OK, all you nerds out there, it's time to get down to work. Stock your pencil boxes, pull out your literary anthologies, and check the batteries in your tape recorders: fall is bursting with enough lectures and literary events to make us all feel like we're back in school again.
Listen to authors and scientists, comics and photographers; learn about toxic waste and free media, poetry and hypertext; hear great published writers, hear great unpublished writers.
Universities, colleges, and individual groups have done all the legwork. They've asked the best and brightest --- local and from afar --- to come and talk about what they do. You only have to listen and feel appropriately awed, inspired, or informed. Taking notes is optional. But I've got my multi-color highlighter pack at the ready.
Plenty of household names are coming to town, and for these, you'll want to get your seats early. First, find David Owen, The New Yorker staff writer and author of a new Chester F. Carlson biography, at the University of Rochester in late September. On October 5, Archbishop Desmond Tutu will speak, also at the University of Rochester. The always-excellent (and often-standing-room-only) Arts & Lectures series will in October bring Adam Gopnik, staff writer for TheNew Yorker and author of the popular Paris to the Moon. In November Nicholas Basbanes will speak. Basbanes has committed himself to writing books about the love of books: his titles include A Gentle Madness, Patience and Fortitude,and A Splendor of Letters.
David Sedaris, widely popular for his dry, hysterical essays, will surely sell out the theater at the University at Buffalo mid-October. Call early --- hearing him read is the only thing better than reading his books.
The day after David, Amy Goodman, intrepid reporter from the liberal-loved Democracy Now! will speak at the Metro Justice Dinner --- another event sure to sell out as Metro Justice continues with its campaign to get Democracy Now! aired on WXXI. And at the end of October you can laugh in spite of yourself when sharp-tongued Wanda Sykes brings her in-your-face comedy to the University at Buffalo.
Fiction writers and poets are also coming in abundance. Monroe Community College does its best to make the lunch hour as filling as possible with its Skunk Hour Creative Reading Series. Chris Otero-Piersante and Julie Damerell will be there on September 24, Lynn Bartholome on October 29.
Andre Dubus III, author of House of Sand and Fog, recently made into a movie, will speak at Rochester Institute of Technology mid-October. Dubus took a newspaper clipping and created a true tragedy about cruel fate and ruined dreams.
One of these Thursdays, go and hear poetry from readers both established and virgin at the Pure Kona Open Mic. Or read your own! It happens year-round at Daily Perks Coffee House, and it's an institution.
The University of Rochester always has outstanding guests at its Plutzik Series, and this year it hits the ground running: former US Poet Laureate Rita Dove comes on October 9. And SUNY Brockport's Writers Forum draws excellent readers as well. This fall brings three award-winning poets: Galway Kinnell, Henri Cole, and Alan Michael Parker, as well as fiction writer Courtney Angela Brkic.
The Jewish Book Festival is a cultural treasure trove: Jewish writers speak every day of the nine-day festival. This year's festival opens on Sunday, October 24, with Rabbi Harold Kushner, author of The Lord is My Shepherd: Healing Wisdom of the Twenty-Third Psalm.
Fill your head
On September 27 Jack Bradigan Spula (former City staff writer) will lead the lecture season with "Rochester's Toxic Legacy," about his research on the pollution from Air Force Plant 51. Then, detoxify with Lama Gursam and his workshop called "Sacred Teachings," an introduction to Tibetan Buddhism, at the Amitabha Foundation in early October.
Several lecture series offer a chance to learn about topics in-depth, over several sittings. The "According to Anthony Luncheon Lecture Series," on the second Tuesday of each month at the Susan B. Anthony House, is a way to learn about the women's rights leader over lunch. George Eastman House brings four speakers, most of them photographers, for their "Travel Lecture Series," on Thursdays in October and November.
The Hobart and William Smith Colleges return with their Fisher Center Lecture Series, a compelling string of talks on gender, politics, and activism. And the Labor Lyceum, hosted by the Labor Council, continues this fall with lectures titled "So You're Worried About the Election" and "Fahrenheit 11/2."
Get out and listen. You just might learn something. You can find details on these and other lectures in the calendar below, as well as in weekly City calendars.