THURSDAY

Novelist Jane Smiley is a literary exception—a serious, sober writer who can also be laugh-out-loud funny (as in 1995’s Moo), a critics’ darling who, miraculously, sells books. No shocker, then, that Smiley’s work is even starting to receive the kind of attention normally reserved for Stephen King or Tom Clancy, with spinoffs and screen adaptations sprouting like crab grass. Her languid, destroying novel A Thousand Acres, a tragedy of incest played out in Iowa cornfields, won the Pulitzer in 1992 and was given a big-screen, big-budget treatment last year. Currently, a stage adaptation of her novella Good Will—another portrait of familial disintegration—is playing off-Broadway. And her latest, the sprawling, just-published The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton, has already been sold to CBS, which plans to prune Lidie’s adventures so they’ll fit neatly into a two-night, four-hour miniseries. Let’s hope they find the right actress to play Lidie, the novel’s narrator, homely heroine, and greatest triumph. Married to an abolitionist, settled in the Territory (Kansas in the 1850s), and ready to begin a family, Lidie finds her world uprooted when the increasing violence between slaveholders and abolitionists converges on her marriage. From that point on Lidie’s adventures are peppered with historical detail and driven by a proto-feminist sensibility making the stuff of tall tales and legends—unbelievable, sure, but nevertheless human and moving. The author reads from The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton at 7 p.m.Thursday, April 9, at Politics & Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919. (Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa)