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Friday 5/3 - Thursday 5/9

3 FRIDAY In addition to publishing the Review of Contemporary Fiction and Context magazine, the nonprofit Center for Book Culture is home to Dalkey Archive Press, which started off in 1984 by reissuing out-of-print avant-garde titles by the likes of Gertrude Stein and Djuna Barnes, and has continued to publish innovative and "difficult" fiction by such writers as Robert Creeley and Ford Madox Ford. Tonight's benefit for the center and the press features local writers reading from their favorite Dalkey Archive titles: Michael Anania from Gilbert Sorrentino's Crystal Vision, Beth Nugent from stories by Harry Mathews, and Aleksandar Hemon from Danilo Kis's A Tomb for Boris Davidovich. The event starts at 6:15 at the School of the Art Institute, 112 N. Michigan, room 1311. The suggested donation of $10 covers admission and a copy of one of the featured books ($25 gets you all three). Call 312-263-7710 for more info.

Who's that girl? Between acts at the seventh annual benefit for the Howard Brown Health Center--which bills itself as "an outrageously seductive evening with Chicago's most innovative and talented female impersonators"--organizers will auction off a drag makeover; the lucky winner will be whisked backstage to get dolled up by the pros, then appear with the rest of the girls in the final production number. The Brown center provides health care to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities and operates the Brown Elephant resale shops. The event will also include a raffle featuring prizes like a trip to Fire Island and a Halsted Street shopping spree. The show runs both tonight and tomorrow, May 4, at the Park West, 322 W. Armitage. Doors open at 7; the action starts an hour later. Tickets range from $40 to $100 and can be purchased at Unabridged Bookstore, 3251 N. Broadway; the Suntan Club, 5353 N. Clark; Borderline Records, 3333 N. Broadway; or by calling 773-388-8997. Raffle tickets are $5 each or $25 for six.

4 SATURDAY Yay, it's free comic book day! With this weekend's opening of the Spider-Man movie, a consortium of publishers, led by giants Marvel and DC, is hoping to introduce (or reintroduce) readers to the adventures of Peter Parker, the Justice League, Batman, and Wonder Woman, among others. The promotion is nationwide; you can pick up your freebies locally between 11 and 5 at Graham Crackers--69 E. Madison (312-629-1810) and 2562 N. Clark (773-665-2010)--or between 11 and 10 at Chicago Comics, 3244 N. Clark (773-528-1983).

It's kind of weird, I guess, but one of my first crushes was on primatologist and activist Jane Goodall, inspired by her 1971 book In the Shadow of Man. Goodall, recently appointed a United Nations Messenger of Peace, will talk about the Jane Goodall Institute's environmental and humanitarian programs today at 1 and 2 PM at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 2430 N. Cannon Dr. She'll sign copies of her new book, Minding Animals: Awareness, Emotions, and Heart, at 2:30 PM. It's free with museum admission, which is $7 for adults, $5 for seniors and students, and $4 for kids ages 3 to 12 (Chicago residents get a $1 discount). Advance tickets are available on-line at www.museumtix.com; call 773-755-5100 for more.

5 SUNDAY The Midwest Book-hunters Spring Book Fair brings together over 60 sellers of used and rare books and affords them the opportunity to display a wide variety of their wares: don't expect to find a paperback copy of Nora Roberts's latest best-seller, but do expect to find some rare first editions, out-of-print titles, illustrated books, maps, and works on Chicago history at prices ranging from five bucks for the commonplace to several thousand for the unique. The fair runs today from 10 to 5 at Loyola University's Joseph J. Gentile Center, 6525 N. Sheridan. Admission is $6, $4 for students, and a portion of the proceeds benefits the school. Call 773-989-2200 for more information.

There ought to be plenty of pickin' and grinnin' today at the annual fiddlers' picnic sponsored by the University of Chicago Folklore Society. It's a free "make your own music party," and picnickers are encouraged to bring instruments of all kinds to participate in a jam session of bluegrass, blues, and Irish tunes. Grills will be provided for cooking; guests are welcome to play along or just listen and eat. It's from noon to dusk in Hutchinson Courtyard at 57th and University on the U. of C. campus (in case of bad weather, it'll move inside to Hutchinson Commons). Call 773-702-9793 for more info.

You can take your ice skates back out from wherever you stashed them. Navy Pier is extending the season of its free Skyline Stage ice-skating rink through today. Skate rental is $3.50. Rink hours are 10 to 7, and Navy Pier is at 600 E. Grand (312-595-5100).

6 MONDAY "It is nearly 1:00 AM as I stand on the top of Monks Mound looking up at the stars, scattered to infinity. At my feet are countless motes of dust, finite perhaps here in the Central Mississippi Valley, but an intimate part of the vast cosmos beyond. They had the same origin, those stars and this dust. A long time ago, before the Big Bang, none of this existed: nothing in the sky above me or the space below. All was blackness and void..." So writes DePaul University art professor emeritus Sally A. Kitt Chappell in the prologue to her book Cahokia: Mirror of the Cosmos. In 1992 Chappell and her husband took a trip to Saint Louis and decided on impulse to visit Cahokia in southwestern Illinois. She was so intrigued by the Native American city, which in 1050 had a population of 10,000 to 20,000, that she began to research its history, studying the work of astronomers, geographers, geologists, anthropologists, and archaeologists. She'll talk about her book today at 4 in the DePaul University Art Gallery, 2350 N. Kenmore, room 400; it's free. Call 773-325-7506.

7 TUESDAY Tibetan nuns Choeying Kunsang and Pasang Lhamo were incarcerated by the Chinese government in 1994 and 1995, respectively, for "endangering state security." They were both released in 1999, and will talk about their experiences today as part of an ongoing program on torture in the contemporary world hosted by the Evanston/Rogers Park chapter of Amnesty International. The nuns are on a U.S. tour to raise awareness of human rights abuses in Tibet. They'll speak at 7 PM in Northwestern University's Parkes Hall, room 122, at the southeast corner of Chicago and Sheridan in Evanston. Call 773-338-6020.

Having spent some formative years on a farm, I always suspected that Mary Ann wasn't quite the innocent Kansas ingenue she was made out to be on Gilligan's Island. Guess I'll be proved right tonight when Dawn Wells joins the cast of the open-ended run of The Vagina Monologues and gets to talk about her pudenda. Wells will share the stage with comedian and Oak Park native Judy Tenuta and local actress Miriam Plotkin at the Apollo Theater, 2540 N. Lincoln. Performances are Tuesdays through Fridays at 8, Saturdays at 6 and 9, and Sundays at 3:30 and 7; tickets range from $24.75 to $55. Call 773-935-6100.

8 WEDNESDAY Mark Perlberg, a founding member of the Poetry Center of Chicago, once had the ignominious experience of being booted off of Studs Terkel's radio show. But it wasn't his fault: a fellow poet was also on the air, but had spent his time filling up on airline bottles of booze in the bathroom before the show; Studs didn't appreciate it and canned them both. Perlberg, who conducts poetry workshops at the Newberry Library, will read from his latest collection, The Impossible Toystore, tonight at 6:30 at a Poetry Center event in the ballroom of the School of the Art Institute, 112 S. Michigan. No word on whether Perlberg will dish drunk-poet dirt. Tickets are $10; call 312-899-1229 for more info.

9 THURSDAY It's hard to believe that In These Times has been rousing the rabble for 25 years. Tonight the progressive bimonthly magazine is celebrating with a party at HotHouse (31 E. Balbo). Hosted by Studs Terkel and Laura Washington, the event will feature words from contributors Salim Muwakkil, David Moberg, Joel Bleifuss, Susan Douglas, and James Weinstein. There'll also be a signing of Appeal to Reason: 25 Years "In These Times," a collection compiled by managing editor Craig Aaron, and DJ'd music. A $100 benefit reception starts at 6:30; the doors will open to the masses at 8:30--tickets are $10. Call 773-772-0199, ext. 236, for more information.

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