Book events plentiful in run-up to Wordplay

Carolyn Forché
Photo by Don J. Usner
Tomorrow at Plymouth Congregational Church, the excellent Literary Witnesses series will close out its 21st season with a reading by poet Carolyn Forché.

The Loft’s star-studded Wordplay festival of readers, writers and books is just a little over two weeks away, with Stephen King leading the charge of famous authors. Meanwhile, this weekend into next week will feature an incredible lineup of authors, plus the myriad delights of Independent Bookstore Day. Truly, we live in one of the world’s best places to be a reader, a writer or, let’s face it, a book.

This was a pick on Tuesday, but it’s worth repeating that Lorna Landvik will present her latest, “Chronicles of a Radical Hag (with Recipes)” tonight (Thursday, April 25) at Scott County Library in Prior Lake at 7 p.m. Thank you, Club Book. Also tonight at Ramsey County Library in Roseville, Larry Millett, historian of Minnesota architecture (and author of several Sherlock Holmes mysteries set in Minnesota), will present his “Metropolitan Dreams,” the story of the late, still much-lamented Northwestern Guaranty Loan Building in downtown Minneapolis, at 7 p.m. Thank you, Ramsey County Historical Society.

Tomorrow (Friday April 26) at Plymouth Congregational Church, the excellent Literary Witnesses series will close out its 21st season with a reading by poet Carolyn Forché from her new book, “What You Have Heard Is True: A Memoir of Witness and Resistance.”

We’ve been reading it and can barely put it down long enough to meet today’s Artscape deadline. Briefly: In the late 1970s, Forché was a young poet in her 20s who had published one book when a mysterious man named Leonel showed up at her door with his two young daughters. He had just driven from El Salvador to her home in Southern California. Civil war was coming to El Salvador, this stranger told her, and he needed her help – as a poet.

Forché spent two years in El Salvador and saw unspeakable things. She was chased by death squads. She took notes. She returned to the U.S. as “a poet of witness.” She wrote a book called “The Country Between Us,” which includes this poem, her most famous poem, whose first line is also the title of her memoir. Forché especially requested Literary Witnesses for her Upper Midwest publication reading, which is co-sponsored by Rain Taxi and The Advocates for Human Rights. FMI. 7 p.m., free, donations gladly accepted.

Independent Bookstore Day passport
Courtesy of Rain Taxi
Independent Bookstore Day passport
Saturday is Independent Bookstore Day, a day-long romp through 19 indie bookstores in the Twin Cities, from Birchbark to Wild Rumpus. Here’s how to play: Pick up a passport at any of the participating stores. Get it stamped at stores you visit for coupons, a chance at literary prize packs (including the Grand Literary Prize Pack, an embarrassment of literary riches) and discounts. Go here for the details writ finer, and a list of participating stores. P.S. Indie Bookstore Day will be kind of a coming-out party for Next Chapter Booksellers, formerly Common Good Books. Long-time St. Paul resident and customer Nick Ballas bought Common Good last week from its original owner, Garrison Keillor.

Each store will have its own readings, performances, activities, guest authors and booksellers, food, surprises and exclusive merch. For example, here’s what Birchbark Books has planned. Be sure to pick up a free Midwest Indie Bookstore Roadmap featuring 175 bookstores across the Midwest and a chance at a whopping $500 gift card.

How important is Indie Bookstore Day? (This is a national event, by the way, not just another really great book-related idea to come out of the Twin Cities like, for example, the Loft.) Last year’s total estimated reach: 256,827,888 people. For some bookstores, this is one of their two biggest days of the year, along with Small Business Saturday.

David Sedaris
Courtesy of Hennepin Theatre Trust
David Sedaris
On Saturday evening at the State Theater, David Sedaris will read from his latest witty, self-deprecating collection, “Calypso,” a look at life, growing older, and beach vacations. Sedaris now has a Carolina coast cottage, which makes us wonder, rather anxiously, if he’s still writing about Normandy.

We came late to Sedaris. A while back, a friend gave us a copy of “When You Are Engulfed in Flames” and we only recently got around to reading it. The universe wants us to read more Sedaris; we had proof last week when we found “Me Talk Pretty One Day” in a Little Free Library. It’s kind of beat up, and it has an old cover, but you can still turn the pages, which are not sticky. Now all we want to do is read Sedaris, except we’re also reading Forché and a few other things. Who has time to earn a living?

NPR has called Sedaris “the best American humorist writing today.” More than 10 million copies of his books are in print, in 25 languages. 8 p.m. FMI and tickets ($48.50-58.50). Buy in person at the State Theatre Box Office, save on fees.

On Monday at Minneapolis Central Library, Talk of the Stacks will present Pulitzer Prize-winning author Anna Quindlen in conversation with Star Tribune books editor Laurie Hertzel (who was recently named board president at the National Book Critics Circle). The former New York Times and Newsweek columnist, author of nine novels, Quindlen recently became a grandmother; her new book is “Nanaville: Adventures in Grandparenting.” Doors at 6:15 p.m., program at 7. FMI. Free and open to the public. General admission seating; first come, first served.

On Tuesday at the Westminster Town Hall Forum, Barbara Brown Taylor will speak on the topic of her new book, “Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others.” Brown Taylor is an Episcopal priest, teacher, and bestselling author of 14 books on religion and spirituality who has been recognized by Baylor University as one of the top 12 preachers in America. At Westminster Presbyterian Church. 12 noon. Come early for music by Aaron Humble and Melanie Ohnstad (11:30 a.m.).

And later that day at Norway House, Norwegian author Sigrid Lien will discuss her new book, “Pictures of Longing: Photography and the Norwegian-American Migration.” Between 1836 and 1915, hundreds of thousands of Norwegians emigrated to North America. More than a few ended up in Minnesota. Writing to family and friends back home, they sent thousands of photographs of their new lives. Lien, a professor of art history at the University of Bergen, looked at thousands of these “America-photographs” in Norway and the United States, alongside letters sent home by Norwegian immigrants. First published in Norwegian, her book is a new look at what has been called history’s largest population migration. 5 p.m. reception, 6 p.m. presentation. FMI and registration ($10/15).

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