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Free for All: Lemony Snicket/Daniel Handler, "Soldier at Ease," and An American in Paris

Author Daniel Handler, better known to the world as Lemony Snicket, stands alongside Edward Gorey and Roald Dahl as a modern master of Gothic-flavored youngster literature. His award-winning children's A Series of Unfortunate Events was a 13-novel series that explored witty wordplay, loss, evil, and adventure so perfectly that each release was immediately considered a classic. Handler is back with a new four-novel series, All the Wrong Questions. The first installment is Who Could That Be At This Hour?, and he'll be discussing and signing copies on Friday at the Blue Willow Bookshop. Who Could That Be follows the story of its 13-year-old narrator, who's enrolled in a shadow organization no one has ever heard of and is always asking questions better left unanswered. The same mystery and macabre humor that made Unfortunate Events such a treasure are both present once again, and the story is a maze of misdirection and conundrum that will tickle the brains of young and old alike.

See Daniel Handler today at 5 p.m. Blue Willow Bookshop, 14532 Memorial. For information, visit the bookshop's website or call 281-497-8675.

Native Texan and photographer Erin Trieb was in her mid-twenties when she sold all of her furniture to fund a ticket to Afghanistan, where she started photographing soldiers in war. Trieb is one of a trio of photographers with work in the "Soldier, at Ease" exhibit currently at the Houston Center for Photography, our recommendation for Saturday. Trieb has been working on several series related to the war, including The War at Home. HCP Curator Libbie J. Masterson tells us, "For this exhibit, we wanted to focus on the soldier's life outside of direct combat, what they are doing when they are off-duty, on leave, when they've retired and returned home. Erin's work illustrates that. Erin has been tracking soldiers on duty and then [on leave]. Some is the happy return and some is the not-so-happy return; some are funeral sites and memorial services."

Like Trieb, Tim Hetherington and Louie Palu spent months living alongside the soldiers they photographed. "That's what so special about these three photographers," says HCP Executive Director Bevin Bering Dubrowski. "These are not the people that go in for an assignment for a week; they're staying for months and months with the same people. And they don't take the picture until the person is ready. I think that says why the works in this exhibit are so strong. You see that connection between the photographer and the soldier."

Regular viewing hours for "Soldier, at Ease" are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays. Through January 6. Houston Center for Photography, 1441 West Alabama. For information, visit the center's website or call 713-529-4755.

It takes only seconds for An American in Paris's joie de vivre to completely win you over, and only minutes until Gene Kelly completely dominates director Vincente Minnelli's cinematic love letter to Paris. Kelly's most famous film is screened on Sunday as part of the Houston Cinema Arts Festival. Except for a half dozen background shots, the entire Gershwin musical was photographed on the backlot of MGM, with assistance from the wizards of the effects department. But nobody could be more of a special effect than Kelly, whose easy athleticism and immense personal charm leap off the screen. He's the most masculine all-American in Paris: goofing with the urchins during "I Got Rhythm," romancing newcomer Leslie Caron -- whose gamine allure lacks fire, but she's a fine dancer -- in "Love is Here to Stay," and wowing us all in the colorful "American in Paris" ballet sequence, which took two months to film and cost a whopping half million dollars in 1951. The film won Best Picture, as well as five other Academy Awards and a special citation for Kelly, "for his brilliant achievements in the art of choreography on film." Who could ask for anything more?

See An American in Paris at 6:45 p.m. at Miller Outdoor Theatre, 6000 Hermann Park Drive. For information, visit the theatre's website or call 281-373-3386.

Jef With One F and D.L. Groover contributed to this post.

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