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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Johnson kicks off GU series

Denis Johnson, the 2007 National Book Award winner for “Tree of Smoke,” will kick off an impressive lineup of authors in Gonzaga University’s Visiting Writers Series on Sept. 22, 7:30 p.m. in the Cataldo Globe Room on campus.

Johnson’s prize-winning book is a sweeping, ambitious story about a man who joins the CIA in 1965 and is sent to Vietnam. The story explores many aspects of the American involvement there.

The New York Times called it “a massive thing and something like a masterpiece.”

Johnson’s newest book is “Nobody Move,” a noir-ish story about enforcers and tough guys. It, too, is receiving plenty of critical acclaim. He has also written plays, poetry and nonfiction.

This will be a great chance to hear Johnson, who once had a reputation as something of a recluse, talk about his work. New York magazine once called him “the dark poet of drugs, drink and alienation.”

It’s free, open to the public and no tickets are required.

Here’s the rest of the Gonzaga Visiting Writers lineup, all events in the Cataldo Globe Room at 7:30 p.m.:

Katrina Roberts, poet and Whitman College professor, Oct. 12.

Natasha Trethewey, 2007 Pulitzer winner in poetry, Nov. 9.

Sharon Olds, an American poet, Feb. 2.

Richard Kenney, poet and University of Washington prof, March 1.

Tod Marshall, poet and Gonzaga University prof, April 13.

This series is funded in part by a Humanities Washington grant.

The Jess buzz

Spokane’s own National Book Award finalist, Jess Walter, is picking up some extraordinarily good buzz for his newest book, “The Financial Lives of the Poets,” due to go on sale Sept. 22.

Publisher’s Weekly gave it a starred review, and said that Walter “does for the nation’s bleak financial landscape what he did for 9/11 in ‘The Zero’: whip-smart satire with heart.”

The Daily Beast picked it as one of its “Big Books for Fall” and called it the “ultimate something-for-everyone- don’t-skip-must-read.”

And we have advance word that Entertainment Weekly has chosen it for an upcoming fall “must” list.

I’ve already devoured my advance copy so I’ll add my own rave review: “The Financial Lives of the Poets” is America’s first great Great Recession novel.

I predict it will be a big breakout book for Walter, if the word breakout can even apply to a guy who has already won an Edgar Award, among others.

He’ll be reading at Auntie’s Bookstore on Sept. 23, 7 p.m.

‘War Dances’ on sale

Meanwhile, Sherman Alexie’s new collection of stories, “War Dances” (Grove Press, $23), will be on shelves this week.

You’ll see plenty of Spokane references; one story is set at The Spokesman-Review. The collection is an exhilarating mix of poetry and prose, comedy and pathos, one-page verses and fully fleshed-out tales.

Alexie is another National Book Award winner, and “War Dances” shows off all aspects of his inspired creativity. Look for a Spokane visit in December.

Donald Miller at Whitworth


That’s how best-selling author and memoirist Donald Miller has been described.

The author of “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life” and the best-seller “Blue Like Jazz” will discuss the relevance of the Christian faith for everyday life, Friday at 7 p.m. at Whitworth University’s Cowles Memorial Auditorium.

Miller hit The New York Times best-seller list in 2003 with “Blue Like Jazz,” which is about his experiences with God, stripped of the trappings of religion. The subtitle was “Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality.”

He’s an unlikely evangelical superstar, who has been disillusioned with “church” but not with Christian spirituality.

Admission is free for Whitworth students, faculty and staff. Tickets for the general public are $15, available at

For information, call (509) 777-4655.

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