The former Drue Heinz Lectures and Robert Morris University’s Pittsburgh Speakers Series recently announced their line-ups, and both boast big names.
Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures (www.pittsburghlectures.org) has renamed its series Literary Evenings, Monday Night Lectures. It opens Sept. 19 with venerable investigative reporter Seymour M. Hersh, whose latest book, Chain of Command, explores the early years of the “War on Terror.”
The series, at held at Oakland’s Carnegie Music Hall, continues with actor and newly minted memoirist John Lithgow (Drama) and critically esteemed best-selling novelist Jonathan Franzen, and hardly lets up from there.
Also included are Mark Bittman, author of The Food Matters Cookbook; novelist Anne Patchett; and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. On Jan. 30, 2012, the series tries something new with an onstage conversation about the Great Migration (of African Americans to the North) between historian Isabel Wilkerson and NPR’s Michele Norris, both of whom have written books on the subject.
The series concludes with The Perfect Storm author Sebastien Junger (his new one is War); and two novelists, Abraham Verghese (Cutting for Stone) and Lisa See (Dreams of Joy).
The Pittsburgh Speakers Series, meanwhile, kicks off Oct. 12 with best-selling historian Ron Chernow, best known for his bios of Washington and Hamilton.
Other big names include spouse team Joe Wilson (the diplomat) and Valerie Plame (the CIA operative); Omnivore’s Dilemma author Michael Pollan; Tom Brokaw; and controversial retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal, whom President Obama asked to resign as chief of U.S. forces in Afghanistan after a 2010 Rolling Stone article quoted him and his aides taking the piss out of the White House.
Also speaking are former Washington, D.C., public-schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, a controversial advocate of school reform, and Reading Lolita in Tehran author Azar Nafisi.
The Speakers Series (www.pittsburghspeakersseries.org) is held at Heinz Hall, Downtown, but requires a commitment: Unlike Literary Evenings, you can’t buy single tickets but must subscribe to all seven talks, at packages starting at $285.