7 Blog

Archive: Arts & Culture / Spokane and North Idaho

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.

Olympic drama is powerful in “Boys in the Boat”

Attending graduate school at the University of Oregon made me a Duck for life. Which is one reason why I have little love for the University of Washington. Yet I recently read a book that made a big dent in my anti-Husky ardor.

“The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics,” which was written by Daniel James Brown, offers up a story so amazing that even Hollywood couldn't have come up with it. In fact, Brown has reportedly struck a deal with the Weinstein Company that has Kenneth Branagh set up to direct. But unless they decide to add extraterrestrials to the mix, they simply couldn't come up with a more dramatically powerful and unbelievably thrilling story.

What Brown does is tell the larger story of what comprises an entire era. First, he documents the travails that affected the country both before and during the Great Depression. He contrasts what occurs in the U.S. with the rise of Nazism in Germany. Hie gives a look at early 20th-century Seattle, the pre-Boeing/pre-Microsoft city of loggers, fishers and farmers. And he people his book with a whole cast of interesting characters, from George Pocock, the forward-thinking British-born designer/builder of racing shells, to Al Ulbrickson, the UW's hard-nosed varsity crew coach. From Leni Riefenstahl, director of the study in Nazi glorification “Olympia,” to Joe Rantz, one of the eight Husky rowers whose story is a movie of the week all by itself.

It is Rantz, who spent his formative years in Spokane, whose hard-times story drew author Brown to the project in the first place. But, as Brown reveals in an author's note, Rantz told him not to make the book just about him. “It has to be about the boat,” Rantz said.

Brown stuck to his word. And we are the ones who benefitted.

Parry promise: I’m bringing candy

Halloween doesn’t happen until Thursday. So the candy freaks among us will have to wait to obtain our sugar rush.

Or … maybe not. Rosanne Parry, author of the young-adult novels “Heart of a Shepherd” and “Second Fiddle,” will present her third novel – “Written in Stone” – at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Auntie’s Bookstore.

And Parry, who lives in Portland, promises on her website that she will bring Halloween candy with her.

Let’s just hope that means chocolate.

NPR’s Norris to address race at SFCC

“My parents were postal workers who took pride in simple things. Their home. Their garden. The sunny optimism they passed on to their children. I thought I knew my parents so well. I was wrong.”

Those are the words of Michelle Norris, the National Public Radio correspondent and author of the nonfiction book “The Grace of Silence: The Power of Words.” Norris, who will speak at 5:30 today at Spokane Falls Community College, had intended to write a book about what she calls “America's hidden conversation about race.” But after talking to her own family, she changed her mind. The change came partly from hearing her father talk about being shot in the leg by Birmingham, Ala., police officers. It came partly from hearing her mother talk about the time she sold pancake mix, dressed like Aunt Jemima.

Norris will talk about her book and about the Race Card Project, and afterward will take audience questions and conduct a book signing. The event is free and open to the public. For further information, click here.

Look! Up in the sky! It’s a … CRASH!

One of my favorite novels in recent years is “The Last Policeman,” a novel of perseverance in the face of impending doom. Now comes word, just as Ben Winters fictionally prophesizes, that the novel's major plot device might come true.

Better start watching all those old “Survivorman” and “Doomsday Preppers” episodes. Or, if nothing else, consult that bucket list.

Alexie croons tonight at the Bing Crosby Theater

Another reminder: Sherman Alexie speaks at 7 tonight at the Bing Crosby Theater. Admission is a $5 donation. Doors open at 6. Below is a video of Alexie being interviewed for a program produced by my alma mater, the University of California, San Diego. If you've never heard Alexie speak, it should give you a pretty good idea of what to expect:

Watch Alexie fancydance at the Bing on Wednesday

I first saw Sherman Alexie read from his poetry at Auntie's Bookstore back when both were still in the early stages of their professional existence. Auntie's was still a smallish store on Riverside Avenue, and Sherman was still a kid, not long out of the Spokane Indian Reservation, Reardan High School and Washington State University.

From the beginning, Sherman showed talent, not just on the page with the collection that I still consider his finest work of poetry, “The Business of Fancydancing,” but also an onstage performer. This was true whether he was posing as one of his characters, such as Thomas Builds-the-Fire, or telling stories of his childhood. And gradually he matured, evolving from a kid with talent to a man who could fill an hour with political and social commentary that was as funny as it was bitingly poignant.

I saw him address the Sundance Film Festival crowds who attended his first attempts at filmmaking, “Smoke Siignals,” Chris Eyre's adaptation of his book “The Long Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven.” And I saw him fill both the old Fox and State theaters when he screened his own directorial effort, a very loose adaptation of “The Business of Fancydancing.” And I've seen him fill the second story of the current Auntie's site ostensibly to read from his latest work but actually just be himself.

That self, always entertaining and often illuminating, will be on display Wednesday night, again at the Bing Crosby Theater. Sponsored by Auntie's, the event costs what is being advertised as a “$5 donation.” Doors open at 6 p.m.

Just turned 47, Sherman is no longer that long-haired kid who played basketball at Reardan. He's now a National Book Award winner who has become a cultural institution. If you haven't ever seen him speak, now's your chance. You're not likely to be sorry.

Below: Sherman Alexie talking about his desire to become a writer.

Hear NPR’s Renee Montagne in person Nov. 12

Of those familiar voices you hear on National Public Radio, Renee Montagne's might be one of the most recognizable. A co-host (with Steve Inskeep) of NPR's “Morning Edition,” Montagne has been working for the network since the mid-'80s in a variety of reporting and hosting roles.

For example, according to the NPR Web site, since the events of 9/11 Montagne has visited Afghanistan nine times to report on life in that embattled country. In other work, she covered Pope John Paul II at the Vatican and in 1990 traveled to South Africa to cover Nelson Mandela's release from prison.

You'll have a chance to hear Montagne talk about her exploits on Nov. 12 when, at 7:30 p.m., she will appear at the Bing Crosby Theatre in support of Spokane Public Radio. Tickets ($25 general admission, $18 for students) went on sale Sept. 20. For order and other information, click here. Or call (509) 325-SEAT.

Doug Nadvornick is set to host the event, and SPR correspondents Steve Jackson and Paige Browning will interview Montagne about her life and career.

Vestal and King: a good morning’s literary haul

That photo above represents what I consider to be a good morning's worth of shopping. While looking for a copy of “Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America,” which won author Gilbert King the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction, I found myself haunting the shelves at Spokane's treasure of a bookstore, Auntie's.

I found a copy quickly enough, yet — naturally enough — decided not to stop there. I'd been putting off, for one reason or another, purchasing my former Spokesman-Review colleague Shawn Vestal's book of short stories, “Godforsaken Idaho.” With Shawn's book being a suggested read from one of my book-group members, I figured that moment was as good as any to make the buy.

That's my loot, pictured on the east side of the store, resplendent this morning's late-summer sunshine. My task now: to retire to a shady spot and start reading. Can't hardly wait.

Subscribe via RSS