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Tonight at Litquake: Thursday, October 15

Thursday boasts one of Litquake's most fun lineups of events-- perfect for those who want to take part in the festival without being subjected to dry lectures or obscure topics. If you're interested in mystery novels, children's books, humorous takes on American history, or erotica, there's something for you to enjoy.

Maurice Sendak is white-hot right now, with the film adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are arriving tomorrow and a major new exhibition at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. At the Maurice Sendak: A Wild Imagination event, five children's authors will discuss the joys and difficulties of writing for a tiny audience. They include Daniel Handler (also known as Lemony Snicket), author of the Series of Unfortunate Events books, and Lisa Brown, whose hilarious series of "Baby Be of Use" children's books boasts titles like Baby, Mix Me a Drink and Baby, Do My Banking. (6-8 pm at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission St. Free with museum admission, or $5 after 5 pm.)

On the opposite end of the spectrum from children's books, the Readings in Bed event focuses on erotica, with Violet Blue, Rachel Kramer Bussel, and Stephen Elliott reading sexy bedtime stories. This is made all the more alluring by the fact that Supperclub's seating primarily consists of beds. They'll also answer your sex questions after the reading. (5-8 pm at Supperclub, 657 Harrison St. 21 and up only. $10 suggested donation at the door.)

Earlier this week, we ran an interview with Sarah Vowell, the hilarious chronicler of American history and This American Life contributor. She'll read from her latest book, The Wordy Shipmates, which offers a new take on the story of the Puritans. (7:30 pm at Booksmith, 1644 Haight St. Admission is free.)

Fans of mystery will want to check out a reading by James Ellroy, whose new Blood's a Rover completes his "Underworld USA" trilogy, begun in 1995. He's best known as the author of L.A. Confidential and The Black Dahlia. Fair warning: Ellroy readings have been known to veer into near-comic grandiosity, opening with monologues like this one: "Good evening peepers, prowlers, pederasts, panty-sniffers, punks and pimps. I'm James Ellroy, the demon dog, the foul owl with the death growl, the white knight of the far right, and the slick trick with the donkey dick. I'm the author of 16 books, masterpieces all; they precede all my future masterpieces." If you don't find this hilarious (we do), Ellroy might not be to your taste. (7:30 pm at Books, Inc. Castro, 2275 Market St. Admission is free.)

While Ellroy may consider himself to be top dog among writers, survival of the fittest usually means someone is at the bottom of the totem pole. Six writers will present original stories on that topic, written specifically for tonight's Original Shorts event. They include O. Henry Award winner Cornelia Nixon and local writer Sylvia Brownrigg. (7 pm at Varnish Fine Art, 77 Natoma St., San Francisco. 21 and up only. Admission is free.)

Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy Kidder, author of Mountains Beyond Mountains, will read from his new book, Strength in What Remains, the story of a Burundian genocide survivor. His nonfiction books have covered topics as diverse as anthropology and the invention of computers. (7:30 pm at Kepler's Books, 1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park.)

Finally, Opium magazine's long-running Literary Death Match will have its Litquake edition tonight, with Frances Dinkelspiel, Tod Goldberg, James Nestor, and Lynka Adams competing. The judges will include Joan of Arcadia actress Amber Tamblyn and All Over Coffee artist Paul Madonna. (Doors at 7:30, event at 9 pm, at Verdi Club, 2424 Mariposa St. 21 and up only. Admission is $12.)