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If the upper and lower boundaries for a collection of 35 essays by a well-known playwright are, respectively, thoughtful, polished pieces and warmed-over notebook scribblings, Wendy Wasserstein’s Shiksa Goddess (Or, How I Spent My Forties) happily comes closer to the former. There are one or two duds among the mostly magazine pieces—a brief play about New York real estate prices, for example, seems parochial. But she saves the best for last—the final two pieces follow her older sister’s death with her daughter’s premature birth less than two years later. By the time the collection covers these milestones, the reader knows Wasserstein quite well—her bonds with her sister and her mother, the joy she finds in spending Thanksgiving with her family. As a whole, the collection is, of course, messier, and less streamlined, than most good drama. Still, though such a work can’t match the narrative punch of the theater, the diversions and contradictions embedded along the way give it a unique resonance. Wasserstein speaks with Arena Stage director Molly Smith at 6 p.m. at the Ripley Center, 1100 Jefferson Drive SW. $14. (202) 357-3030. (Joe Dempsey)