Next Tuesday, Feb 4, Powell's has quite the trifecta of conflicting events:

At their downtown store, local literary heartthrob Willy Vlautin reads from his new book The Free. (Tune in to this week's books section for a review; I'm reading it now. So far so good...)

Out at the Cedar Hills Store—the ranking Powell's now that downtown is in the throes of a remodel—sci-fi writer Jeff VanderMeer. I really liked the one of VanderMeer's novels I've read; it was about sentient mold, if I remember correctly. He's a very smart, award-winning author, and he'll be celebrating the release of a new trilogy.

And finally, at the Newmark Theatre, noted author Isabelle Allende shares her first foray into crime fiction with Ripper, a contemporary thriller about a young gamer in San Francisco. If you missed her interview on All Things Considered, do yourself a favor: She's convivial, funny, and really hates Hollywood. It's great. Tickets are $38.99 and include a copy of the book.

An aside: I've developed this really bad habit, whenever really big name authors are in town, of comparing the relative cost of their events in Portland and Seattle. Allende's appearance at Seattle Town Hall last spring was free, as readings at the nonprofit cultural center often are. A bookseller friend was visiting from New York last week, and when she asked about the respective literary cultures of Portland and Seattle, I was forced to say that I've long suspected Seattle to be the more engaged city—and it certainly helps that at the center of their city, there's a literary nonprofit focused on providing affordable access to big-deal authors. (Richard Powers is there this weekend, in conversation with Nancy Pearl. $5. Sigh.) Powell's tends to require a book purchase for off-site events (a major bummer if you've already bought the book or if you want to go with a partner/spouse and don't need two copies of the book), while Literary Arts' reading series is subscription-only, ie "for rich people." They do occasionally host free readings, however—in a few weeks, for example, Lemony Snicket will be in town for an afternoon appearance.