"It took Moses more than two weeks to come to understand that someone wasn't fiddling with him and that indeed a black man, two shades darker than himself, owned him and any shadow he made." With these words on page nine of his 2004 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Known World, author Edward P. Jones whisks the reader full-force into a seemingly topsy-turvy world wherein a freed black slave in 1850s Virginia has become a slave owner himself. Although the powerful, poetic book is purely a product of Jones's imagination, it's based on a true but rarely discussed social phenomenon. This type of thing actually did go on. A sort of inverted companion piece to William Styron's fact-based 1967 slave-uprising novel The Confessions of Nat Turner, Jones's story might be incendiary, but his approach to it is humanizing. In the end, the story is one of corruption that points the finger not at skin color but at the mind-set behind slavery itself and the human frailty that succumbs to it. Craving power, we'll emulate anyone who wields it, Jones suggests.
Jones will be reading from The Known World, his first novel, on Monday (he has also published a highly acclaimed collection of short stories called Lost in the City). His readings of The Known World never fail to leave debate and disbelief in their wake. "I didn't have any sort of agenda politically in telling this particular story," says the Washington, D.C., native. "It's really just about human beings." 7:30 p.m. Monday, September 13. Alley Theatre, 615 Texas. For information, call 713-521-2026 or visit www.inprint-inc.org. $5, free for students and seniors. -- Scott Faingold
To the Bat Cave
If you're a bat fan, but Adam West isn't in town and you can't afford the red-eye to Transylvania, hop on board the Orange Show's "Eyeopener Bat Cave Tour." The day trip to Austin will include some carnivorous munching at Stubb's BBQ, as well as visits to the Cathedral of Junk and the home of the late architect Charles Moore. As the sun sets, jump on a bus headed to Bracken Cave between Austin and San Antonio. And after a picnic supper, the main event: watching millions of bats take flight toward the Austin skyline, perhaps to await attack orders from their evil vampiric master, Rick Perry. 10 a.m. Saturday, September 11. Tour meets at Pico's Mex-Mex Restaurant, 9401 Katy Freeway, 713-461-5161. For information, call 713-926-6368 or visit www.orangeshow.org. $200. -- Bob Ruggiero
Thumbing his nose at the whole separation-of-church-and-state thing, a fiery priest named Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla stood in his small church in Dolores, Mexico, and demanded independence from the ruling Spanish regime. It was September 16, 1825, a day that would later be recognized as the start of Mexico's revolution against Spain. Though the speech would mean martyrdom for Hidalgo -- six months later he was executed -- Mexico eventually gained its independence. Now Mexicans everywhere say gracias via fiestas patrias events such de Cinco de Mayo in May and el Diez y Seis de Septiembre this month. You can get a jump-start on the festivities today with the annual Fiestas Patrias International Parade downtown. Expect parade staples such as marching bands, local celebs on floats and drill teams, along with ballet folklórico dancers and zesty Mexican music. Grab a spot early, as this parade packs 'em in well before the start time. 10 a.m. Saturday, September 11. Begins and ends at the intersection of Texas and Crawford near Minute Maid Park. For information, call 713-926-2636. Free. -- Steven Devadanam
Dissect a Spotless Mind at UH's screening
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Still trying to figure out the plot of the flick Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? Try tapping in to David Malin's brain. Malin, a UH professor of psychology and neuroscience, will preface a screening of the Jim Carrey-Kate Winslet film with a lecture on whether doctors will ever be able to eradicate specific memories from our minds. Malin says humans tend to reconstruct memories based on how they feel at the time, rather than re-create an exact replica of the past. "The movie certainly reflects what we know about memory, but it's very difficult to erase a specific memory without deleting other memories," he says. "We don't have to worry about this technology [the film] portrays being in use next year." Dang, we were really hoping to wipe out all traces of J.Lo's Gigli forever. 7 p.m. Saturday, September 11. University of Houston-Clear Lake, Bayou Building, room 2512, 2700 Bay Area Boulevard. For information, call 281-283-2560. $1.75. -- Greg Barr
Let's face it: Unless you've got some serious connections, you're not going to be able to hop on a flight to Cuba anytime soon. But Houstonian Roy Cullen offers the next best thing in his series of photos, "Messing with Texas, Lurking in Cuba." Cullen's snapshots reveal a Havana that few Americans get to see: dapper citizens driving old-timey cars, children playing, simple streetscapes. His photos also take a look at a locale right around the corner -- Padre Island, Texas -- where he documented a mammoth roundup of cattle being sent from the island to the mainland. Saturday's onetime exhibit benefits the William A. Graham Artist Emergency Fund. (No word on whether Cullen nabbed any cigars, or if he's willing to share.) 7 p.m. Saturday, September 11. Redbud Gallery, 303 East 11th Street. For information, call 713-854-4246 or visit www.redbudgallery.com. Free. -- Steven Devadanam