Our four top literary picks for fall 

Chicago Humanities Festival, Alison Bechdel, Daniel Clowes, Women's Voices Weekend, and more

Common (see Chicago Humanities Festival)

Common (see Chicago Humanities Festival)

Alison Bechdel

Alison Bechdel is a formidable cartoonist in her own right as the creator of Dykes to Watch Out For. But she visits Chicago this fall in her capacity as editor of The Best American Comics 2011 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). That's a lofty responsibility, considering previous editors of the series have been genre luminaries Harvey Pekar, Chris Ware, Lynda Barry, Charles Burns, and Neil Gaiman.

A lofty responsibility—and a daunting task, as Bechdel notes in her introduction. "I was prepared for powerful work by the usual suspects, but who were all these other people? Apparently everyone and his brother (and with less frequency, his sister . . .) was knocking off graphic novels, graphic memoirs, graphic journalism, and weird genre-bending hybrids of all of these things, with skill and ferocious industry."

As it turns out, there aren't so many of the "usual suspects" among Bechdel's 27 selections—maybe Joe Sacco, Chris Ware, and Jaime Hernandez. But her picks lean more toward the everyone-and-his-brother (and sister) category, and these lesser-known up-and-comers are the ones I'm most interested in. Locals making appearances in the book include Mairead Case with "Soixante Neuf," an illustrated story about Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg, and of course Ware, an Oak Parker. —Jerome Ludwig Sat 10/8, 7 PM, Quimby's, 1854 W. North, 773-342-0910, quimbys.com. F

Daniel Clowes

Chicago native Daniel Clowes has been drawing comics for decades, though it probably took the 2001 film adaptation of his comic book Ghost World for his work to register much outside of comic-geek fandom. (Come to think of it, that's probably when actress Scarlett Johansson first registered with the general geekdom too). As Ghost World shows, Clowes is adept at depicting loneliness and alienation, and that sense runs throughout the panels in The Death-Ray, a collection published in vibrant color by Montreal-based Drawn & Quarterly. In one strip a teen wanting to be cool tries his first cigarette. It makes him sick, he throws up . . . but then he wakes up the next day "filled with superhuman energy." Every lonely and alienated teen's wish.

Based in Oakland, California, and fresh off receiving his 2011 PEN Center USA literary award for graphic literature, Clowes appears here with fellow cartoonist Seth, author of The Great Northern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonists. —Jerome Ludwig Thu 10/13, 7 PM, Unity Temple, 875 Lake, Oak Park, booktable.net, $10.

Women's Voices Weekend

Women & Children First launches Women's Voices Weekend with the hope that it'll become an annual event to "celebrate the voices of acclaimed women writers and offer readers a chance to converse with and learn from them." Authors Achy Obejas (Ruins), Nami Mun (Miles From Nowhere), Esther Hershenhorn (S Is for Story: A Writer's Alphabet), and Dorothy Allison (Bastard Out of Carolina) [Allison replaces Staceyann Chin, who had to cancel] will teach writing workshops at the Swedish American Museum on Saturday; topics range from conflict in fiction to children's books. That evening, the bookstore hosts a cocktail party with the authors and others from the local lit scene. On Sunday, Booklist editor Donna Seaman hosts a conversation at the Swedish American Museum with Obejas, Mun, and Chin, who will also read their work. —Julia Thiel Workshops: Sat 10/15, 10:30 AM-4 PM (each session is an hour and a half), 5211 N. Clark, $40 per workshop. Cocktail party: Sat 10/15, 6-8 PM, 5233 N. Clark, $10. Readings: Sun 10/16, 4:30-6 PM, 5211 N. Clark, $10. 773-769-9299 or wcfwomensvoicesweekend@gmail.com.

Chicago Humanities Festival

The 22nd annual Chicago Humanities Festival brings together an eclectic assortment of writers, artists, scientists, scholars, and performers to address the topic of technology (or as they style it, tech•knowledgē) in dozens of programs stretched out over nearly two weeks, including lectures, readings, discussions, and theatrical and musical presentations.

Preceding the main event are two Festival Days, one in Evanston on Sunday, October 16, the other in Hyde Park on Sunday, October 23. Each serves as a sort of mini CHF. Single events are $5; day passes are $45.

The festival proper runs November 2 through 13 at various venues around the city. Here's just a wee sample of notable programs among the abundance of CHF riches:

Sci-fi novelist William Gibson discusses "Technology's Tomorrow" with Northwestern senior lecturer Bill Savage (Sun 10/16, noon, Ethel M. Barber Theater, Northwestern University)

Performance artist Laurie Anderson chats with Steppenwolf Theatre artistic director Martha Lavey (Wed 11/2, 7:30 PM, Francis W. Parker School)

Rapper Common comments on the "History of Hip-Hop" in a Reader-sponsored event (Sat 11/5, 6 PM, UIC Forum)

Composer Stephen Sondheim receives the Chicago Tribune Literary Prize (Sun 11/6, 10 AM, Symphony Center)

Dan Sinker (The F***ing Epic Twitter Quest of @MayorEmanuel) talks about "Twitterature and @MayorEmanuel" (Sun 11/13, 3:30 PM, Harold Washington Library)

Jonathan Franzen (Freedom) and Isabel Wilkerson (The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic of America's Great Migration) receive the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prizes for fiction and nonfiction, respectively (Sun 11/6, 2 PM, UIC Forum)

Umberto Eco reads from his latest novel, The Prague Cemetery (Sun 11/13, 3 PM, Northwestern University School of Law) —Jerome Ludwig 10/16 and 10/23, 11/2-11/13, chicagohumanities.org, 312-494-9509, $5-$40 per program.

Read our top for fall or check out the rest of our Fall Arts coverage

Also this fall . . .

SEPTEMBER

Roger Ebert presents his memoir, Life Itself. Thu 9/22, 7 PM, Barnes & Noble, 55 Old Orchard Center, Skokie, 847-676-2230, barnesandnoble.com; Sat 9/24, 2 PM, Barnes & Noble, 1441 W. Webster, 773-871-3610, barnesandnoble.com..

Poetry Off the Shelf Poet Raul Zarita (Song for His Disappeared Love) reads his work. Tue 9/27, 7 PM, Poetry Foundation, 61 W. Superior, 312-787-7070, poetryfoundation.org.

Neal Stephenson reads from his latest novel, Reamde. Wed 9/28, 7 PM, Unity Temple, 875 Lake, Oak Park, 708-445-8955, booktable.net, $10.

Anne Elizabeth Moore (Unmarketable: Brandalism, Copyfighting, Mocketing and the Erosion of Integrity et al) presents Cambodian Grrrl: Self-Publishing in Phnom Penh. Thu 9/29, 7 PM, Quimby's Bookstore, 1854 W. North, 773-342-0910, quimbys.com.

OCTOBER

Roger Ebert presents his memoir, Life Itself. Sat 10/1, 1 PM, Newberry Library, 60 W. Walton, 312-255-3700, newberry.org.

Dmitry Samarov Book-release celebration for Samarov's new collection, Hack: Stories From a Chicago Cab. 21+. Sat 10/1, 4-8 PM, Rainbo Club, 1150 N. Damen, 773-489-5999.

Todd Dills The2ndHand editor Dills launches All Hands On: The2ndHand After 10, 2000-2011, a Reader. Mon 10/3, 7 PM, Quimby's Bookstore, 1854 W. North, 773-342-0910, quimbys.com.

Michael Ondaatje (The English Patient) reads from his latest novel, The Cat's Table. Thu 10/6, 6 PM, Fullerton Hall, Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan, 312-443-3600, $20.

Poetry Day W.S. Merwin reads his work for the 57th annual Poetry Day. Thu 10/6, 6 PM, Harold Washington Library Center, auditorium, 400 S. State, 312-787-7070, poetryfoundation.org.

Jane Lynch presents her memoir, Happy Accidents. Sun 10/9, 1 PM, Women & Children First, 5233 N. Clark, 773-769-9299, womenandchildrenfirst.com (tickets available with book purchase from Women & Children First).

Tim Kinsella celebrates the release of his debut novel, The Karaoke Singer's Guide to Self-Defense. Tue 10/11, 6:30 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433, hideoutchicago.com, $1.

One Book, One Chicago This year's selection for the CPL's citywide reading program is Saul Bellow's The Adventures of Augie March. Novelist Martin Amis discusses the book. Tue 10/18, 6 PM, Harold Washington Library Center, auditorium, 400 S. State, 312-747-8191, chipublib.org.

Poetry Off the Shelf Poet Terrance Hayes (Lighthead) reads his work. Thu 10/20, 7 PM, Poetry Foundation, 61 W. Superior, 312-787-7070, poetryfoundation.org.

Humanities Day The University of Chicago presents the 33rd annual Humanities Day, with lectures, readings, discussions, tours, and exhibitions. Sat 10/22, 9:30 AM-4:30 PM, Stuart Hall, University of Chicago, 5835 S. Greenwood, 773-702-4723, humanitiesday2011.uchicago.edu.

Poetry Off the Shelf "Women's Voices From Ireland" with poets Eilean Ni Chuilleanain, Rita Ann Higgins, Caitriona O'Reilly, and Leontia Flynn. Sat 10/26, 7 PM, Poetry Foundation, 61 W. Superior, 312-787-7070, poetryfoundation.org.

Men Undressed Release party for the anthology Men Undressed: Women Writers on the Male Sexual Experience, edited by Stacy Bierlein, Gina Frangello, Cris Mazza and Kat Meads. Fri 10/28, 7:30 PM, Women & Children First, 5233 N. Clark, 773-769-9299, womenandchildrenfirst.com.

NOVEMBER

Kathie Bergquist launches the anthology Windy City Queer: LGBTQ Dispatches From the Third Coast; she'll be joined by contributors Achy Obejas, Goldie Goldbloom, Sharon Bridgforth, Robert McDonald, and Gregg Shapiro. Thu 11/3, 7 PM, Women & Children First, 5233 N. Clark, 773-769-9299, womenandchildrenfirst.com.

David Sedaris reads stories from his collection Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary. Thu 11/12, 8 PM, Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Pkwy., 800-982-2787, auditoriumtheatre.org, $42.50-$57.50.

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Agenda Teaser

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