The write stuff: Writer Mona Simpson has a real gift for weaving fiction out of the threads of autobiography. What's really amazing is how she manages to do it without boring anyone to tears. Simpson's notable 1986 debut novel, Anywhere But Here, and its followup, The Lost Father, gave first-person insights into the hardships of growing up in a splintered, fatherless contemporary family. Her third and latest book, A Regular Guy, again dallies with such themes, but in a new voice that incorporates a character based more than incidentally on Simpson's brother, Apple Computer maven Steve Jobs.
For her sensitive way of handling lifelike incidents in an imaginatively crafted literary infrastructure, Simpson will receive this year's Evil Companions Literary Award, given annually by CSU's Colorado Review literary journal and the Tattered Cover to an author who writes about or has ties to the West. Named in homage to a bygone circle of Denver journalists who used to drink and gab together in the '50s and '60s, the award will be presented at a reading, book signing and reception from 6 to 8 at the Oxford Hotel, 1600 17th St. Admission to the event, which includes a one-year subscription to the review, is $35 ($20 students, $60 couple); call 1-970-491-5449 for reservations.
Out of Africa: Don't call it the Dark Continent anymore. The real Africa is the motherland of a thousand cultural lights, from joyful, spirited dance forms to powerful, politically charged poetry. The former will be the focus of a week-long learning celebration with the Chuck Davis Community Dance Project-Sankofa!, an African-American ensemble offering a variety of workshops and programs on West African dance and drumming. Davis, who's made it a lifelong quest to promote African traditions, will first host It Takes a Village: A Yado Workshop for Youth and Families tonight from 6 to 8 at the Eulipions Youth Institute, 2425 Welton St. The emphasis of the multi-arts program falls squarely on the family part, and admission is free. Tomorrow from 2 to 4, a pair of ensemble drummers give an African drum class at the Moyo Nguvu Cultural Arts Center, 1648 Gaylord St.; then Davis gives an intermediate-level dance class from 5 to 7 at the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Theatre, 119 Park Ave. West. Both classes require a $10 registration fee in advance. And finally, Davis and troupe will assemble at the Boulder Public Library Auditorium to provide a lively introduction to the film Dancing Through West Africa, which screens at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow as part of the library's ongoing free film series. All events are sponsored by the Colorado Dance Festival; call 442-7666 for information or class registration.
The poetry end of things will be handled with flair tonight by Boulder's Left Hand Book Collective, which hosts an 8:30 p.m. reading by South African poets Dennis Brutus and Laurence Paverd. Offering an interesting juxtaposition pairing Brutus, a black man who has written widely on his imprisonment under apartheid law, and Paverd, a white man who writes about South African inequities from a different, though sympathetic, perspective, the event also will include a first-come, first-served open-reading segment. Left Hand is at 1825 Pearl St., upstairs from the Wild Oats Market; call 443-8252 or 402-0375.
On the road again: If Texas is like a nation all its own, it's no wonder Austin is its capital. Take a look at Austin's hotbed of a music community: The Lone Star seat harbors more American roots-music originals per square inch than nearly any other city we can think of--La La Land included. Blues, folk, rock, country, Tejano--if the idiom has a name, you can probably find it somewhere in Austin.
If there's any one standout hallmark in Austin's music, it would have to be a kind of human grit--that age-old dust swept up by weathered storytellers who still know how to have a damn good time. And guitar-slinging singer-songwriter Jimmy LaFave--performing tonight at the Mercury Cafe in conjunction with the Swallow Hill Music Association's Best of Texas Series--fits that mold like a glove. Down-home and eclectic, LaFave and his band go on at 8; for tickets, $10 to $12, call 1-800-444-SEAT. The Mercury is located at 2199 California St.
April 12 San Luis rays: One of the state's oldest, richest and best-preserved cultures will have its day in the sun at KUVO-FM radio's annual Canciones del Pasado/ Songs of the Past concert, taking place tonight at 7 at the Temple Events Center, 1595 Pearl St. Spotlighting musicians and troubadour-style theatrical performers of the San Luis Valley region of southern Colorado and northern New Mexico, the folkloric celebration will also feature a presentation of traditional children's games and a reception with regional dishes available for a minimal cost. General admission is $5 per person; to reserve tickets in advance, call 480-9272.
Boston beings: The Bug Performance and Media Art Center is shipping in East Coast experimental musician Ken Field tonight for an unusual performance featuring saxophone and percussion works from Subterranea, a well-received O.O. Discs album released last year. Additionally, Field, best known as a member of Boston's weird-music ensemble Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, will present animation works created by his wife and collaborator, Sesame Street filmmaker Karen Aqua, and enhanced by Field's original soundtrack material. Tickets for the one-night-only performance are $6 ($4 members, students and seniors); call 477-5977. The Bug is at 3654 Navajo St. in the Highland Arts District.