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[whitespace] Barbara Kingsolver
Book dreams: Arizona author Barbara Kingsolver appears Oct. 29 at the Santa Rosa Veterans Building to read from her new novel, The Poisonwood Bible.

Fall promises flood of new books and their creators at local bookstores

By Patrick Sullivan

LISTEN HARD: Can you hear that clanking sound? It's the nation's printing presses, of course, going into overdrive mode, preparing to spew out an inky tidal wave of new books--good, bad, and beyond belief--for the coming season. With the falling leaves of autumn will arrive a deluge of both new titles and local literary events. Geese and caribou, after all, are not the only species that migrate: Authors, too, are about to set out on another leg of their seasonal pattern of travel, one that will deposit many of the best right here on our doorsteps to discuss their new books and meet their readers in local bookstores ranging from Copperfield's to Readers' Books to Barnes & Noble.

Maybe it's morbid, but the change of seasons makes many of us stop to contemplate death and dying. Few, however, have matched the perceptive wit and biting humor brought to the subject by the late Jessica Mitford in The American Way of Death. The book's illuminating exposé of America's funeral practices has been hailed as a classic piece of investigative journalism since its publication 35 years ago. Now, an updated version has arrived, brought to completion by local writer and activist Karen Leonard, who worked as Mitford's research assistant. Leonard will speak about the revised edition Sept. 28 at Copperfield's Books in Montgomery Village (2316 Montgomery Drive, Santa Rosa; 578-8938).

Both literary heavyweights and rousing crowd pleasers are sweeping through the doors at Copperfield's this fall. Fans of Pam Houston--author of Cowboys Are My Weakness--will be able to catch up with the writer Oct. 1 at the Montgomery Village store. Former Santa Rosa resident Greg Sarris, fresh from the glowing acclaim accorded to Grand Avenue, returns to Sonoma County Oct. 17 for an appearance at Copperfield's in Sebastopol (138 North Main St.; 823-2618). Watermelon Nights, the latest work to spill from Sarris' pen, is an epic tale focusing on three generations of Pomo Indians. Author and farmer David Mas Masumoto appears on Oct. 19 at the Montgomery village store to talk about Harvest Son, his new book about his family farm.

Then, in perhaps the most pleasant surprise of the literary season, Barbara Kingsolver arrives Oct. 29 for a Copperfield's-sponsored event at the Santa Rosa Veterans Building (1351 Maple Ave.). Details are still being nailed down, but Kingsolver, author of such popular and critically acclaimed works as Animal Dreams and The Bean Tree, will read from her new novel, The Poisonwood Bible, a story of a missionary family in the Belgian Congo in the 1960s. Judging from her recent PBS profile, Kingsolver should prove to be just as fascinating in person as she is behind a typewriter.

FOR ANOTHER take on religion and family, step into the comfortable environment of the brand-new Readers' Books store (130 East Napa St., Sonoma; 939-1779) to catch an appearance by Pearl Abraham. The Romance Reader, Abraham's first novel, was a masterful exploration of a young woman's experience in the world of Orthodox Judaism. Her new book, Giving up America, promises to be just as compelling and provocative.

Readers' Books also plays host on Sept. 11 to Jane Bay, who will discuss her new memoir, Precious Jewels of Tibet: A Journey to the Roof of the World. Local novelist Jean Hegland will appear at the store Sept. 25 to read from her surprise bestseller, Into the Forest. On Oct. 12, poet Celia Gilbert will dazzle us with selections from her new collection, An Ark of Sorts.

Then, get ready for some Halloween fun: The contributors to Harvest Tales & Midnight Revels: Stories for the Waning of the Year read from their work at Readers' Books on Oct. 26. What's spookier than Halloween? Censorship, of course. On Nov. 14, Readers' will host a reception featuring KPFA commentator Michael Parenti to benefit Project Censored. The event takes place at the Sonoma Community Center (276 E. Napa St.; 938-4626); a $5-$10 donation is requested.

Barnes & Noble (700 Fourth St., Santa Rosa; 576-7494) plunges into the world of theater Sept. 9 with an preview and discussion of Shakespeare's Othello, led by Jim DePriest, executive director of Sonoma County Repertory Theatre/Main Street Theatre. Actors will perform scenes from the play, and a drawing will be held for free tickets to the full Main Street Theatre performance. Then, on Sept. 30, explore the back roads of Guatemala with photographer Gordon Frost, author of All Souls Travel, in a slide-show presentation. Suzanne Skees, author of God Among the Shakers, appears at the store Oct. 14.

Is that it for literary events in Sonoma County? Not by a long shot. For more details, keep your eyes on the Sonoma County Independent's Readings section in the calendar. And, if you see a herd of wild-haired authors migrating in creative confusion down our highways and byways, point 'em toward the nearest bookstore. After all, sometimes even Mother Nature needs a helping hand.

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From the August 27-September 2, 1998 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

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