The big news in fall literary happenings concerns something that won't be happening any more after this season. The Gist Street Reading Series has announced it's calling it a decade.
The showcase curated by Sherrie Flick (fiction) and Nancy Krygowski (poetry) is popular for much aside from its monthly line-ups of writers from around the country. With its quirky location in James Simon's Uptown sculpture studio, and its bounteous snackery, Gist Street promised an intimate, informal evening and it unfailingly packed the house.
But now the organizers want to go out on top. The final Gist Street events are: Oct. 1, with Kentucky-based Jim Tomlinson (fiction) and Philadelphia's Catie Rosemurgy (poetry); Oct. 2, a bonus event at Braddock's UnSmoke Systems, with Joseph Bathanti and J.C. Hallman; Nov. 5 (Lori Ostlund and Sharon Dolin); and the Dec. 3 finale (Holly Goddard, Jericho Brown).
Enjoy -- if you can score a seat. After December, though, Gist Street's shoes will be no easier to fill than were those of Samuel Hazo's venerable International Poetry Forum, whose shuttering in 2009 left Pittsburgh shy of readings by world-class poets.
Still, the local scene remains unusually rich -- likely moreso than it was when Gist Street began, in 2001.
For instance, online magazine The New Yinzer's TNY Presents series has been stepping it up, with more frequent readings in more new venues. Note its 7 p.m. Fri., Sept. 24, reading at the South Side's Beehive Coffeehouse. It's a freebie featuring: Harrisburg-based poet Noel Sloboda; Indiana-based Micah Ling; and Chris Bowen, a fiction writer who works for Cleveland-based small press Burning River.
Indeed, that event is conjoined with Pittsburgh's second annual Small Press Festival (www.spfpittsburgh.com). Held Sept. 25 and 26, at the North Side's Artists Image Resource, the SPF reflects the region's diversity of smaller presses and journals, like Weave, Fourth River, fest organizer Open Thread and more.
Pittsburgh nurtures poets especially well. The Hungry Sphinx Reading Series, for instance, happens at 8 p.m. every Tuesday (open mic included) at Oakland's Sphinx Café. And around the corner, on the third Sunday afternoon of each month, the Carnegie Library's main branch hosts its own Sunday Poetry and Reading Series. Upcoming visitors include Joan E. Bauer and Joseph Karasek (Nov. 21).
Meanwhile, internationally known authors continue flocking to the bigger reading series. The Drue Heinz Lectures, for instance, draw novelist and memoirist Mary Karr (best known for The Liar's Club and Lit), on Oct. 4; Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer (Oct. 18); cooking star Madhur Jeffrey (Nov. 1); and New York Times columnist Andrew Sorkin, author of Wall Street bailout investigation Too Big to Fail (Nov. 15).
The University of Pittsburgh's long-running Pittsburgh Contemporary Writers Series follows its Wed., Sept. 29, event featuring Drue Heinz Literature Prize winner Tina May Hall (The Physics of Imaginary Objects) with Mark Kurlansky (author of Cod and The Last Fish Tale), on Oct. 5; poet Kimiko Hahn (Nov. 4); and Man Gone Down novelist Michael Thomas (Nov. 11).
Carnegie Mellon University continues hosting authors, too. Next up is Susan Henderson (Tue., Sept. 28). The CMU alum and founder of lit blog LitPark reads from her debut novel, Up From the Blue.
Though fewer in number than just last year, bookstores remain important venues, especially for touring authors. None are busier than Mystery Lovers Bookshop. The Oakmont landmark hosts folks like John Sandford (Sun., Sept. 26) and Stuart Neville (Oct. 20) -- and marks its 20th anniversary with a celebration on (naturally) Halloween.
Finally, how about a book about books? Allison Hoover Bartlett brings the paperback tour for her The Man Who Loved Books Too Much, about infamous book thief John Gilkey, to Joseph-Beth Booksellers (Oct. 12).