rating, 103 the lowest, and the other 11 are scattered somewhere in between. So at least Palin's blurb writers got one thing correct: She truly is “one of America’s most beloved and controversial political figures.” And most everybody knows what side he or she falls on.

Writer Barry Lopez to speak at SCC tonight

One of the most influential books of the 1970s was “Of Wolves and Men.” That 1978 book, which was written by Barry Lopez, ended up being nominated for a National Book Award — an award that the author would win with his next effort, 1986's “Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape.”

Lopez would go on to write more books, both nonfiction and fiction, all of which helped establish not only a genre of literature — focusing both on ecological awareness and a call for activism — but a very public consciousness about an issue that affects the very future of humankind.

Which is why it is important to point out that Lopez will be speaking at 7 p.m. this evening at Spokane Community College's Lair-Student Center Auditorium. Lopez's talk, which is free and open to the public, is the first of SCC's President's Speaker Series.

For more information about SCC events, click here.

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