This Friday marks the inaugural event of the Triple Dare Reading Series, a joint venture from neighboring (and seemingly reinvigorated) indie stalwarts Reading Frenzy and the Independent Publishing Resource Center. If the premiere program is any indication, Triple Dare looks poised to set a new standard for well-rounded fun and quality smarts.

Author Vendela Vida—better known to many as the editor of The Believer—brings some welcome star power to the event's headlining slot. ("Lit-mag" star power, not "George Clooney" star power, granted.) Vida will read from "Soleil," which was just anthologized in Zadie Smith's The Book of Other People.

Less celebrated but even more exciting is Triple Dare's inclusion of Apart from That, an amazing, truly independent film from Mount Vernon, Washington directors Randy Walker and Jennifer Shainin. Lauded on the festival circuit, Apart from That was (unsurprisingly) ignored by film distributors, so the directors are tirelessly promoting the film themselves, with a beautifully printed book/DVD/soundtrack combo of the same name. Apart from That's Carver-esque storylines are brought into intense focus with non-professional Puget Sound locals who are genuinely fascinating, rather than affectedly quirky, and are shot with an immediate, almost documentary grittiness that picks up the strange nuances of closely observed human behavior. Apart from That runs a full two hours, so only clips will be shown tonight, but the directors will be there with DVDs for sale.

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To round the bill out, Shelley Short serenades the audience with that heartbreaking voice of hers; creative chameleon and pink-haired cutie Skye has a surprise up her sleeve for everybody; and the audience will be subjected to a corny creative writing "dare"—a feature that I, personally, could live without.

One month ago, I never would have believed that Portland needed a new reading series, but Triple Dare appears to be uncommonly well curated, and loaded with proven entities and lesser-known gems alike. With a great author event, kick-ass indie filmmaking, a mini-concert, and other assorted treats, Triple Dare raises the bar of intelligent entertainment in '08.

SLAY Film Fest
In person at the Clinton St. Theater 10/29 & 10/30