Alice McDermott, one of Washington's most acclaimed writers, is one of ten writers longlisted for a National Book Award for fiction. The judges have selected Someone, McDermott's novel about a woman living in Brooklyn around the time of World War II, for this year's group, along with books by Thomas Pynchon, George Saunders, James McBride, Rachel Kushner, and more.
McDermott was first selected as a finalist for the award in 1987 for her novel That Night, which was also a finalist for the Pen/Faulkner Award and the Pulitzer Prize. She won the National Book Award in 1998 for Charming Billy, the tale of an Irish-American community mourning a lovable but melancholy rogue.
Someone, says Washingtonian reviewer John Wilwol, "unfolds through a series of snapshots capturing the life of a woman living in Brooklyn before, during, and after the Second World War. The stories are lean and deliberate, and they appear to be randomly assembled, like snapshots pulled from an old shoebox. But as the exquisite images and poignant truths add up, we're reminded that nothing happens in a McDermott novel by accident. This is a writer in complete control."Read the full review. The finalists for the award will be announced October 16, and the winner November 20.
Washington is often cited as one of the most literate cities in the world, but it’s a lesser-known fact that the city also serves as the setting for countless novels. DC Public Library’s Tony Ross and Kim Zablud have set out to expose the vast world of local fiction by creating a new interactive literary website called DC by the Book.
The site provides a database of fiction books that are set in the District, and is based around an interactive map that shows the exact locations described in books that take place within city limits. Readers can enter addresses or ZIP codes to see which books have passages set nearby, and can also submit parts from books to be included on the map. The Institute of Museum and Library Services awarded Ross and Zablud a Technology Act Grant for the project last April, and the two began working on it in October.
The launch party for DC by the Book was at the Chinatown location of Busboys and Poets Wednesday, March 27. Librarians, historians, and avid readers walked through the bustling restaurant into a small room in the back corner of the building at Fifth and K streets, Northwest. The room was only supposed to hold 90 people, but a few more squeezed into the intimate space for a chance to hear about the new website and to see the local authors who had come to support the project.
Ross, who grew up in the area and was wearing a Cool “Disco” Dan shirt, began the program by talking about his initial idea for the map.
“I started to discover there’s this bigger world of DC authors,” he said. “This is a tool that’ll help people learn about their neighborhoods in a different way.”
Natasha Trethewey has been named the 19th US poet laureate, succeeding Phillip Levine. Trethewey, 46, joins a distinguished line of poets who’ve held the coveted post at the Library of Congress over the years, including W.S. Merwin, Kay Ryan, Charles Simic, and Rita Dove. Her duties will begin in the fall.
In a statement released today, the Librarian of Congress, James H. Billington, says, “Natasha Trethewey is an outstanding poet/historian in the mold of Robert Penn Warren, our first poet laureate consultant in poetry. Her poems dig beneath the surface of history—personal or communal, from childhood or from a century ago—to explore the human struggles that we all face.”
Imagine cozying up with a copy of Joyce's Dubliners in the heart of Dublin. Or finding yourself in the very same hotel on the French Riviera as the one Fitzgerald mentions in Tender Is the Night. These kinds of literary experiences are the goal behind Politics & Prose Travel, a new travel program to be launched in October by one of Washington's great independent bookstores.
"People think of the store as a community center. It seemed like a natural venture for the store to take that sense of community on the road," says Susan Coll, the programs director at Politics & Prose.
Monday, March 19
BOOKS: The author of a couple of works in the hipster canon, including Everything is Illuminated, Jonathan Safran Foer recently undertook a very different project--editing a new translation of the Haggadah, the Jewish story of the Exodus. Foer and the translator, Nathan Englander, will be speaking and signing copies of the book at Sixth and I Historic Synagogue at 7 PM. Tickets ($12) are available online.
Tuesday, March 20
POLITICS: A week before the DC primary elections, learn more about city council candidates Sekou Biddle, E. Gail Anderson Holness, Vincent Orange, and Peter Shapiro at the Black Cat with Drink, Vote, and Be Merry!, a boozy debate being moderated by Alan Suderman, Tom Sherwood, and WPFW radio's politics host Chuck Thies. 8 PM. Free.
Wednesday, March 21
MUSIC: Vetusta Morla, one of the most famous Spanish rock bands, will be playing at U Street Music Hall--an interesting development, considering their visit was orchestrated by the cultural office at the Embassy of Spain, hopefully a sign of more collaboration to come. Tickets ($15) are available through Ticketfly. 7 PM.
Thursday, March 22
DODGEBALL: You probably didn't know it was a dream of yours to play dodgeball at the Verizon Center, but just as you're adding it to your bucket list, you'll get to cross it off. Come watch John Wall dazzle and JaVale McGee do something ridiculous and lazy, and then head to the Wizards' practice courts to take out your pent-up anger over another lost Wizards season. No word on whether you'll finally get to (legally) throw things at the real Andray Blatche, not just his image on the TV. $25 (includes tickets to Wizards game), 7 PM.
The Washington National Opera stages Così Fan Tutte. Photograph by Richard H. Smith for Royal Opera House.
Thursday, February 23
ART: “Frida Kahlo: Her Photos” opens tonight at the Artisphere. The first and only showing in the US will feature more than 250 intimate photographs from the artist’s personal collection. There will be a public opening reception tonight from 7 to 10. Free. The show runs through March 25.
FUNDRAISER: Rock band Farewell Republic and alt-rock group Head on Sticks perform at DC9. Proceeds will benefit DC Vote, an organization dedicated to securing full voting representation for DC residents. Tickets ($10) can be purchased at the door or through the venue’s website. Doors open at 8 PM.
BOOKS: Elizabeth Dowling Taylor signs copies of her new book, A Slave in the White House: Paul Jennings and the Madisons, at the Woman’s National Democratic Club. Taylor served as the director of interpretation at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and as a fellow at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. The signing includes a lunch, a presentation, and a Q&A session. Tickets ($30) can be purchased through the event’s website. 2 PM.
KID-FRIENDLY: The Kennedy Center’s production of The Wings of Ikarus Jackson ends today. Adapted from the children’s book Wings, the uplifting story is about a young boy who can fly. Tickets ($18) can be purchased through the KenCen’s website. 12:30 PM.
Folk-rock singer William Fitzsimmons. Photograph courtesy of the artist’s Facebook page.
Monday, February 20
BOOKS: Sticky Fingers founder Doron Petersan will sign copies of her new book, Sticky Fingers’ Sweets: 100 Super-Secret Vegan Recipes, at the U Street Busboys and Poets. Petersan recently won Food Network’s Cupcake Wars All-Stars with her animal-product-free treats. Free. 6:30 PM.
Tuesday, February 21
MARDI GRAS: Rumors’ 11th annual Bourbon Street Bash returns with drink specials, New Orleans–inspired food, a live performance by Lethal Peanut, dancing, a wing-eating contest, and beads galore. Drink specials include $2 Coors Light, $3 Blue Moon, $4 Bacardi drinks, and $5 Bacardi Hurricanes. 4 PM to close.
Wednesday, February 22
DANCE: Japanese movement duo Eiko and Koma join the Kronos Quartet at the University of Maryland’s Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center. The performance, titled Fragile, is modeled after a museum installation, where dancers and musicians draw inspiration from one another’s works. Free; for mature audiences only. 5 PM.
Thursday, February 23
MUSIC: Folk-rock musician William Fitzsimmons performs at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue. His captivating songs have been featured in Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, and Army Wives. Tickets can be purchased online for $20 or at the door for $23. 8 PM.
Baltimore native Ellen Cherry takes the stage tonight at Strathmore. Photograph courtesy of the artist’s website.
Wednesday, February 1
ART: Don’t miss opening night of Deborah Willis and Hank Willis Thomas’s new exhibition, “Progeny.” The mother-son duo’s show explores motherhood, memory, and family through photographs. “Progeny” runs through February 29 at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts.
MUSIC: Singer-songwriter Ellen Cherry performs at Strathmore tonight. The Emmy-nominated musician released her newest album, (New) Years, in 2010. You can listen to some of her songs here. Tickets ($12) can be purchased through Strathmore’s website. 7:30 PM.
If you’re in the mood for something edgier, Machine Head are dropping by the Rams Head. The Grammy-nominated band toured with Metallica in 2009. The group will be joined by Suicide Silence and Darkest Hour. Tickets ($20) can be purchased through the venue’s website. Doors open at 6 PM.
BOOKS: Barney’s New York creative ambassador Simon Doonan will sign copies of his new book, Gay Men Don’t Get Fat, at the W Hotel. Guests can enjoy drink specials and door prizes. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to RSVP. 7 to 9 PM.
The American Ballet Theatre performs a scene from Thirteen Diversions. Photograph by Rosalie O’Conner.
Tuesday, January 31
BALLET: The American Ballet Theatre brings La Bayadére to the Kennedy Center. Tonight’s mixed repertory program features scenes from Black Tuesday, Manon, Don Quixote, and Thirteen Diversons. Tickets ($25 to $99) can be purchased through the KenCen’s website. 7:30 PM. The show runs through February 5.
WINE: Agora is hosting a French wine tasting tonight. Guests can sample a variety of wines from the Southwest region, including Domaine Laplace’s “Autour du Fruit” Madiran 2009 and “Les Sarments Rouge” Madiran 2008. Each tasting will be paired with a selection of canapés by executive chef Ghassan Jarrouj. Reservations ($30) can be made by calling 202-332-6767. 6 to 7:30 PM.
BOOKS: Historian Douglas Brinkley signs copies of his new book, The Quiet World, at the Barnes and Noble in downtown DC. The renowned author is also a Vanity Fair contributing editor and a history commentator for CBS News. Free. 6:30 PM.
MUSIC: R&B singer Marc Broussard performs at the Birchmere tonight. “His music radiates soulful Louisiana blues, but his songs blend those influences with raucous rock ’n’ roll to create unique and infectious music,” says NPR. You can listen to some of his songs here. Tickets ($35) can be purchased through Ticketmaster. 7:30 PM.
Adam Green and Euan Morton star in the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s staging of The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Photograph by Scott Suchman.
Thursday, January 26
ART: Art Soiree hosts Apocalyptoon 2012’s opening reception at the Artisphere. The pop-up exhibit will feature works from the country’s top cartoonists, including the Washington Post’s Tom Toles, the Economist’s Kal, and MSNBC’s Daryl Cagle. Guests can enjoy live music, complimentary snacks, and a cash bar. Tickets ($25) can be purchased through the Artisphere’s website. 6 PM. The exhibition runs through January 29.
THEATER: Don’t miss opening night of Josephine Tonight! at MetroStage. Directed and choreographed by Maurice Hines, the musical follows Josephine Baker’s journey from small-town girl to French movie star. Tickets for tonight’s pay-what-you-can performance are available at the door; tickets for future performances ($45 to $50) can be purchased through Box Office Tickets. 8 PM. The play runs through March 18.
MUSIC: Clarinetist Jörg Widmann joins the National Symphony Orchestra in “Armonica.” The program will also feature works by Mozart and Schubert. Tickets ($20 to $85) can be purchased through the Kennedy Center’s website. 7 PM. The show runs though January 29.
Jazz-funk artist Roy Ayers performs at Blues Alley tonight. The venerable musician has brought us hits including “Everybody Loves the Sunshine,” “Running Away,” and “We Live In Brooklyn, Baby.” Tickets ($40) can be purchased through the club’s website. 10 PM.