One of the best literary festivals in America takes place stealthily in our own backyard. The St. Louis Jewish Book Festival is a real applause-getter and a major destination for bestselling Jewish authors on the national speakers' circuit, yet it still allows local authors to take a bow. Festival director Marcia Evers Levy made sure this 25th-anniversary edition boasts a full slate of heavy hitters, crowd pleasers and agent provocateurs. The celebration fires up on November 2 with Oscar-winning actress Goldie Hawn (no book, but star power). The next day the literary cavalcade steps off with former U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Stuart Eizenstat (Imperfect Justice: Looted Assets, Slave Labor and the Unfinished Business of World War II).
Selected highlights from a strong starting lineup include bestselling scribe Rona Jaffe (discussing her new book, The Room-Mating Season) and Adam Bellow (Saul Bellow's son), discussing the merits of nepotism (a topic he presumably knows something about). The festival raises contemporary questions with celebrity legal eagle Alan Dershowitz (The Case for Israel), and for those with musical tastes, biographer Annette Morreau teams up with members of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra for a tribute to virtuoso cellist Emanuel Feuermann.
Readers in search of spirituality can catch world-renowned rabbinic thinkers Adin Steinsaltz, Tirzah Firestone and Harold Kushner. And parents, take note: James Gelsey -- the man behind the Scooby-Doo Mysteries -- makes the festival a family affair with his creative workshop for the kids. Hungry? Local boy turned big-time NYC restaurateur Danny Meyer serves up his latest book, Second Helpings From Union Square. And music-festival promoter George Wein closes out the festival in tune (Sunday, November 2, through Wed-nesday, Nov. 12, 314-442-3299, varying admission fees, www.jccstl.com). -- Neal Sokol
Christians Up, Witches Down
The film Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages is a real oddity. It's a 1922 Danish "documentary" that shows scenes of witches cooking up love potions, giving birth to Satan's progeny and being tortured by inquisitors until they confess. The scenes are so over-the-top that they become campy comedy -- Häxan manages to skewer history's witch-hunters and to give us a good laugh at their expense.
Halloween night at Webster Films features the 1968 update to the film, which does away with subtitles in favor of the froggy, quavering drawl of our man, narrator William S. Burroughs, along with a kooky jazz score by violinist Jean-Luc Ponty and friends (with costume contest at 7 p.m., $4-$6, 470 East Lockwood Avenue, 314-968-7487). -- Byron Kerman
"Day of the Deadbeats" is, in the hearts and minds of the poetry freaks of St. Louis, the coolest poetry reading all year. How do we know this? Because this is the one: the one that is just the Beats, the work of those unstoppable, smoking, drinking, Benzedrine-junky typewriter mechanics -- Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs, Corso, Bukowski -- read by our own word artists who survive them in spirit if not in deed -- Michael Castro, Tom "Papa" Ray, Hari Sky Campbell, founder Paul Thiel, Kevin McCameron, Ann Haubrich -- and backed by Sky Kingsland on drums, of course. It's at the Focal Point (2720 Sutton Boulevard, 314-821-5834) at 7 p.m. for $3. -- Mark Dischinger
Blood, Guts & Trannies
Past Central West End Halloween Costume Contests have brought the crazies (and the drag queens) out from their hiding places. Who can forget the pair of guys who dolled themselves up in tennis dresses, corn rows, falsies and blackface to become Venus and Serena Williams? How 'bout the dude who came as Evel Knievel, complete with gutted red, white and blue motorcycle strapped to his waist? The gang of droogies from A Clockwork Orange, with their bowlers, fake eyelashes, jock straps and canes, were an ominous sight, even for this night. The RFT co-sponsors this year's free blowout, from 8 p.m.-midnight at the blocked-off intersection of Maryland and Euclid avenues (www.thecwe.com). -- Byron Kerman