Patti Smith, Colson Whitehead and Richard Blanco are a few of the names coming to town | Fall Arts Preview | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Patti Smith, Colson Whitehead and Richard Blanco are a few of the names coming to town

Authors and speakers cover everything from poetry, fiction and nonfiction to international affairs

Tuhin Das at City of Asylum, Sept. 22
Tuhin Das at City of Asylum, Sept. 22

Literary luminaries both local and visiting will be practically competing for microphones this fall

You’ll find quite a few of them in Oakland’s Carnegie Music Hall and environs. Authors visiting Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures, including its Monday Night Lectures, include The Emperor of All Maladies author Siddhartha Mukherjee (Sept. 26); novelist Ann Patchett (Oct. 7); rocker and memoirist Patti Smith (Oct. 10); poet and young-adult author Kwame Alexander (Oct. 16); and Colson Whitehead (Oct. 24), whose The Underground Railroad is a novel of the moment. And in a non-PAL lecture, essayist and humorist David Sedaris (Oct. 11) makes his near-annual visit to town.

Just across Schenley Plaza, in the Frick Fine Arts Building, the Pittsburgh Contemporary Writers Series kicks off strong with acclaimed poet Ada Limon (Sept. 22), and follows with Lucky Us novelist Amy Bloom (Oct. 18). (Admission is free.) And on Oct. 6, the University of Pittsburgh campus hosts the prestigious Drue Heinz Literature Prize reading, with this year’s winner, Melissa Yancy, and judge Richard Russo.  

Downtown, Heinz Hall welcomes some of Pittsburgh’s most distinguished visiting talkers thanks to the Pittsburgh Speakers Series. The series is subscription-only, but if you pony up you can see the likes of stage and screen legend Rita Moreno (Oct. 5); former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak (Oct. 26); and a panel discussion on racism in America with NPR’s Michele Norris, Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Riley, and Morris Dees, of the Southern Poverty Law Center (Nov. 16).

click to enlarge Patti Smith, Oct. 10 at Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures - PHOTO COURTESY OF JESSE DITMAR
Photo courtesy of Jesse Ditmar
Patti Smith, Oct. 10 at Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures

For years, City of Asylum has been one of the busiest presenters of writers in town; this fall, with the opening of its new Alphabet City venue, on the North Side, it’s breaking its signature annual Jazz Poetry event into a month of smaller shows (Sept. 15-Oct. 9). Highlights include jazz-poetry collaborations featuring poet Kwame Dawes and Indian writer Tuhin Das (Sept. 22); inaugural poet Richard Blanco (Sept. 23); and Icelandic novelist Sjón (Sept. 29).

Pittsburgh’s indie-bookstore scene is still going strong, not least in hosting readings. East End Book Exchange hosts the monthly Versify poetry series; a Pittsburgh Poetry Review release (Sept. 30); and more, including, on Oct. 14, its own store relaunch party (following its recent sale). The reborn City Books (formerly on the South Side, now on the North Side), welcomes writers including local author Leah Pileggi (Sept. 22), and her new children’s book, Prisoner 88. And Penguin Bookshop hosts guests including Paula Reed Ward (Oct. 5), the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter who just published Death by Cyanide: The Murder of Dr. Autumn Klein, an account of that notorious 2013 Pittsburgh homicide.

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