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Get Out: Colson Whitehead hits D.C.

- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 3, 2011

✔ Pick of the Pack

Book reading

Colson Whitehead

Ten years ago, novelist Colson Whitehead received a glowing review from John Updike, uncontested giant of American arts and letters, who called the then-31-year-old Harvard graduate "the young African-American writer to watch," his prose "bubbly, clean, [and] often funny in its bursts of mock-mandarin social exposition," his writing capable of "refresh[ing] our sense of the world." Many a seasoned pro would have given his firstborn to have been the subject of Updike's praise, which appeared in the New Yorker. In retrospect, Updike sold Mr. Whitehead short. He was a writer to watch. Period. Over the course of a decade, he has written four novels and a memoir, playing the hare to plodding contemporaries Jonathan Franzen and Jeffrey Eugenides, two great writers who refuse to write more than one doorstop per decade. Mr. Whitehead's newest book is not only literary and gorgeous, it also has the potential to be a crossover hit. "Zone One" covers three days in the life of a zombie-removal squad tasked with ridding a postapocalyptic Wall Street of its undead inhabitants. Unlike the red-eyed walkers in the film "28 Weeks Later," which features a similar group of humans cleaning up London, Mr. Whitehead's zombies feed on the memory of their human pasts, making his book worthy of highbrow praise and lowbrow consumption. Nov. 5 at Politics & Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Phone: 202/364-1919. Web: www.politics-prose.com.

Art installation

'Limelight: Saturday Night'

"Limelight: Saturday Night" is proof that changing one little thing actually can change everything. On city streets across the globe, Sans facon — a collaborative art practice of British artist Tristan Surtees and French architect Charles Blanc — replaced street lights with stage lights, creating impromptu spotlights in which passers-by suddenly became performers. Footage from various experiments has regular folks busting out in dance, lovers locking lips and, at an art festival in Toronto, "a 300+ pound man running through the light with his shirt off, screaming at the top of his lungs." In honor of "Limelight's" showing at Artisphere, Mr. Blanc and Mr. Surtees set up their cameras and lights in Clarendon, an Arlington neighborhood with no shortage of Saturday-night starlets. Through Nov. 30 at Artisphere, 1101 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. Phone: 703/875-1100. Web: www.artisphere.com/.

Photo exhibit and launch party

FotoWeek DC

At $55 a head, the kickoff party for FotoWeek DC is a little rich for this art lover's blood. But really, it's good to see that the fourth annual FotoWeek DC has graduated from a somewhat parochial photo show to a citywide celebration of the best artistic, journalistic and commercial photography shot in the District. The art is good enough to have drawn a couple dozen corporate sponsors, and the display volume requires a mind-boggling 50,000 square feet of space just south of Dupont Circle as well as at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, George Washington University and the Pepco Edison Place Art Gallery. (That's not counting the various venues, listed on FotoWeek's website, that also participate in the weeklong festival.) The launch party, while pricey, will be attended by the trendiest of the trendy, and FotoWeek promises participants will get "to mingle with DC's photo luminaries." Nov. 4 at FotoWeek Central, 1800 L St. NW, and the Corcoran, 510 17th St. NW. Phone: 202/337-3686. Web: www.fotoweekdc.org/.

Story time

Rachel Goad

Technology has touched everything, including story time. Record-a-story.com enables parents and grandparents to "read bedtime stories to a child, no matter where you are" by recording a story, page by page. If it's fair to say that we lose something by communicating via text instead of voice, by email instead of pen and paper, it's also fair to say that the storytelling experience is slightly cheapened or, more charitably, incomplete when it's transmitted via a stock recording. Thankfully, children's book authors are still in the habit of criss-crossing the country and reading their work aloud to enthused kids. Rachel Goad is one such author. She reads from "Joshua Jenkins and the Cookie Jar Conundrum," about a third-grader left to his own devices in an empty kitchen who sets out to reach a just-out-of-reach cookie jar, in the children's section at Barnes & Noble. Nov. 4 at Barnes & Noble, Fair Lakes Promenade, 12193 Fair Lakes Promenade Drive, Fairfax. Phone: 703/278-0300. Web: www.barnesandnoble.com.

Anniversary party

Phillips Collection

In honor of the Phillips Collection's 90th birthday, D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray has declared Nov. 5 Phillips Collection Day. The storied gallery, one of the most prestigious in the city, is celebrating by throwing wide its doors. Everything — and we mean everything — will be free. The cupcakes will be free (while supplies last). The exhibits — "Degas' Dancers at the Barre: Point and Counterpoint" and "Renoir's Luncheon of the Boating Party and European Masterworks" — will be free. And, for the cheap, low price of absolutely nothing, visitors will get to hear ABC7's Ben Eisler sing "Happy Birthday," as well as accordion and a cappella performances by Manny Bobenrieth and the Capital Hearings, respectively. If you can't spring for FotoWeek's posh opening (or even if you can!) consider hitting the Phillips. Nov. 5 at the Phillips Collection, 1600 21st St. NW. Phone: 202/387-2151. Web: www.phillipscollection.org/.

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