Sarah Vowell, in a suspiciously yearbook-like photo

The Early Bookworm Catches the Seat

Grab your toothbrush. It’s such a big week at the library, you’ll be tempted to find a quiet spot in the stacks and set up camp (maybe somewhere in the 700s: Recreation). At 6 p.m. Monday the 20th, Writers on the Record’s Victoria Lautman sits down with the best-selling author Alaa Al Aswany, the Egyptian-born, Chicago-educated dentist whose most recent novel, Chicago, tracks the tumult, passion, and ambition of the immigrant experience in our city. Next up at 6 p.m. Wednesday the 22nd is David Macaulay, the MacArthur “genius,” Caldecott medalist, and author/illustrator of The Way Things Work. And at 6 p.m. Thursday the 23rd, author and humorist Sarah Vowell (This American Life, Salon) discusses and signs The Wordy Shipmates, her new book about the Puritans and that pesky separation of church and state. All three events take place in the Pritzker Auditorium of the Harold Washington Library Center (400 S. State St.), and while admission is free, RSVPs are recommended: 312-747-4050.

Best Bets for Things to Do This Week

Another big back-to-back combo: Fourteen West African dancers pummel the Museum of Contemporary Art stage (220 E. Chicago Ave.; 312-397-4010) in Cie Heddy Maalem’s athletic take on Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring), set in turbulent Lagos, Nigeria. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Friday the 17th and Saturday the 18th, and 3 p.m. Sunday the 19th. Tickets are $25. Meanwhile, over at the Auditorium Theatre (50 E. Congress Pkwy.; 312-902-1500), The Joffrey Ballet presents a bill split between premieres and works that haven’t been staged in 20 years—most notably Postcards, the last piece Robert Joffrey choreographed for the company. The show runs through Sunday the 26th; tickets are $25 to $145.

And one more two-fer: The Chicago International Film Festival continues with more screenings than you could see in ten years—so let us help narrow the field. Don’t miss Synecdoche, New York, the directorial debut from screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), who will be on hand for the 7:30 p.m. show Sunday the 19th at AMC River East (322 E. Illinois St.). Tickets are $12. And from one of Chicago magazine’s own 2008 singles, the actor, producer, writer, and now director Morocco Omari, comes the short film (Mis)leading Man, which screens before the feature Of Boys and Men at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday the 21st and 7:20 p.m. Saturday the 25th, also at River East. Tickets are $10.

True story: The high-security prison known as Colorado Supermax simultaneously housed the leader of the Latin Kings, the World Trade Center Bomber, the Unabomber, and the Oklahoma City Bomber. The American Theater Company (1909 W. Byron St.; 773-409-4125) uses the gripping setting as the jumping off point for Celebrity Row, about a young lawyer whose idealism bumps up against the darkest alleys of human nature. The play runs through November 16th, and tickets are $35 to $40.

You’ve always wanted to be in pictures, but Spielberg’s not calling. Opt for plan B and tote those old Christmas, wedding, and family-reunion videos to Home Movie Day at the Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington St.; 773-478-3799). Staffers from Chicago Film Archives will give quick tips on preserving flicks from 3 to 6 p.m., with screenings from 6 to 10 p.m. Entry and participation are free.

The Depression has come up often in the last few weeks. For a reminder of what, exactly, it looked like, head to the Museum of Contemporary Photography, where a selection of iconic images by Farm Security Administration photographers, including Dorothea Lange and Robert Frank, is on display now. Although the images paint a bleak picture of America, they’re incredibly beautiful as works of art. Lange’s son, Daniel Dixon, gives a talk about his mother at 6 p.m. Thursday the 23rd. The exhibition runs through November 1st, and admission is free.

October may be Chicago Artists Month, but as local apartment dwellers know, it’s also moving month—a serendipitous intersection that describes this year’s Around the Coyote Fall Arts Festival to a T. The annual fest has relocated from its longtime home in Wicker Park to the equally artsy West Loop, where a bevy of tours, films, performances, and more light up the streets from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday the 17th, noon to 10 p.m. Saturday the 18th, and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday the 19th. Entry varies by event; pick up a schedule at Plumber’s Hall (1340 W. Washington Blvd.; 773-342-6777) or visit