I would just like to second Kelly Conaboy's post on the Hairpin titled "Blog, You Idiots." Not so long ago, blogging felt like a new and exciting form of communication: there was aggregation, yes, but there was also fresh short writing on a regular basis. And now blogging seems to be disappearing, and that's very sad because it seems as though we've only just started to figure out the capabilities of blogging as an art form.

We don't need more bloated longreads or television episode recaps. We do need people with interesting opinions to react to the world and to lead discussions and to experiment with the art of writing a lot, and quickly. If you think that's you, please give it a try. This Gawker style guide contains all sorts of useful information for blogging and internet writing; it's really kind of a starter kit for bloggers.

Go get started. Send me your blog so I can follow along.

If you've ever wanted to own the remains of a famous writer's body, this is your best shot.

The famed author's cremains — which are stored in a Japanese wooden box and dated from August 28, 1984 — have been put on sale at the Los Angeles–based auction house Julien's Auctions. "I am sure people are going to think this is disrespectful," Julien's Auctions chief executive Darren Julien told Vanity Fair. "But this is a fact: Truman Capote loved the element of shock. He loved publicity. And I’m sure he’s looking down laughing, and saying, 'That’s something I would have done.'"

Your Week in Readings: The Best Literary Events from August 24th - August 30th

Wednesday August 24: D&D Encounters!

If you’ve never played Dungeons & Dragons, or if you haven’t played since your friends’ mom kicked you out because your hoodie smelled like weed, this is the meet-up for you. Roll up a new character (or play with a pre-generated one) and let expert Dungeon Masters walk you through a simple adventure. Phoenix Comics & Games, 113 Broadway E, 328-4552, http://phoenixseattle.com. Free. All ages. 6:30 p.m.

Thursday August 25: Cyberwarfare, Russia, and the CIA

What does it mean that Donald Trump called for Russia to hack into Hillary Clinton’s emails? When the hell did Russia become the cyber bogeyman, anyway? This group discussion features Nada Bakos, a former CIA analyst, talking with Bainbridge Island-based biographer Mort Kondracke and Whidbey Island historian Robert W. Merry. Folio: The Seattle Athenaem, 324 Marion St., 402-4612, http://folioseattle.org. $10. 7 p.m.

Friday August 26: Psychiatric Criminology

Stop scaring yourself to death with Law & Order reruns and educate yourself instead. In his newest book, UW alumnus Dr. John Liebert, a leading expert in “suicidal rampage murders,” examines the public health gap in dealing with violent crime and calls for changes in policing dangerously unbalanced individuals. University Book Store, 4326 University Way N.E., 634-3400, http://www2.bookstore.washington.edu/. Free. All ages. 7 p.m.

Saturday August 27: Nevertold Casket Co. Reading Series #1

See our Literary Event of the Week column for more details. Nevertold Casket Company, 509 13th Ave., http://nevertoldcasket.com. Free. 21+. 8 p.m.

Sunday August 28: Intro to Comics Journalism with Sarah Glidden

As part of comics and art festival Short Run’s summer school programs for local artists, new-to-Seattle cartoonist Sarah Glidden will share techniques and lessons she learned in creating her first graphic novel, How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less, and her upcoming book about Seattle journalists traveling the Middle East, Rolling Blackouts. Gallery 1412, 1412 18th Ave, http://shortrun.org $20. All ages. 7 p.m.

Monday August 29: Love and Ruin

Atavist Magazine editor Evan Ratliff brings a new Atavist anthology featuring “Stories of Obsession, Danger and Heartbreak” to town. He’s joined tonight by terrific local journalists Brooke Jarvis and Jon Mooallem, who are published everywhere — Mooallem wrote a great Spielberg profile for Wired a while back — but who really shine in longform publications like Atavist.

Elliott Bay Book Company, 1521 10th Ave, 624-6600, http://elliottbaybook.com . Free. All ages. 7 p.m.

Tuesday August 30: Three Sci-fi Authors Walk Into a Bar

The Science Fiction Writers of America bring their summertime Pacific Northwest Reading Series to a storied Kirkland bar with three Northwestern sci-fi authors. Tonight’s star is Portland’s David D. Levine, author of the terrific swashbuckling Edgar Rice Burroughs-ian novel Arabella of Mars, which sees a young woman stow away on a spacefaring ship bound for Mars. Wilde Rover Irish Pub, 111 Central Way, 425-822-8940. http://ubookstore.com. Free. 21+. 7 p.m.

Literary Event of the Week: Nevertold Casket Company Reading #1

The Nevertold Casket Co. looks kind of like the cursed junk shop from Gremlins—a store that proudly carries “haunted” merchandise which could add a conversation piece to your living room or rain down eternal torment on your household in the form of a vicious spirit of vengeance from feudal Japan. It is a shop, in other words, that is full of stories. The wax dummy of a baby covered in syphilis sores has to have an explanation behind it, right? And why the hell would someone mummify a baboon? Well, thereby hangs a tale, and that tale is part of what you’re buying at Nevertold.

Founded by casket-maker Jackson Andrew Bennett, Nevertold is the sort of shop you run into once while wandering around the twistiest cobblestone streets in Boston, or the most ancient-looking neighborhoods in Manhattan, and then can never find again. The fact that it exists on Capitol Hill’s relatively mundane 13th Avenue is in itself some kind of a modern Seattle miracle. With its artful jewelry and antique taxidermy, it’s a store full of appreciation for aesthetics long since past, stuck in the middle of a part of town that is currently suffering from aesthetic amnesia.

And now Bennett, himself an author working on a book about grave-robbing, is launching what looks to be the first in a series of readings based out of the Nevertold Casket Co. It’s a pairing that makes sense — what’s an ancient curse, after all, without a few books and incantations around to add an eldritch air?

For a store that wraps itself so thoroughly in the past, the first Nevertold reading is a surprisingly current affair. Readers include Jenny Zhang, the Brooklyn-based poet and short story author who headlined the most recent APRIL Festival; local poetry dynamo Sarah Galvin; monologist and weed culture expert David Schmader; Sonya Vatomsky, whose debut poetry collection is titled Salt Is For Curing; and James Gendron, whose book title Sexual Boat (Sex Boats) tells you just about everything you need to know.

This is a strong lineup of local and local-friendly writing talent — seriously, if Zhang reads here one more time this year, we’re going to get to claim her as a part-time Seattle author — that should suitably christen a new reading venue in the Seattle firmament. With all due respect to the many bookstores and libraries that host readings all the time, occasionally pulling events into a nontraditional reading venue keeps the readings format fresh and surprising. If all that isn’t enough to attract your attention, event organizers also promise a cask of “haunted beer” from Outlander Brewery to keep things nice and spiritual.

Halloween, by any calendar’s reckoning, is two page-turns away. And it’s highly unlikely that all the readers at this event are going to thematically obsess on the macabre. But the unhinged hilarity of a Galvin reading can’t help but take on a new meaning when contextualized by sterling silver crow’s feet charms and funeral chairs from the 1900s. What’s a celebration of life without a little death mixed in at the fringes to keep things interesting?

Nevertold Casket Company, 509 13th Ave., http://nevertoldcasket.com. Free. 21+. 8 p.m.

Electric Literature cites a new study which "found that readers of literary fiction — but not commercial fiction — have a better understanding of other people’s emotions."

Yeah, unless there's a scientific method to determine the difference between commercial fiction and literary fiction, this sounds like bunk to me — the kind of easy study which enforces preconceived notions about art and commerce. But if there's one damn thing the internet loves, it's using scientific studies to enforce their own preconceived notions.

So if you see someone on Facebook trying to spread this study around, please ask some questions: what's the difference between literary and commercial fiction? If you read a work that is 75% commercial and 25% literary, are you then 25% more empathetic? Is Kurt Vonnegut commercial fiction or literary fiction? What about comics? What the hell are you supposed to do with the conclusions of this study, except feel smug if you happen to prefer literary fiction to commercial fiction?

We told you back at the beginning of the month that Greenlake kids' store Mockingbird Books would be closing on August 27th. That means you have less than week to pay your respects and pick up some childrens' books on discount. KOMO ran a video about Mockingbird's last days.

Ass Politics

My diaphragm left behind
A mind works funny when it comes to sex
important things crash
A fire wound takes everything away
Random acts of nature relentless
Internalized violence a fog

I killed the frog for science
What we love we destroy
Yesterday I was a sex machine
My warrior searching a way to spark
Internet recessions scare me

I wanted to sleep with him
but my diaphragm was lost
His talking politics turned me off
What fool runs a train so fast?
Dying we land in the book of the dead
Damage occurs when you play the target

If only sex solved problems
We are soon to topple
Did I mention violation?
Law of the strong versus the weak
Mandatory sex is one way to subjugate

Someone was fucking in the warehouse
tools got slimmed, a rack fell over
solid groundwork was laid
A multitude of actions equals no progress
My ass plays tricks on your brain
There is no time for sex unless forced

Did you call the powers into a meeting?
The landlord too busy to attend
The accountant buried in his books
The secretary took notes even though no one showed
The notes were scant

People who don’t vote are like pigeons
dead on the side of the road
Evil an often-traveled trail
Anger stores up in cellular tissue
No heart can stand a broken back
We must learn to ignore much of everything

Survival, a game we lose
No jackpot named freedom
When did Clockwork Orange become fun?
A thrill a minute means alive
An exchange of body secretions

Writing revealed on the stage

Sponsor Hugo House is here to let you know about two upcoming event series, both of which are tremendously awesome. First: Word Works: writers on writing. Six writers talkinga bout their process and skills, each focused on a particular part of writing. Second: Hugo Literary Series, where writers and musicians are given a theme or prompt, and debut original work based around that prompt live in front of an audience.

You should be in that audience — event tickets are remarkably cheap, and fun will be had by all. In fact, we recommend you pick up the series passes — it's less than dinner at some midrange Seattle restaurants, and what you save in money you'll make up in pleasure and inspiration. Find out more on our sponsor's page.

It's thanks to sponsors like Hugo House, and readers like you, that we're able to keep the pixels lit up here at the Seattle Review of Books. We've just released our next block of sponsorship opportunities. Check them out on the sponsorship page, and grab your date before they're gone.

Lunch Date: go south, young(ish) man

(Once in a while, we take a new book out to lunch and give it a half an hour or so to grab our attention. Lunch Date is our judgment on that speed-dating experience.)

Who’s your date today? The Wonder Trail: True Stores from Los Angeles to the End of the World, by Steve Hely.

Where’d you go? Il Corvo, the ridiculously popular lunch-only pasta spot, right around the corner from Smith Tower. Show up at 11am, or be prepared to wait a long time (maybe waiting is part of the experience for you — it certainly can be fun to chat in line with friends, and strangers).

What’d you eat? Il Corvo only offers three pasta choices each day. This day, the tagliarini, with sweet corn and marjoram, was calling my name.

How was the food? I have an Italian friend who is a pasta expert. I asked her once what she thought of Il Corvo's pasta. "Well," she said, "they use the right semolina, and they cook it right so the tooth is right. But, they use too much sauce." It was a grudging approval, because she added "They have to, for the American palate."

I don't know if she'd think today's pasta was over-sauced, but I thought the tagliarini was amazing — a beautiful heap (check out their picture) of tasty tang, with beautiful round pasta, a bit of cheese, and the unmistakable sweet bite of fresh corn. It was lively and light, for pasta, a perfect summer dish, perfectly portioned. I loved every bite of it.

What does your date say about itself? From the publisher’s promotional copy:

The Wonder Trail is the story of a trip from Los Angeles to the bottom of South America, presented in 102 short chapters. From Mexico City to Oaxaca; into ancient Mayan ruins; the jungles, coffee plantations, and remote beaches of Central America; across the Panama Canal; by sea to Colombia; to the wild Easter celebration of Popayán; to the Amazon rainforest; the Inca sites of Cuzco and Machu Picchu; to the Galápagos Islands; the Atacama Desert of Chile; and down to wind-worn Patagonia at the bottom of the Western Hemisphere; Steve traveled collecting stories, adventures, oddities, marvels, bits of history and biography, tales of weirdos, fun facts, and anything else interesting or illuminating.

Steve's plan was to discover the unusual, wonderful, and absurd in Central and South America, to seek and find the incredible, delightful people and experiences that came his way. And the book that resulted is just as fun. A blend of travel writing, history, and comic memoir, The Wonder Trail will inspire, inform, and delight.

Is there a representative quote? "Everywhere, there are tacos and delicious cheeseburgers and cold-pressed juices and Salvadoran pupusas and Korean barbecues, and every week somebody tells you drive out to some mysterious suburb like San Gabriel or Alhambra to get a soup just like they make it in the souther beach villages of Thailand, or a special tea dumpling you can only get in Sichuan. And the fruits and vegetables! In Los Angeles, it's legal to pick any fruit that hangs over the sidewalk. No one minds because there's so much of it! I used to walk up the street from my house and pluck grapefruits. There are palm trees and cactuses, and in the hills there are deer and coyotes.

For some people this dream is too much, too intense. Scary, even. They try to warn everyone that dreams sometime turn into nightmares. There are police helicopters overhead and there's not enough water, the hills could slide into the ocean at any minute, and who knows what's coming from south over the border?

To these doom prophets most people shrug and say "Maybe!" Sure, maybe in your twenties you read about pessimistic LA urbanist Mike Davis or talk to people at parties about the Manson Family and Blade Runner, but you can't take it too seriously. Keep some of it on your shelf as a souvenier and then move on to Reyner Banhnam, who drove around in the 1970s filming himself marvelling to his English countrymen at how fantastic everything was. Or pick up Joan Didion, who stared hard into the face at everything terrible about Los Angeles but then went off to vacation in Hawaii with the shitloads of money she made writing movies that never happened"

Will you two end up in bed together? I think so, yes. I liked Hely's satire How I Became a Famous Novelist, and there's plenty of his smart, wry, and self-deprecating voice here. He's one of those writers who is hyper-aware of himself and his place in the world, which you kind of have to be if you're a white dude writing about travel these days. You can't just write a great big game hunting memoir anymore, can you? Not unless you're a son of Trump. And who says, even then, you should be able to? Maybe it's political correctness, but then again, maybe it's just having good taste, and from what I've read, Hely seems to have it.

So, instead, travel along with the modern aware man as he gets into trouble, and finds his way out, and notes what he finds along the way, all held in comparison to the history of travel writing. Seems like a fun time to me. Although, to be fair, maybe next time I should read this over pupusas.

The time Madeleine L'Engle helped introduce Secret Garden Books to Ballard

Christy McDanold had shopped at Greenlake’s Secret Garden Bookshop, although she wouldn’t call herself a regular. But when in January of 1995 she got a notice from the store announcing a going-out-of-business sale, she decided to get into the bookstore business. She’d never owned, worked at, or even considered the economics of running a bookstore before, but throughout the winter and into the spring she kept “talking and thinking about it.” She didn’t have any real credentials for bookstore ownership. “I went to 29,000 banks,” she says, adding, “I’m only exaggerating a little bit.” They all rejected her. Finally, one woman named Sean at Seafirst Bank was willing to take a chance on McDanold, and she successfully bought Secret Garden.

The physical store had already closed, but McDanold was convinced that the Secret Garden name and reputation was worth the effort of basically rebuilding it from the ground up. Most of the calls she fielded between the store’s closure and resurrection “were about the doggone bricks.” Everybody wanted to buy Secret Garden’s iconic bricks if they weren’t going to be used, but McDanold assured the inquirers that the bricks would remain an integral part of the reopened bookstore.

As spring gave way to summer, McDanold found herself in a race against time. After many weeks of searching, she found a space in Ballard, but the store had to open by June 12th, when Secret Garden’s previous owner had arranged to bring A Wrinkle in Time author Madeleine L'Engle to town. “I met with [publisher] reps at our kitchen table while my husband built the space out” over the course of a few weeks.

They made it, just barely. Secret Garden’s grand reopening in Ballard was headlined by L’Engle. “That was a lovely day,” McDanold says. “Madeleine was wonderful and gracious. At that point she was in her 80s and we put her in a rocking chair and people kind of knelt in front of her,” which McDanold said gave the appearance of L’Engle’s readers “worshipping at her feet. She was delightful.”

There have been a lot of good days since then. In 2000, the shop moved to the former Crown Books space on Market Street — where it still stands today — and it started carrying grown-up books along with kids’ titles. Ask McDanold to name some of her favorite moments, and it’s basically a highlights reel of children’s literature from the last two decades. For instance, when the store brought Redwall author Brian Jacques to town “we had a line around the block,” she says.

All of the Harry Potter release nights “were so much fun.” McDanold remembers the first time Scott Simon raved about the Potter books on NPR, “we could almost hear the metaphorical tires screeching” as cars pulled to the side of the road and owners called the store to reserve copies. J.K. Rowling came to town before the second Potter book was published in the United States, and McDanold recalls her promising to never license out Harry Potter toys or movies. “I can’t imagine how hard it was for her” to shoulder the demands of that kind of Beatles-like global popularity, McDanold says, “so I’m not cross with her” for going back on her word.

But most of all, the relationships she’s built at Secret Garden have made the whole endeavor worthwhile. McDanold is especially proud of all “the young people that have come through as booksellers who have gone on to be fabulous grown-ups. “ She says “we’ve had Secret Garden babies and weddings.” When McDanold talks to strangers about being a bookseller, “they say, ‘oh, you must really love books.’ But people who just love books and who can’t throw their arms around people don’t make it in this business.” Between the booksellers, the readers, the kids, the publishers, and the authors, she says, she’s spent time with “the swellest people ever.”

Thinking back to those early days in 1995, McDanold seems almost surprised by her own tenacity. “I don’t think I’ve ever been as single-minded” as she was about buying Secret Garden, she says. “I just knew I wanted to do this. It was kind of nutso.” Her husband Scot had always dreamed about putting the whole family on a sailboat and living at sea, and in her obsessive ambition to purchase the bookstore, McDanold hadn’t realized that she was changing her family’s ambitions forever.

“One evening I was like, ‘oh, honey what have I done?’ And he said, ‘don’t worry about it. I’ve never been prouder of you.” McDanold never doubted that for a second. “He was a good husband. He never turned back, he never regretted it. Ultimately he came to work in the store and we had a couple of great years,” she says. The shop that he helped build continues in that spirit today, and will continue for years to come.

The Sunday Post for August 21, 2016

David’s Ankles: How Imperfections Could Bring Down the World’s Most Perfect Statue

Salvaged from a weathered and awful piece of marble, Michelangelo’s David seemed like a miracle wrapped in layers of impossible perfection. But Sam Anderson reveals its cracks, scars, and blemishes, all overlooked in hopes that it will simply and luckily survive an impending Florentine disaster.

The trouble is the David’s ankles. They are cracked. Italians first discovered this weakness back in the 19th century, and modern scientists have mapped the cracks extensively, but until recently no one claimed to know just how enfeebled the ankles might be. This changed in 2014, when a team of Italian geoscientists published a paper called “Modeling the Failure Mechanisms of Michelangelo’s David Through Small-Scale Centrifuge Experiments.” That dry title concealed a terrifying story. The paper describes an experiment designed to measure, in a novel way, the weakness in the David’s ankles: by creating a small army of tiny David replicas and spinning them in a centrifuge, at various angles, to simulate different levels of real-world stress. What the researchers found was grim. If the David were to be tilted 15 degrees, his ankles would fail.
The Strange Brain of the World’s Greatest Solo Climber

Does Alex Honnold have an amygdala, the brain’s fear center? If so, does it work? Even if it does, why does he seek out the experience of standing on a ledge 2,000 feet above ground with no safety gear? J. B. Mackinnon writes about the neuroscience behind the world’s greatest free-soloist climber.

Honnold is history’s greatest ever climber in the free solo style, meaning he ascends without a rope or protective equipment of any kind. Above about 50 feet, any fall would likely be lethal, which means that, on epic days of soloing, he might spend 12 or more hours in the Death Zone. On the hardest parts of some climbing routes, his fingers will have no more contact with the rock than most people have with the touchscreens of their phones, while his toes press down on edges as thin as sticks of gum. Just watching a video of Honnold climbing will trigger some degree of vertigo, heart palpitations, or nausea in most people, and that’s if they can watch them at all. Even Honnold has said that his palms sweat when he watches himself on film.
Scenes From the Terrifying, Already Forgotten JFK Airport Shooting That Wasn't

Nothing reflects the entire nation’s visceral fear of terrorism and shootings more than this sudden manifestation of mass hysteria at JFK airport a few days ago. If there’s anything more terrifying than being a victim of a violent attack, it’s the mere possibility that it could happen — a suffocating truth lingering around us every day. David Wallace-Wells perfectly captures this widespread mindset in a detailing of his own experience of the false alarm.

There was no “they.” There was not even a “he,” no armed person turning on a crowd. But what happened at JFK last night was, in every respect but the violence, a mass shooting. The fact that there was no attack at the center of it was both the weirdest and the scariest part — that an institution whose size and location and budget should make it a fortress, in a country that has spent 15 years focused compulsively on securing its airports, in a city with a terrifyingly competent anti-terror police unit, could be transformed into a scene of utter bedlam, stretching out from all eight terminals across the tarmac and onto the adjacent highways, by the whisper of a threat. Within minutes, the whole apparatus of the airport and its crowd-control mechanisms had collapsed into total disarray.
The Sensitive Question Of Intersex Athletes

Caster Semenya, a South African runner, has received heaps of criticism from the media for her androgyny and testosterone levels that are three times higher than the average woman’s. As Melissa Block points out, how do you navigate so many topics in the search for fairness in sports?

"It's the most complicated issue in sport," says Tucker, "because it's so layered. Some of those layers are unpleasant, like the racism and sexism issue. Some of those layers are really fascinating, like the biology. It's just so loaded. It's like every single topic here is a land mine."

Lance Wyman: The Visual Diaries 1973—1982 - Kickstarter Fund Project #32

Every week, the Seattle Review of Books backs a Kickstarter, and writes up why we picked that particular project. Read more about the project here. Suggest a project by writing to kickstarter at this domain, or by using our contact form.

What's the project this week?

Lance Wyman: The Visual Diaries 1973—1982. We've put $20 in as a non-reward backer

Who is the Creator?

Unit Editions.

What do they have to say about the project?

Every day Lance Wyman documents his creative process in his black “designlogs”. Help us publish Lance Wyman: The Visual Diaries.

What caught your eye?

If you're a design nerd, you can picture the 1968 Mexico City Olympics logo without much mental effort. That's a good graphical identity system, when you can evoke it 48 years later without much effort. It's infamous, now, and referenced in popular culture occasionally. Not many people can make work this iconic and memorable, but Lance Wyman, who designed the logo, sure did.

Wyman kept a continuous series of sketchbooks — his "designlogs" — and now, for the first time, they're being collected, edited, and presented in a handsome edition.

Why should I back it?

Well, if you're not already clicking over to back it, then there's probably not an argument I could make to convince you. You're either a design nerd or you're not. If you are excited? Did you know that Lance Wyman is coming to Seattle to speak at Typecon? Here's a chance to see the man in person talk about his craft.

How's the project doing?

at 71%, with 26 days left, I think they'll be fine without you, so don't feel obligated. Get it because you can't resist.

Do they have a video?

Kickstarter Fund Stats
  • Projects backed: 32
  • Funds pledged: $640
  • Funds collected: $580
  • Unsuccessful pledges: 1
  • Fund balance: $400

Women are from Mars

Published August 19, 2016, at 11:30am

Paul Constant reviews David D. Levine's Arabella of Mars.

There's still room in your summer reading lists for a novel about a strong female lead who smuggles herself onto a spacefaring boat, right?

Read this review now

The Help Desk: Flushing out bathroom books

Every Friday, Cienna Madrid offers solutions to life’s most vexing literary problems. Do you need a book recommendation to send your worst cousin on her birthday? Is it okay to read erotica on public transit? Cienna can help. Send your questions to advice@seattlereviewofbooks.com.

Dear Cienna,

Every once in a while I’ll visit someone’s house and see that they have a book, or a basket full of books, on the back of their toilet. I guess this is supposed to be hospitable or something, but all I can think about is how poo-encrusted those books must be.

I’m tempted to steal one of the books from a friend’s house during a party, put it under a microscope, and then mail a photograph of the fecal matter particles to my friends anonymously. But that would be too passive-aggressive, even for Seattle.

But it is disgusting, right?

Colin, First Hill

Dear Colin,

Please don't stop with one book. Also take samples of your host's toothbrush, decorative soaps, air plants, privacy blinds – everything in the bathroom that isn't nailed down. And don't stop with one friend – repeat this process at multiple friends' homes. Then, in the name of fairness, I need you to stare straight into the brown eye of the beast and fecal test yourself, Colin – hands, neck, lips, fleshy pad of the buttocks. This will add credibility to what those in the unscientific community might call your “pervert games.”

And you're right: Mailing your findings is passive aggressive ­– and no fun! You want to be present, watching your friends' faces as they realize how you've chosen to amuse yourself while an invited guest in their homes. Here is what you do to deliver those results with style: Host a Halloween party. Dress up as a proctologist. Hand deliver results to your guests, in ascending order of least- to most fecally. To offset the creepiness of your actions, give out full body condoms, DIY fecal testing kits and jars of artisanal bleach as prizes.

Kisses,

Cienna

Portrait Gallery will be back soon!

Christine Marie Larsen will be back soon with more amazing portraits!

For now, you can check out her previous work in our Portrait Gallery archives. Stay tuned for her return.

M.A.Orthofer at the Literary Saloon notes that the New York Times has consolidated all of its book review coverage — in the daily paper and in the The New York Times Book Review — under the purview of Pamela Paul. It's perhaps easy to bemoan every new change in the world of journalism as a mistake, but, uh, I think this is a mistake.

One of the consistent pleasures of reading the New York Times was finding book reviews in the paper that disagreed with book reviews in the Book Review. I used to love those intercenine moments when the institution disagreed with itself; to me, they highlighted one of the most important parts of reviewing: the fact that every review is subjective, and that it's possible for even employees of a single august institution to have differing opinions on a work of art. Now that the book reviews are all under one set of watchful eyes, I bet those moments of dissonance will never happen again, which is a real pity.

This morning, Gawker.com — the popular news site that started as a publishing industry gossip blog — confirmed rumors that it will shut down next week. This would be a great time to read Brian Abrams's ebook Gawker: An Oral History, which was published last summer. I reviewed that book when it was released last year.

Thursday Comics Hangover: Cruising for nerds

Above all else, most superhero comics should aim to be entertaining. Sure, it’s nice if you get some commentary in there, or a little bit of a political message, but superheroes aren’t the ideal messengers for heavy themes. (Sorry, people who think The Dark Knight Returns counts as deep political satire.) By the entertainment-per-page ratio, Portland author Chelsea Cain’s run on the Mockingbird series for Marvel is leading the superhero pack these days.

From the (pretty funny) John Roderick joke on the front recap page to the page of suggested daily yoga poses (including “tripped by corgi”), the sixth issue of Mockingbird is what old-timey radio hosts used to call “a hoot.” It’s a story about our hero, a spy with a long and somewhat unglamorous history in Marvel Comics, investigating a curious lead on a nerd cruise where half the attendees are fans dressed as superheroes. (We’re helpfully informed that “Defibrillators are located near the Cinnabon™ on level two.”)

This issue of Mockingbird ostensibly ties in to Marvel’s grating and graceless summer crossover, Civil War 2, but all you really need to know going in is that Mockingbird’s ex-husband, Hawkeye, is on trial for the murder of the Hulk, and the cruise is hosting a large contingent of Hawkeye fanatics. Any woman who has found herself in close quarters with hundreds of nerds dressed up like her ex-husband will be able to relate to this truly universal situation.

Penciller Kate Niemczyk and inker Sean Parsons are intensely interested in making every single background character their own human being, which makes scenes at a Dungeons & Dragons tournament especially fun to read. The lettering, however, is pretty ugly: extra-dialogue elements like a crowd’s chanting and spy-to-English translations are represented in multiple ugly fonts that float on the page, unmoored to the rest of the comic in an annoying way. Some pages look like someone used the “Draw On” tool in MacPaint to slap a few elements on top of otherwise professional work.

The rest of Mockingbird is geared toward maximum reader entertainment, with jokes and clever asides and misdirections. But toward the beginning of the book, as Mockingbird boards the ship surrounded by nerds greeting each other with Vulcan salutes, the observes that she’s alone in a crowd: “If I had hoped to get away from my ex-husband’s troubles, I had come to the wrong place. The good news was, I didn’t need the disguise. Hawkweye fans? They like to pretend I don’t exist.” It’s a clever commentary on the fact that superhero comics fans tend to marginalize and ostracize women characters (and the fans who dress up like them) from their culture. Maybe there’s more to these superhero comics than just entertainment, after all.

This is not the first time this has happened:

Barnes & Noble just unceremoniously ousted Ronald Boire as CEO, saying that the board has deemed him “not a good fit for the organization and that it was in the best interests of all parties for him to leave the Company.”

Boire was at the top of the chain book retailer for less than a year. This puts longtime Barnes & Noble leader Leonard Riggio back in charge of the chain that he founded in 1965 and has led, on-and-off, ever since. Riggio was set to retire next month, which makes him yet another victim of retirony.

Will Barnes & Noble ever find someone to lead it into the future? Or will Riggio have to permanently postpone his retirement in order to keep the retailer on life support? Barnes & Noble's demise would create a depressing number of brick-and-mortar "bookstore deserts" in rural and suburban parts of America; the cultural stakes are way too high. At this point, even most independent booksellers I know are cheering on Barnes & Noble's continuing survival. Let's hope they figure it out.