An article in the April 17 Fairfax Extra about an appearance by author Sarah Vowell incorrectly said National Public Radio produces "This American Life." The program, which regularly features Vowell, is produced by Chicago Public Radio (WBEZ-FM) and distributed to public radio stations nationwide by Public Radio International. (Published 5/1/03)

Author, Essayist

Sarah Vowell

8 p.m. Saturday

CenterStage, Reston

Some writers are meant to be read, not heard. But there are also engaging wordsmiths who can hold an audience mesmerized or reduce them to helpless laughter at staged readings. Sarah Vowell is one such writer, as many of you may already know from her regular appearances on National Public Radio's "This American Life."

Her little-girl voice, which she admits sounds like a second-grader's, belies the mature (yet youthful), hilarious (yet poignant) worldview she expresses on radio, in her books and in frequent essays for outlets such as Spin, salon.com, McSweeney's, GQ and Time.

Vowell's range of topics is varied and wild; she might discuss meetings with German film buffs or Confederate Civil War reenactors. She could relate tales of yet another problematic family Thanksgiving or what it takes to be a modern Goth. It's almost certain she'll address some aspect of contemporary music -- Van Halen, Hanson, They Might Be Giants or Nirvana -- because she covered pop music for the San Francisco Weekly and won a 1996 Music Journalism Award for her work.

Whatever the topic, Vowell's delightfully skewed observations on American history and culture are marked by gentle wit and a true love of word craft. Although she's often compared with her friend and fellow radio and book star David Sedaris, Vowell is most certainly her own woman, presenting slices of life brimming with personality.

The thirty-something Vowell is the best-selling author of "The Partly Cloudy Patriot," "Radio On: A Listener's Diary" and "Take the Cannoli: Stories From the New World." She has been a contributing editor for "This American Life" since 1996.

Vowell has performed her comic monologues at the Aspen Comedy Festival and Seattle's Foolproof Comedy Festival, among other venues. One of the rare young writers with name recognition high enough for television, she's appeared on the "Late Show With David Letterman," "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart, "Nightline" and "Late Night With Conan O'Brien."

Though Vowell could hardly be called bawdy as compared with many of her contemporaries, the venue nonetheless has deemed this event to be best suited for those 18 and older.

-- Marianne Meyer

CenterStage is at the Reston Community Center, 2310 Colts Neck Rd. Tickets are $15 and may be reserved from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day at the community center service desk. To make reservations by phone, call 703-476-1111. For more information, call 703-476-4500 or visit http://rcc.restonweb.com/.

On March 27, Live! previewed a benefit for local firefighters at the Firehouse Grill in Fairfax City. It's a pleasure to follow-up and say the firefighters raised $1,300, more than they have brought in from past benefits.

Send your Live! suggestions to mariannemeyer@comcast.net. It doesn't even cost a stamp.

Author and performer Sarah Vowell is known for her comic monologues.