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Alexie Takes Familiar Themes New Ways

Say what you want about the success of screenwriters who make millions, about poets who earn fame as performance artists or playwrights whose work gets interpreted both by Shakespearean actors and elementary-school drama clubs, the mark of modern literary success still remains the novel.

And that’s the club that Wellpinit native and current Seattle resident Sherman Alexie has finally entered. His novel “Reservation Blues” (Atlantic Monthly Press, 306 pages, $21) has finally reached bookstore shelves.

“Reservations Blues” will be the focus of Alexie’s appearance at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Auntie’s Bookstore, Main and Washington.

Alexie’s novel should be familiar to most of his fans. He details the experiences of an all-Indian rock band called Coyote Springs. The leader, Thomas Builds-the-Fire, writes songs that are really sad stories put to music. And the band’s guitarist uses an instrument infused with the magic of legendary bluesman Robert Johnson.

Johnson, who died in 1938, is alive in the novel. Turns out he only tricked death, which is one of the themes the novel explores: Is it possible to determine one’s own destiny, even a destiny so marked by a painful past? And, if so, is it possible to change it for the better?

There are other themes, too, mainly involving traditional and contemporary Indian issues, all of which Alexie has explored in his previous poems and short stories. There are even familiar characters, such as Lester FallsApart, the character that Alexie occasionally becomes at his readings.

Some or all will probably show up with the author Thursday at Auntie’s, where Alexie is scheduled to appear with guitarist Jim Boyd.

The reading is free. But get there early; seating is limited.

The kids’ corner

No one likes to be scared more than children, and Peg Kehret knows that more than most.

Kehret is a specialist in the art of scaring kids. Winner of the 1995 Young Readers’ Choice Award for her book “Terror at the Zoo,” Kehret is the author of a young-adult publishing series titled “Frightmares.”

And she’ll be reading from her second installment in the series, “Bone Breath and the Vandals,” at 10 a.m. Saturday at Children Corner Bookshop, on the skywalk level of River Park Square, 814 W. Main.

The reading is free and open to the public.

Not for the birds

If you relish writing contests, and especially if you are a fan of Daphne du Maurier, you might want to consider answering the question, “Who Was Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca?”

A panel of international authors, in association with Soda Creek Press, are sponsoring the contest. The prize is round-trip tickets for two to England to visit du Maurier’s Cornwall estate.

The deadline is June 15. Send your entries to “Who Was Rebecca” Contest, Manderley, P.O. Box 880, Boonville, CA 95415. For further information, call (800) 722-0726.

On the shelves

Anthropology buffs, especially those interested in Native American cultures, might be interested in a new book published by University of Oklahoma Press.

“Rifles, Blankets & Beads: Identity, History and the Northern Athapaskan Potlatch” (191 pages, $24.95) by William E. Simeone is a study of the Tanacross, a segment of the Athapaskan people of eastcentral Alaska.

Simeone, an anthropologist working in Alaska, lived for several years with the Tanacross and made them the subject of his Ph.D. dissertation.

The reader board

Spokane poet Paige Kenney will read from her collection “Mother’s Day” at 7 p.m. tonight at the Anaconda Espresso and Poetry, 510 S. Freya. Admission is free.

Derrick Jensen, author of “Listening to the Land: Conversations About Nature, Culture and Eros,” will read from his book at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Auntie’s Bookstore.

Brazilian author Paulo Coelho, author of “The Pilgrimage: A Contemporary Quest for Ancient Wisdom,” will read from his book at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Auntie’s Bookstore.

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