I like to sneak into book readings, so I can cut and run if I just can't take it. I balance other people's successes with what I'm not doing myself. I find my uncomfortable seats and wait for the readers to arrive. They are almost always late, and I am sadistically on time. Then the readers begin, and I am quite simply transformed.
Now, not all readings are good, per se. I have a terrible hatred for anyone who reads in the voices of their characters, especially if their characters are little children. I loathe affected poets. And the slow ones. Jesus, the slow ones.
Regardless, the actual words on the page get to me. I can see and feel them. Some are boring, some are poorly written, most have nothing to do with my life or my perceptions, yet I am still transformed.
This is the payoff for being there. I get time inside cathedrals of bookstores, surrounded by the tradition. I get put back in my place. I get reminded that there is this world filled with other people engaging in this nearly secret life, alone, scratching away at their dreams to bring ink and voice perilously and often fruitlessly out of the void. You just can't tell what it's going to be or mean. And that is why I show up.
The following represents highlights from the literary events calendar. Events are free unless mentioned otherwise.
Gigi Amateau's book release party for "Come August, Come Freedom: the Bellows, the Gallows, and the Black General Gabriel" includes a reading of "What Price Freedom" by Derome Scott Smith. The Poe Museum, 6:30 p.m.
Katherine Larson, winner of Virginia Commonwealth University's Levis Reading Prize, will read from her book of poems, "Radial Symmetry." Grace Street Theater, 8 p.m.
Harry M. Ward, professor emeritus of history at the University of Richmond, will discuss "Public Executions in Richmond, Virginia, a History, 1782–1907." Book People, 6 p.m.
Kevin Powers signs "The Yellow Birds," his novel about the Iraq War. Barnes & Noble, Chesterfield Towne Center, 2 p.m.
The National Book Festival assembles the nation's best authors and storytellers for a celebration of literature and reading. The National Mall in Washington, 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Saturday and noon-5:30 p.m. Sunday.
The University of Richmond Writers Series features novelist Lydia Millet. Weinstein Hall's Brown-Alley Room, 7 p.m.
Brandylane Publisher's book bash. Meet authors Linda Schubert, Jody Rathgeb, David Shea, Benjamin Campbell, Richard Wenzel, and Karen Tootelian. Book People, 2 p.m.
Award-winning poets Jamaal May and Tarfia Faizullah, a beloved Richmond expatriate, read in the upstairs gallery. Chop Suey, 4 p.m.
The Writers Series features short story writer Mike Czyzniejewski. University of Richmond's Weinstein Hall Brown-Alley Room, 7 p.m.
Meet Erika Robuck, author of "Hemingway's Girl," and bring your book club for a free book giveaway. Fountain Bookstore, 6:30 p.m.
Milenko Milanovic signs and discusses "Slow Dying: the Bosnian War Prison Camp at Visoko," the true story of Milenko's incarceration. Barnes & Noble, Short Pump, 4 p.m.
Wendy Welch, author of "The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap," will talk about bookstore experiences, writing and reading. Book People, 6 p.m.
The Writers Series features author Richard McCann. UR's Weinstein Hall Brown-Alley Room, 7 p.m.
Style contributing editor Peter Galuszka signs "Thunder on the Mountain: Death at Massey and the Dirty Secrets Behind Big Coal." Fountain Bookstore, 12:30 p.m.
The Virginia Commonwealth University Visiting Writers Series features readings from Stanley Plumly and Harrison Fletcher. Scott House, 7 p.m.
Chat with bestselling Irish mystery writer John Connolly, editor of and contributor to "Books to Die for: the World's Greatest Mystery Writers on the World's Greatest Mystery Novels." Fountain Bookstore, 2 p.m.
John Perry, professor emeritus of philosophy at Stanford University, philosophizes on his book "The Art of Procrastination: a Guide to Effective Dawdling, Lollygagging and Postponing." Fountain Bookstore, 6:30 p.m. Don't be late.
Author Mary Miley Theobald will speak at the Library of Virginia to launch her book "First House: Two Centuries with Virginia's First Families." Tours of the Governor's Mansion will follow by pre-registration: contact Audrey Trussell at 371-2642 or at Audrey.Trussell@governor.virginia.gov. Library of Virginia lecture hall, noon.
The Poe Boys — Daniel Stashower ("The Beautiful Cigar Girl") and Louis Bayard ("The Pale Blue Eye") present "Poe in Fact and Fiction," a program that explores the mysteries of Poe's biography and the challenges of writing about his life. It costs $20 for program and lunch; $7 additional for optional Poe Museum visit and performance. Library of Virginia, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Lisa Spaar and Henry Hart will give a poetry reading. Spaar and Hart are the most recent recipients of the Carol Weinstein Poetry Prize, an honor celebrating excellence in poetry among poets with strong connections to Virginia. Library of Virginia, 6:30-7:30 p.m.
The Smithsonian Institution's Aneta Georgievska-Shine hosts "Art Meets Literature: an Undying Love Affair." The program will include a presentation copy of a new work: "The Muses," a booklet with nine works of art from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts' collections, each accompanied by an original poem written by an award-winning poet. A wine-and-cheese reception follows. $5. The museum's Pauley Center, 6-9 p.m.
In "CSI for Young Mystery Writers," authors age 12 to 15 will learn writing techniques from award-winning mystery novelist Marcia Talley and investigative techniques from Virginia Commonwealth University forensic science faculty members. Space is limited. $40 includes catered dinner and all materials. The university's department of forensic science lab, 3:30-8 p.m.
The Library of Virginia's annual Literary Luncheon features a keynote presentation by internationally renowned author Tom Robbins. Richmond Convention Center, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
The Library of Virginia's annual Literary Awards Celebration will once again feature host Adriana Trigiani, plus lifetime achievement award recipient Tom Robbins. A cocktail reception will be followed by dinner and the ceremony. A $175 ticket includes dinner, choice of book, and open bar; tickets for a special VIP cocktail reception with Robbins are available for an additional charge. Library of Virginia, 5-10:30 p.m.
The 10th annual James River Writers Conference features bestselling authors Tom Robbins and Eleanor Brown, among others. Pre-conference workshops take place Oct. 19 at the Virginia State Capitol; the main sessions and lectures continue Oct. 20 and 21 at the Greater Richmond Convention Center. $240 for both days, $170 for single-day tickets.
The book launch of "Haints," the new book from Richmond novelist, poet and screenwriter Clint McCown. Chop Suey, 6 p.m.
This year's Virginia Commonwealth University Cabell First Novelist Award winner, Justin Torres, will read from "We the Animals." Grace Street Theater, 7 p.m.
The Library of Virginia Literary Awards Celebration. This year's finalists include Henri Cole, Dave Smith, and David Wojahn (poetry); Jabeen Akhtar, Chad Harbach, and David Huddle (fiction); and Tony Horwitz, Maurie D. McInnis, and Jill Titus Brown (nonfiction). Tickets $150. Library of Virginia, 6:30 p.m.
The reading, signing, and release of "The Devil's Waters," the newest work from Richmond novelist David L. Robbins. He is joined by Richmond alum Clay McLeod Chapman.
Lee Woodruff of "CBS This Morning" will read from and discuss her first novel, "Those We Love Most," which draws on the author's own experiences of family tragedy and healing. Library of Virginia, 5:30 p.m.
Meredith Henne Baker discusses her book "The 1811 Richmond Theater Fire." Virginia Historical Society, noon.