This week's readings calendar will be a lesson in interpreting promotional book materials. Our first examples come from the materials for Mitchard's newest novel, A Theory of Relativity. Mitchard was the author, previously, of the Oprah pick, The Deep End of the Ocean, and her critical blurbs come from Booklist and People Magazine. The first describes the novel as a "believable and remarkably involving tale of anguished people trying to do the right thing." The second says, "Few are her equal in illuminating the personal stake we all have in the daily business of living." Lesson #1: When the critic cannot write well, this should be taken as a caveat. University Bookstore, 4326 University Way NE, 634-3400, 7 pm, free.
* MARY CLEARMAN BLEW
Third in a series of distinguished writers featured as part of the University of Washington History Department's fabulous "A Sense of Where We Are" series, Blew will talk about her life in Montana in the context of Pacific Northwest history. Her books include, All But the Waltz: A Memoir of Five Generations in the Life of a Montana Family, and Balsamroot: A Memoir. Savery Hall 239, UW Campus, 634-3400, 2 pm, free.
* SUSANNE ANTONETTA
In a recent New York Times Book Review, the fantastic Michael Pollan writes eloquently about Antonetta's memoir, Body Toxic: An Environmental Memoir. Pollan discusses Antonetta's poetical, associative approach to her chemical-ridden upbringing and subsequent health problems. Although a link between chemicals in Antonetta's childhood environment and her troubled existence now cannot be scientifically confirmed, Pollan writes that "before long the sheer force of the writing makes the reader accept the agency of her migrating molecules." Antonetta is a poet from Bellingham. Elliott Bay Books, 101 S Main St, 624-6600, 7:30 pm, free (advance tickets).
Hancocks, director of Victoria, Australia's Open Range Zoo, visits Seattle with a book about animals in captivity: A Different Nature: The Paradoxical World of Zoos and Their Uncertain Future. A person named John Alcock says it is "well-written, provocative, and opinion-rich." Thank you, Mr. Alcock. Elliott Bay Books, 7:30 pm, free (advance tickets).
TIM HULLEY, IRENE DRENNAN, BETSY BELL, APRIL DENONNO
Four local writers read from their work, as part of the It's About Time Reading Series. Seattle Public Library, 5009 Roosevelt Way NE, 684-4063, 6:30 pm, free.
Get some mystery with your lunchmeat, in this noontime reading from Dead North: An Alaska Mystery. University Bookstore, noon, free.
Blurbs on Muske-Dukes' novel Life After Death from such varied notables as Steve Martin, Ursula Hegi, and Elizabeth Strout indicate Los Angeles-style promotional muscle behind the writer, who is a poet and wife of the actor David Dukes. The novel opens with a wife impetuously wishing her husband would die; he does, the next day, on the tennis courts. Elliott Bay Books, 7:30 pm, free (advance tickets).
Duncan tells the fascinating story of Seattle tourist-kitsch-cum-urban-legend in Ye Olde Curiosity Shop. Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park Towne Centre, 17171 Bothell Way NE, 366-3333, 6:30 pm, free.
A quote from Junot Diaz on Udall's first novel, The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint, is an indicator that Udall is a "hot" young writer. And in fact Diaz's quote is so affecting--"Enmeshed in these pages is some of the finest writing I've come across in a long time, as well as a story that tears at you and calls you back to it no matter what you're up to. There is also a human heart beating in here, as beautiful and profound as your own"--that it inspired Elliott Bay to add an "Amen" to it on its own readings calendar! Elliott Bay Books, 7:30 pm, free (advance tickets).
CONNIE WILLIS & GREG BEAR
Two highly regarded, award-winning sci-fi writers read from current work. Third Place Books, 1 pm, free.
It is a good sign that the reviews for Bird's nonfiction book, Neither East Nor West: One Woman's Journey Through the Islamic Republic of Iran are not easily boiled down to a blurb. Publisher's Weekly says, "This travelogue affords fascinating portraits of people of many social circumstances, while not sugarcoating the gritty realities of life in Iran. But it is Bird's continual investigation of her own and her culture's prejudices that distinguishes this book, and that will help shine light into a part of the Middle East hitherto hidden from the West by its own misunderstanding." University Bookstore, 2 pm, free.
The playwright of Reckless, Prelude to a Kiss, and the upcoming The Dying Gaul reads from his work and autographs books. Elliott Bay Books, 3 pm, free.
Lipman, in a Times (London) blurb, is described as having "an ear for dialogue sharper than an electronic listening system." She is also described, elsewhere, as "our last urbane romantic." Translation? Lipman and her novel, The Dearly Departed, will appeal most to suburbanites to whom surveillance does not rank as a high millennial anxiety. First, an event called "Tea with Elinor Lipman" at Third Place Books, 2 pm, free; then, University Bookstore, 7 pm, free.
* NICK HORNBY
The popular author of High Fidelity visits with a new novel, How to Be Good, in which he takes on the perspective of a woman who is a doctor, a mother, a wife, and about to experience a mid-life crisis. Want to know how much people like the talented Hornby? The New York Times Book Review: "Hornby is a writer who dares to be witty, intelligent, and emotionally generous all at once." Who needs a mom? Elliott Bay Books, 7:30 pm, free (advance tickets).
* ZADIE SMITH
See Stranger Suggests. Kane Hall, Walker Ames Room, 634-3400, 7 pm, free.
* PETER PLATE
A quote from Alan Cheuse, of NPR's All Things Considered, seems an odd choice to promote the punky post-noir San Francisco writer Peter Plate's newest, The Angels of Catastrophe. Plate's novels generally move through gorey and gripping territory, but Cheuse finds an angle: "I found a certain sweetness to the telling of Peter Plate's walk on the San Francisco wild side." Plate himself is a compelling reader, who quotes whole passages from memory. Elliott Bay Books, 7:30 pm, free (advance tickets).
Datlow is an uncanny finder of sci-fi talent, as fiction editor of Omni magazine for 18 years, and now editor of several sci-fi anthologies. Tonight, courtesy of Clarion West, she reads from her own work. Elliott Bay Books, 7:30 pm, $4/$3 at the door.
The blurbs for Parry's Trial by Ice: The True Story of Murder and Survival on the 1871 Polaris Expedition smartly tout it as the "anti-Endurance" (referring to the story of the Shackleton expedition). On this journey, tragedy rules the day. Third Place Books, 7 pm, free.
* ROBERT CLARK
Don't be swayed by the terribly banal title of Clark's novel, Love Among the Ruins--it is, according to some very fine critics, actually a complex and beautifully written love story centered around the political turmoil of the summer of '68. Also, Clark, who lives in Seattle, is the author of Mr. White's Confession, which even a Stranger reviewer admired! Kane Hall, Walker Ames Room, 634-3400, 7:30 pm, free.
* ROBERT G. O'MEALLY
Jazz historian and biographer O'Meally really needs no blurbs to promote his anthology of Ralph Ellison's jazz writing, titled Living With Music. A quote from O'Meally's beautiful introduction suffices: "It was either live with music or die with noise, and we chose rather desperately to live." Elliott Bay Books, 7:30 pm, free (advance tickets).
POETRY/SPOKEN WORD OPEN MICS
CATHARTICISM--Wed at 9. Coffee Messiah, 1554 E Olive Way, 861-8233, free.
EAST INDIA TRADING COMPANY--Mon at 7. Coffee Messiah, free.
HOMELAND--Tues at 8. Globe Cafe, 1531 14th Ave, 324-8815, donation.
NW POETRY SLAM--Every other Fri (7/6, 7/20...) at 7. Cafe Allegro, 4002 University Way NE, 634-2310, free.
POETRY RELEASE--Sun at 6. Contour, 807 First Ave, 447-7704, free.
POETS WEST--Sun June 24, 7 pm. With featured poets Martin Blackman, Alan Braden, Michael Magee, Jean Musser, Connie Walle, then open mic. Wit's End Bookstore & Tea Shop, 770 N 34th St, 682-1268, free.
REBIRTH--Thurs at 7. Zodiac Coffee, 607 Broadway E, 720-4502, free.
RED SKY POETRY THEATER--Sun at 7:30. This week is the last open mic until September. Globe Cafe, donation.
SEATTLE POETRY SLAM--Wed at 8 (21+). Sit & Spin, 2219 Fourth Ave, 441-9484, $3.
STAGE FRIGHT--Every second and fourth Wed at 7; writers ages 14-24 only. Richard Hugo House, 1634 11th Ave, 322-7030, free.
YAWP!--Tues at 8. The Pearl, 4215 University Way NE, 547-3326, $3.