Five Reasons You Shouldn't Miss Maria Semple Tonight at Parnassus



1. Semple's comic novel Where'd You Go, Bernadette channels more personalities than Sybil in the guise of a 15-year-old Seattlite's attempt to reconstruct her missing mom's identity, using a crumpled heap of new-media artifacts. And perhaps because Semple honed her gifts for dialogue and mimicry writing for shows like Arrested Development and Mad About You, she's really, really good at voices. If Semple reads aloud from the book during her appearance 6:30 tonight at Parnassus, you stand a good chance of hearing a) an obnoxious school PR strategizer who's evidently getting paid by the neologism; b) a tightly strung mom driven to shrieking insanity by wayward blackberry bushes; c) a romantically deluded Microsoft flunky; d) Bernadette herself, unaware that her thwarted creative gifts are leaking like flop sweat from every pore; e) a live blogger OMG'ing through a TED talk; f) a TED talker; g) the phone-bank cubicle jockey in India to whom agoraphobic Bernadette has outsourced her errands; h) the parties at an intervention gone desperately, hilariously awry.

2. Semple's appearance tonight is part of a cool Parnassus program called "Wine with the Author," where the store basically pours you a glass just for showing interest in a book and author the staff loves. Real life should be more like this. (This should tell you something: The next such event is with The Yellow Birds author Kevin Powers May 21.)

3. This exchange, from Semple's Q&A with Sarah Norris from last week's Scene (via

Your efforts on behalf of the Global Amphibian Assessment have been so appreciated that a species of frogs discovered in Sri Lanka was named for your daughter. Can you explain your enthusiasm for amphibians?

God bless you for asking this question. My boyfriend, George Meyer, and I got interested in frogs over 20 years ago when we learned they were mysteriously disappearing. As of today, 40 percent of all frog species are on the verge of extinction. This is due to habitat destruction, global warming and a mysterious deadly fungus. It turns out frogs are more susceptible than any other animal to man's heedless consumption and environmental annihilation. (Sorry you asked?) Anytime we can help out the frogs, we do.

4. You'll want to read the book and meet the author before the movie version comes out. (It's being adapted by the screenwriters behind an audience favorite at this year's Nashville Film Festival, The Spectacular Now.)

5. Did we mention the wine?

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