Literary Event of the Week: Pie and Whiskey at Washington Hall

Pie and Whiskey is a popular reading series in Spokane and Missoula. Headlined by ex-Seattle author Kate Lebo and Sam Ligon, the series offers writers that most blessed of gifts: a theme.

Themes are a blessing, but some themes are too broad to work with, and others are too specific. Ask ten thousand writers to come up with stories about “war,” for instance, and you’ll get a spray of stories in response that will be impossible to categorize. But ask them to tell stories about the Battle of Thermopylae in particular and you’ll likely get too many stories that are way too similar.

But “pie and whiskey” falls right into the Goldilocks zone of themes. People love whiskey and people hate whiskey. Most right-thinking Americans love pie, but there are lots of different kinds of pie. The words evoke the idea of indulgence — likely, overindulgence —and warmth and togetherness. Pie is family, whiskey is friends. Both can go wrong.

Like any great anthology, the outliers in the new Pie & Whiskey collection are the chapters that grab your attention first. Shawn Vestal, for instance, writes a short piece about Frito Pie that stretches the definition of “pie” to its breaking point. But many of the very best pieces hew right to the heart of the theme: Gary Lilley’s poem “Meet Me in the Bottom” ends with a line that sums the entire anthology up in a handful of syllables: “I need to get the cold out of my bones.”

Standout contributors to Pie & Whiskey include Ed Skoog, Debra Magpie Earling, Margot Kahn, and Nicole Sheets. The book also contains some recipes for pie and cocktails; I haven’t tried any of them, but I have eaten Lebo’s pies before and I can attest to their extreme deliciousness. Lebo teaches pie-making classes, so if you follow the directions you’ll likely come away with something resembling a good pie.

This Wednesday, Town Hall will present a Pie & Whiskey reading at Washington Hall. Tickets are ten bucks, but that gets you a shot of whiskey. (This reading is for 21-and-over-types; I suspect that we teetotalers are pretty much screwed when it comes to discounts, though maybe you can will your entry shot over to a friend.) Readers include Ligon and Lebo, along with Tod Marshall, Elizabeth Colen, Robert Lashley, Jess Walter, Kristen Young, Lilley, and Vestal. Lashley, Lebo, and Walter are world-class readers. The other folks on the bill are pretty great, too. And even if half of the readers were having an off-night, there’s still likely to be plenty of carbs and booze onhand to keep you warm.

Washington Hall, 153 14th Ave,, 7 pm, $10, 21+.