If Pittsburgh's fall slate of talks and readings has more global flavor than usual, credit the Drue Heinz Lectures (412-622-8866). The series at Carnegie Music Hall opens strong -- with Reading Lolita in Tehran author Azir Nafisi (Sept. 24) -- and only gets stronger: The Oct. 8 talk is by Orhan Pamuk. The Turkish novelist (My Name Is Red, Snow) won the 2006 Nobel Prize for Literature, and was recently in the news when his country's government put him on trial for "insulting" Turkey by talking about its history of ethnic repression. On Nov. 5, Drue Heinz welcomes Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, whose acclaimed Half of a Yellow Sun explores the Biafran war.
There's no shortage of Americans, though. On Oct. 1, the Pittsburgh Contemporary Writers Series (412-624-6506) welcomes George Saunders, the gut-bustingly funny satirist whose short stories, novella The Brief and Terrifying Reign of Phil and new essay collection The Braindead Megaphone keep getting him compared to Vonnegut and Pynchon. The series (which is free of charge) also includes the Oct. 17 Drue Heinz Literature Prize Reading and Award, honoring the new story collection by Allegheny College instructor Kirk Nesset.
On Oct. 10, the International Poetry Forum (412-621-9893) begins a season titled Poets on War and Other Losses with Sam Hamill -- the poet, publisher and critic who created the Poets Against War project after famously declining a White House invitation during the buildup to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Poetry fans can also look forward to the Nov. 2 Gist Street Reading Series (412-434-5629), when Pittsburgh poetry patriarch Ed Ochester reads in Uptown with visiting poet Nancy Pugh. (Gist Street organizers, by the way, recently announced that they'll begin a six-month hiatus in January.)
For those with $275 for seven lectures, the Pittsburgh Speakers Series (412-392-4900) commences on Sept. 26 with Aron Ralston, the hiker who survived a wilderness mishap by amputating his own forearm. The autumn slate also includes CNN reporter Christiane Amanpour (Nov. 28) -- but you must subscribe to the whole series to attend.
If the talking you like to hear is about art, the Carnegie Mellon School of Art Lecture Series (412-268-2409) has begun. Highlights in this free series include Turner Prize-winner Mona Hatoum, a Beirut-born multimedia artist, on Sept. 28; and, on Nov. 6, Rachel Whiteread, another Turner-winner, whose large-scale sculptures and installations include casts of everyday objects, including an entire condemned London house.
Likely the hottest ticket, however, will be An Evening with Dave Eggers, a special edition of the American Shorts Reading Series (412-622-8866). Eggers, who wrote A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and You Shall Know Our Velocity, is also the editor and literary entrepreneur who founded The Believer and McSweeney's. He comes to town Oct. 29.