MONDAY & TUESDAY

When Dorothy Allison set out to write her last book, the brief memoir Two or Three Things I Know for Sure, she began with a poem, “I’ll tell you the truth/I’ll tell you a lie/You will not know which is one, which is the other/You will not know, and it will not matter.” Allison has confessed that, after writing the highly autobiographical 1992 novel Bastard Out of Carolina, clearing up the differences (in her mind) between which family stories were true and which were fiction proved difficult. Now, out comes her second novel, Cavedweller, an intimidating release for the author in the wake of becoming a National Book Award finalist and a best seller with massive crossover appeal (unprecedented for a lesbian Southern writer). But from Page One, Allison holds readers captive once again. Since Bastard was Allison’s story, readers may have feared that she told all or would start to recycle, but Cavedweller establishes her as a complex, graceful, relentlessly truthful novelist. Where her first novel was about getting out, the second is about going back, this time from Venice Beach, Calif., to Cayro, Ga., with a hard-living Steve Nicksesque narrator, Delia Byrd, and her teenage daughter, Cissy. In Allison’s hands, the matters of twisted, scarred hearts have never been sculpted with such clarity, though whose story she’s recording is not (and it does not matter). On her 1995 book tour, Allison stated that she had about seven more books in her head that she wanted to write. I wait impatiently for each one. Allison signs Cavedweller from 6-7 p.m. Monday, March 30, at Super Crown, 11 Dupont Circle NW. Free. (202) 319-1374; and reads at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 31, at the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s Hammer Auditorium, 17th & New York Ave. NW. Free. (202) 639-1727; in conjunction with the Corcoran’s “Ida Applebroog: Nothing Personal, Paintings 1987-1997” exhibit. (Ginger Eckert)