Book News Roundup: A new writer in residence at Hugo House, City Arts gets a new home.

  • The Hugo House announced yesterday that their newest prose writer-in-residence is Kristen Millares Young:
Co-organizer of the inaugural Seattle’s Writers Resist at Town Hall and co-founder and board chair of InvestigateWest, an award-winning nonprofit news studio known for creative storytelling, Young brings multidisciplinary skills and knowledge to Hugo House along with her experience as a creative writing instructor.
  • Speaking of Young, she will publish her very first novel in 2020 through Red Hen Press. City Arts published an excerpt of the upcoming book back in 2013.

  • Speaking of City Arts, J Seattle at Capitol Hill Seattle reports that the magazine will be breaking out of its former Greenwood offices and moving to the Cloud Room coworking space on Capitol Hill. J Seattle points out that they're joining a two-block radius packed full of media outlets

Going the distance

Published July 17, 2018, at 11:55am

Paul Constant reviews Elizabeth Cooperman, and Thomas Walton's The Last Mosaic.

When you travel, you don't do it in a straight line. A new book takes a fragmented, mosaic approach to describing a trip to Rome, and it feels more like traveling than just about any travel narrative in recent memory.

Read this review now

Nephilim

When you ask your mother how you came to be
she will look at you presently but be somewhere else.
Her eyes will light with the warm glows of conception
and you will see in her remembrance that you came
forth from light — pure blinding light. As you continue
reading the story that her face always tells, you will
trail her eyes as they land on the figure of her mortal
husband. And then, just like that, the light will be gone
but your mother will be back with you presently. She
will tell you again with her mouth the answer that her
eyes never seem to corroborate…
                                                                                                           “Your father.”

Mail Call for July 16, 2018

The Seattle Review of Books is currently accepting pitches for reviews. We’d love to hear from you — maybe on one of the books shown here, or another book you’re passionate about. Wondering what and how? Here’s what we’re looking for and how to pitch us.

2019 Washington State Book Awards submissions are open!

Send in your books! The submission period for the 2019 Washington State Book Awards — for 2018 books — just opened. These are our state's quintessential awards: specifically for Washington authors (the guidelines have changed this year to focus even more finely on writers who have a strong connection to the state) and with more than 50 years under their belts. You can see last year's finalists above — maybe your book could be in next year's photo?

The awards honor books in a sweeping eight categories, from fiction to memoir to children's lit. Judges are carefully selected: librarians, booksellers, writers; people who not only know their stuff but care deeply about choosing books that represent this literary community's best. The submission period runs now through December 1, but it's not too early to submit; books are reviewed on a rolling basis, and getting in ahead of the rush can't be a bad idea. Check out our sponsorship page for guidelines and details.

And if you're not a writer — put a note on your calendar now to come out for the fall awards ceremony for the 2018 awards, October 13 at the Central Library. Both submitting a book and attending the ceremony are free; the Washington Center for the Book (a partnership of the Seattle Public Library and the Washington State Library), which administers the awards, is committed to making the process and the celebration open to all.

We're so grateful to sponsors like the Washington Center for the Book for supporting this site and helping us publish great writing about books every day. Thanks to them, and our other amazing sponsors, 2018 sponsorships are almost sold out. We'd love to see your book, event, or service for writers promoted here — so reserve a slot fast, before they're gone!

Your Week in Readings: The best literary events from July 16th - July 22nd

Monday, July 16: Beyond Measure Reading

Rachel Z. Arndt has written a collection of essays about the way we quantify our lives: our weights, the times we wake up and go to sleep, the way we try to make ourselves a set of facts and figures for prospective dating partners. Elliott Bay Book Company, 1521 10th Ave, 624-6600, http://elliottbaybook.com, 7 pm, free.

Tuesday, July 17: Karen Joy Fowler

You might best know Karen Joy Fowler for her breakout novel The Jane Austen Book Club, and that novel is a delightful modernization of Austen's work. Her latest novel, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, is about a family that raises a chimpanzee as though it was a human child. But sci-fi writing organization Clarion West is bringing Fowler to town because she's also a writer of science fiction and fantasy. Seattle Public Library, 1000 4th Ave., 386-4636, http://spl.org, 7 pm, free.

Wednesday, July 18: Folio Grand Reopening

Folio, the private library/events space/coworking space, has moved from its birthplace under the downtown YMCA to a new spot in the Pike Place Market. Today, you are invited to come and meet the Folio board and check out the new digs, which look quite nice. We'll have more about the new space presently on this here website. Folio: The Seattle Atheneum, Pike Place Market, 93 Pike St #307, http://www.folioseattle.org 4 pm, free.

Thursday, July 19: Sick Reading

See our Event of the Week column for more details. Elliott Bay Book Company, 1521 10th Ave, 624-6600, http://elliottbaybook.com, 7 pm, free.

Friday, July 20: The Corpse at the Crystal Palace Reading

Carola Dunn writes the kind of mysteries that get described as "beloved." Her Daisy Dalrymple series bounces a plucky heroine around in the 1920s, solving mysteries and meeting interesting people. In other words, this is a perfect summertime literary event for you. Third Place Books Lake Forest Park, 17171 Bothell Way NE, 366-3333, http://thirdplacebooks.com, 7 pm, free.

Saturday, July 21: Chain Letter

The Capitol Hill reading series returns with a sweaty summer edition featuring Alex Bleecker, Eveline Müller, Nica Selvaggio, and the excellent Graham Isaac. *Vermillion Art Gallery and Bar, 1508 11th Ave., 709-9797, http://vermillionseattle.com, 7 pm, free.

Three great reasons to not buy cheap crap today

As all the tech sites are giddily running free publicity for the world's largest online retailer today, I'd like you to consider these two pieces about why you can't trust Amazon as a seller:

Imagine your favorite grocery store allowed an unregulated retailer to start selling sketchily sourced knock-offs in their aisles. How would you feel about that?

And more importantly, Amazon warehouse workers around Europe are striking right now. You don't want to cross picket lines, do you? I didn't think so.

Literary Event of the Week: Sick: A Memoir reading at Elliott Bay Book Company

"I have never been comfortable in my own body," Harlem novelist Porochista Khakpour writes in the beginning of Sick, her memoir about life with Lyme disease. "Rather, I've felt my whole life that I was born in the wrong body."

This distance between mind and body, understandably, has always made Khakpour uneasy. And so in some ways, the diagnosis of Lyme disease becomes a convenient metaphor for that distance, for the discomfort she feels inside her own body. This chronic pain and lethargy and weakness at least provides a reason why she might not feel at home in her skin. A few paragraphs later, she concludes:

Because my illness at this stage has no cure, I can forever own this discomfort of the body. I can always say this was all a mistake...I have started to consider that I will never be at home, perhaps not even in death.

Sick is a book that is always bargaining with mortality. Khakpour's story of chronic pain is the story of her existence. "I have been sick my whole life," she says, and the memoir is in many ways about knowing that she'll never know what it means to have good health, that health is the Godot that will never arrive.

When her Lyme disease gets very bad, Khakpour writes cryptic emails to friends asking them to check in on her from time to time. She starts to chafe at friends telling her to "take care of [her]self." She buys a cane. She faints. She tries different drugs. She knows that she'll never recover, which forces her to readjust her understanding of what it means to treat her disease.

Few writers could pull off this kind of a memoir without making it a laundry list of despair. But Khakpour isn't a typical writer: Sick is hypnotic in its examination of bodies in the world, and all the many ways those bodies can (and do) go wrong.

The Sunday Post for July 15, 2018

Each week, the Sunday Post highlights a few articles we enjoyed this week, good for consumption over a cup of coffee (or tea, if that's your pleasure). Settle in for a while; we saved you a seat. You can also look through the archives.

Peterson's Complaint

“Believe me, you are not too dumb to understand this,” says Laurie Penny, right before slicing Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life and Peterson himself into a paper blizzard of puffery, self-pity, and pretension. It’s a tour de force takedown, every breathlessly brilliant insult backed with rigorous logic, a glorious read for the language alone — and also a determined tug on a needle that’s been moving, a bit, and that a lot of angry people would like to re-set to the status quo.

Angry white male entitlement is the elevator music of our age. Speaking personally, as a feminist-identified person on the internet, my Twitter mentions are full of practically nothing else. I've spent far too much of my one life trying to listen and understand and offer suggestions in good faith, before concluding that it's not actually my job to manage the hurt feelings of men who are prepared to mortgage the entire future of the species to buy back their misplaced pride. It never was. That's not what feminism is about.
Barack Obama's Summer Reading

Barack Obama recommends a short list of books by African authors as he gears up for a trip to sub-Saharan Africa to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birth. The internet has been very gracious in not snarking about our current president’s reading habits while discussing this list, so I’ll try to do the same. (But seriously. A reading list personally curated by the last leader we had who read at all? Yes, please.)

I've often drawn inspiration from Africa's extraordinary literary tradition. As I prepare for this trip, I wanted to share a list of books that I'd recommend for summer reading, including some from a number of Africa's best writers and thinkers — each of whom illuminate our world in powerful and unique ways.
Hannibal Lecter, My Therapist

Here are two essays that use small, harmless things as a device to explore the deeply personal. First Emily Alford, who transforms a childhood viewing of The Silence of the Lambs into a grown-up meditation on poverty, neglect, and loss.

There are all sorts of reasons to go hungry: because the only food in the refrigerator is a pot of something crusted black at the edges and baked grey and brown in the center, meant to last all week, globbed on top of hardened white rice and reheated to hot, runny goo in a microwave where roaches dart across the gummy insides, legs sticking to squirts of months' worth of runny dinners. To see how long it takes for someone to notice the untouched plastic baggies full of slimy lunch meat that accumulate in a lunch box, warm to the touch by the time they return home uneaten. To become so thin the wind might catch flaps in a too-large tee shirt and send a body someplace else, like a balloon loosed from a bunch. When I was a baby, the doctor measured the length of my spine and promised my mother I'd be tall, she likes to tell me. Instead, I stopped growing right smack at average, never claiming the length of bone that serves as a reward for being one generation away from poor white trash.

"Was your daddy a coal miner? Did he stink of the lamp?" Dr. Lecter asks Clarice Starling.

Sweetness Mattered

Then Aaron Hamburger, for whom a pack of Smarties helps clear the way to reclaiming himself after a brutal rape. Both of these are difficult, excellent, and best read in private, when you can give them plenty of space and time.

My parents were midwestern-friendly, polite, though they became increasingly silent, even stoic, as I recounted my story. I imagined that no one in the room had ever encountered a shameful and bizarre story like mine, or someone foolish or weak enough to allow such a thing to happen to him. This was the kind of crime that happened to women. But then, after what had happened, maybe I wasn't really a man.
Don't imagine you're smarter

Neal Ascherson on the experience of reading a more traditional kind of permanent record — the files kept by the secret police to track suspected spies. Thought-provoking in this era where digital surveillance, both commercial and political, is an unavoidable fact of life.

The crowning mercy of human relations is that we don’t know what other people are really thinking about us. They — those others — decide what redacted selection we are offered. But to read one’s police file is — suddenly — to have the curtain pulled open. The self you think you know becomes a mask, concealing a devious somebody else whose relationships are mere espionage fakes.

Whatcha Reading, Anita Sarkeesian?

Every week we ask an interesting figure what they're digging into. Have ideas who we should reach out to? Let it fly: info@seattlereviewofbooks.com. Want to read more? Check out the archives.

Anita Sarkeesian is the creator and executive director of Feminist Frequency. If you haven't watched any of their amazing critical video series (beginning with Tropes vs Women in video games, which landed Sarkeesian as one of the primary targets of the organized harassment known as Gamergate), they're excellently produced, entertaining, and educational looks at video games, movies, and overlooked women in history, always through a feminist lens. Sarkeesian also hosts the Feminist Frequency Radio podcast, and if that wasn't enough, she and podcast co-host Ebony Adams have a new book coming out! History vs Women: History vs Women: The Defiant Lives That They Don't Want You To Know has a street date of October 2nd, but you can get pre-orders in now. Perhaps through a local indie bookshop?

What are you reading now?

I’m currently reading the final entry in NK Jemisin’s The Broken Earth Trilogy. I’d first heard of Jemisin because so many of my friends were raving about her writing. To be completely honest, I started reading The Fifth Season, the first book in the series, about three times before I actually got through it. The early sections just weren’t grabbing me, but of course I wanted to get into it because my friends loved it so much. Then I met Nora and she was so wonderful and smart and thoughtful that I was like, OKAY, GODDAMN IT, I HAVE TO READ THIS THING! Thank goodness I did, because once I got about a third of the way through the first book, I was absolutely riveted. The character development and world building in this series are spectacular. It’s a completely foreign world that nonetheless feels all too familiar because Jemisin, a masterful storyteller, weaves together so many contemporary societal problems and roots them organically in her meticulous fantasy universe. It’s just thrilling to come across writing that’s simultaneously so imaginative and so replete with meaning. The Broken Earth Trilogy reminds me that fantasy isn’t just the stuff of white men warring over a throne; it can be rich, fascinating, complex, and diverse, too.

What did you read last?

Franchesca Ramsey’s Well That Escalated Quickly: Memoirs and Mistakes of an Accidental Activist. Ramsey walks readers through her life and career path. We might see folks “make it big” on YouTube and it’s as if they just burst onto the scene out of nowhere; we often don’t realize the years and years of hard work it took for them to be noticed. In Ramsey’s memoir, she talks about how the video that put her on the map, “Shit White Girls Say To Black Girls,” came to be, and how it helped her get to where she is now, with a show on MTV, and a gig as a writer and correspondent on the (sadly canceled) Nightly Show, among other exciting achievements. She doesn’t shy away from discussing all the bumps along the way, too, and I appreciate Franchesca’s candor about falling into activism, learning how to talk about issues of privilege and oppression, and the ways in which she’s messed up from time to time.

What are you reading next?

My two fave genres are scifi and memoirs so I often just hop between the two. Next I want to read Sick: A Memoir by Porochista Khakpour. Recently, I read one of her novels, The Last Illusion, which I loved. It’s a fascinating tale of a boy who was raised as a bird, a narrative which allowed Khakpour to really explore socially learned masculinity in American culture and its consequences. Sick is her latest book about living with late-stage Lyme disease and the struggles of chronic pain and illness.

The Help Desk: Breaking the code

Cienna Madrid is on summer break. The following Help Desk was originally published on November 20th, 2015.

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,

My son hates to read. The rest of the family? That's all we do. We don't have a TV, even. The other five of us could pass every moment of every day with our noses in a book, but our son wouldn't read chocolate if it were a book. We bought him a computer, and he's getting pretty good at programming and really likes it, but I think he needs to let his eyes rest from all of the vibrating pixels every now-and-again. He thinks we're all (the wrong kind of) nerds, and wants us to learn more about the internet. What kind of compromise do you think we can find?

Georgia in Georgetown Heights

Dear Georgia,

You can't force your loved ones to enjoy your hobbies – if that were possible, all of my friends would be wild about American Girl cosplay and farm-to-table spider farming. That said, if your son is programming, he is reading – you just don't get his language.

So buy him a few books that suit his interests and make a parental decree: Read for an hour, then your child can use the computer (and yes, you should definitely be letting him show off his internet skills). The method works: It's how I eventually weaned my cat off porn.

It's difficult to recommend specific books without knowing your son's age and abilities but Python for Kids: A Playful Introduction to Programming and 3D Game Programming for Kids: Create Interactive Worlds with JavaScript both come highly rated for kids 10+. If he's a little bit older, I'd throw in William Gibson's cyberpunk classic, Neuromancer. In fact, that might be a fun book to read and discuss as a family book club project, you nerds.

Kisses,

Cienna

Aaron Bagley's Dream Comics: Tried on a dress

Portrait Gallery: Shin Yu Pai

Each week, Christine Marie Larsen creates a new portrait of an author or event for us. Have any favorites you’d love to see immortalized? Let us know

Thursday, July 12: Forms of the Book

This one looks like a doozy. Three of Seattle’s smartest, most inventive writers — Amaranth Borsuk, Doug Nufer, and Shin Yu Pai — get together to discuss the past, present, and future of the book.
Ada’s Technical Books, 425 15th Ave, 322-1058, http://seattletechnicalbooks.com, 7 pm, free.

Future Alternative Past: Yesterday's bleak tomorrow

Every month, Nisi Shawl presents us with news and updates from her perch overlooking the world of science-fiction, fantasy, and horror. You can also look through the archives of the column.

And I feel fine

What’s more within SFFH’s wheelhouse than the end of the world as we know it? As a child I watched cowboy movies in theaters with clearly marked radiation shelter entrances, and practiced hiding from nuclear attacks under my flimsy little school desk. But when a babysitter stopped me from eating snow because “the Russians” had poisoned it with bomb tests, I knew hiding was no use. Snow falls everywhere.

In SFFH literature that duck-and-cover strategy was just as futile. Nevil Shute’s contemporary classic On the Beach depicted a bunch of Australians awaiting inevitable death in a nuclear war’s wake. Pat Frank’s Alas Babylon was another bestselling novel of the nuclear holocaust. Theodore Sturgeon’s “Thunder and Roses”, and Ray Bradbury’s “There Will Come Soft Rains” and “The Garbage Collector” are powerful short stories on the same topic. It’s like writers are subject to the same traumatizing expectations as the rest of us (sarcasm emoji).

But as the nature of real-world catastrophes has mutated, their SFFH depictions have changed. The likelihood of atomic warfare lessened. In its place loomed twin specters: ecological devastation and plague. Suzy McKee Charnas’s 1974 novel Walk to the End of the World is a “nice” mash-up: an ecological disaster drives government bureaucrats into the (real-life) underground enclaves designed to protect them from nuclear attack; from there they bring forth a horrifically misogynistic society in which cannibalism is a woman’s best option.

James Tiptree, Jr.’s “The Last Flight of Dr. Ain” came out in 1969, a plague-pocalypse still spawning tributes such as Joanne Rixon’s unpublished “The Last Flight of Ashley Drescher.”

Octavia E. Butler’s Lilith’s Brood series begins in the aftermath of a global nuclear war; that path to annihilation still seemed open when she began the trilogy with Dawn in 1987. But already in 1983 she was exploring the plague-ridden road to oblivion in her Hugo Award winning “Speech Sounds,” a short story imagining the quick dissolution of civilization under an onslaught of contagious aphasia and illiteracy.

Zombies power most plague-focused SFFH apocalypses, with horror their regular turf — although SF has hosted some thought-provoking zombie tales too. A few of my favorites across spec fic subgenres are The Loving Dead by Amelia Beamer, Lord Byron’s Novel by John Crowley, The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey, and Zone One by Colson Whitehead.

SFFH explores various depictions of outraged nature’s effects on us. In John Varley’s Slow Apocalypse, runaway bioweapons destroy the entire world’s oil fields in a matter of days, leading to massive cultural regression. In Kim Stanley Robinson’s New York 2140 and Tobias Buckell’s Arctic Rising, though, no additional action is needed to bring the planet’s delicately balanced natural forces tumbling down on our heads — they’re already falling. To be sure, in these two examples, at least, life goes on — but a radically different life.

The idea of eco-catastrophe is something we have always had with us, journeying beside us through those nightmare atomic wastelands. Pairing it up with that stalwart of the genre, alien invasion, Jeff VanderMeer has written Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy. He describes not so much an apocalypse as a breach in consensus reality, with gnomic messages left for Area X’s explorers via luminescent slug trails and similar shifting, rotting, signifiers.

What’s next? Perhaps a sudden spate of political disaster fiction. Slate published ten pieces of it for their 2017 Trump Story Project. Christopher Brown’s Tropic of Kansas supposedly takes place in an alternate universe, but the oppression and cognitive dissonance of its setting are nauseatingly familiar. Fortunately it ends where I also want to wind up: in hopefulness.

Recent books recently read

Summerland (Tor), the new novel by former mathematical physicist Hannu Rajaniemi, takes place in a bona fide afterlife, which should be a locus of hope. But like the mortal world it’s divided along national boundaries, and ghostly spies compete just as fiercely for dominance there as here. Lovecraftian lurkers await in Summerland’s unexplored depths; British agent Rachel White and the Russian mole she hunts struggle above this dark abyss. The mole longs for the certitude denied by The Liar’s Paradox but promised by submergence in the group mind that comprises the Soviet’s Heaven. White longs to defend her country, repair her career in government espionage, and rescue her faltering marriage to a veteran of ectoplasmic combat. Following the lines of their conflicting and overlapping desires, I as a reader felt satisfied again and again by the author’s ability to convey humankind’s universal and eternal weaknesses and strengths.

Pulled together from novellas published primarily on her Patreon fundraising site, Kameron Hurley’s Apocalypse Nyx (Tachyon)is a welcome return to the adventures of the author’s iconic hard-fisted anti-heroine. An ex-government assassin both rogue and scrupulous, by the end of the book Nyx has survived to the ripe old age of thirty something despite her penchant for binge drinking and her disregard for commonly accepted rules of engagement. These five glimpses into her passage from an explosives expert fresh off a centuries-old battlefront to a bounty hunter in war-ravaged cities and villages show her being both tender and tough, both reckless and cynical. My favorite story’s the final one, in which Nyx notes how ridiculous it is for a killer like herself to have a panging conscience — but declines a ride home out of the desert from colleagues who set fire to a house full of children anyway.

Second of her non-Temeraire books, Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver (Del Rey) revisits the vaguely European fantasy milieu of her award-winning novel Uprooted. Jewish folklore underpins them both, but this new story’s much grimmer. Famine; unnaturally prolonged winters; persecution by Christian neighbors; physically abusive fathers and distantly scheming ones; all these harshnesses have a chilling effect on the intertwined tales of Miryem and Wanda of Pavys, and Irina, daughter of a nobleman and bride of a demon-possessed tsar. The nameless king who commands Miryem to change his silver to gold is conquered not by cheating but by the magic that comes only “when you [make] some larger version of yourself with words and promises, and then [step] inside and somehow [grow] to fill it.” Multiple first-person perspectives simultaneously narrow and widen the narrative. All this renders Spinning Silver uncomfortable, unorthodox, and unforgettable.

A non-con and a no-go

On August 18 I’ll take part in an afternoon of subversive thinking called Economic Utopias and Dystopias here in Seattle. There’s no link for me to share with you yet — no website — but we’ll start with a 2pm panel discussion and move on from there to a world building exercise. Stay tuned for the location and names of co-conspirators.

Meanwhile, I full-throatedly recommend you not attend Dragoncon, the self-declared “largest multi-media, popular culture convention focusing on science fiction & fantasy, gaming, comics, literature, art, music, and film in the universe.” Basically, they’ve decided it’s best to tolerate intolerance; they’ve invited a notorious racist, homophobic, misogynist harasser and fired the woman who called him out.

Thursday Comics Hangover: The hero comics deserves

For many years, cartoonist Steve Ditko created and sold comics outside the traditional publishing system. With the assistance of comics editor Robin Snyder, Ditko sold his comics directly to the public through Kickstarter.

I've supported several of these Kickstarted books, and in the list of backers located on the inside back cover you could often find the familiar names of comics creators. The most recent Ditko comic to arrive in my mailbox this spring, The Hero, included cartoonist Stephen Bissette and comics writer Tom DeFalco — and other titles have included famous backers like Neil Gaiman.

I often thought of these books as a kind of community retirement plan for Ditko, who passed away last week at the age of 90. Marvel didn't compensate him nearly what it should have for his work in the creation of Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, and Ditko slowly stopped working for most traditional comics publishers for reasons that he always kept private. He seemed to be in need of assistance, and he was certainly not the kind of person to accept charity. So backing comics like The Hero were a way to thank Ditko for all his work, and to show him that we still loved him.

Most of Ditko's Kickstarted comics were uneven collections of text pages written by Snyder or Ditko or a combination of the two, and short comics written and drawn by Ditko. The comics tended to be collections from Ditko's archives; in The Hero, there's a comic about a hero called Killjoy that was originally illustrated in 1988.

Ditko's Objectivism is on full display in The Hero. In the Killjoy story, some civic leaders at the "Foundation to Protect the Guilty from Justice" are weeping giant tears into puddles on the floor. A wealthy-looking man named Mr. Hart goes on a tremendous, tear-soaked rant that sounds like a conservative's view of what a liberal criminal justice system would sound like:

Wah! It's unjust! Killjoy's ruining the careers of hard working criminals! They have rights! We have to help them...raise bail...hire lawyers...demand crime be made legitimate!...Wah! It's cruel! When criminals can't practise their profession! Their victims never cooperate and now this Killjoy! It's too much for decent men to take! Sob! Criminals are as law-biding as non-criminals.

Then the Foundation goes no a protest march, with signs reading: "Our first concern is for the guilty," "We need a union for hard working criminals," "For every guilty victim, there is an innocent criminal."

Of course Mr. Hart is mugged by criminals and he makes excuses for them even as they smash the teeth out his face. And of course Killjoy crushes the criminal syndicate (which includes a man dressed like Robin Hood, a coal miner, a gorilla, a lion wearing a domino mask, and a python.) It's exactly as philosophically simple-minded as you'd expect a comic from one of Ayn Rand's most devoted acolytes to be.

But there's a lot of fun, too, including a short comic about a hero called Mr. Quiver, a big-bellied bald man who eats Jello and defeats the bad guys by absorbing their punches and jiggling them back at them. Originally drawn in 1985, the strip seems like an early pass at Speedball, the bouncing boy superhero Ditko would create for Marvel a few years later.

But the title story in The Hero is the true gem. Drawn in 2009, it's Ditko's superhero work reduced to its purest form. It begins with a splash page of a man in a garish wavy-lined costume with a giant "V" on his chest. He carries a large club, and he announces, "I'm the Villain! Initiation of force, might, is good, right, just! No one dares oppose me!"

Of course, then a man in a suit with a giant "H" emblazoned on it shows up. The Villain identifies this man as "The Hero," but The Hero doesn't talk in the course of the story. He just laughs: "HA HA HA HA." Meanwhile, in the background, a large group of people — presumably the general public — mocks The Hero and praises The Villain.

The Villain and The Hero get in a fistfight for a couple of silent pages, and then The Hero knocks The Villain out cold, smacking him into a pile of garbage and rats. Triumphant, The Hero then seems to, as best I can tell, juggle a bunch of cylindrical cacti wearing cowboy hats in the final panel while the general public grumbles that the fight was rigged.

The art in this comic is beyond loose, but it it distinctly Ditko. It feels like every line has to be there, that Ditko willed it to be. On a pure black and white page, his certainty is a beautiful thing to behold.

Book News Roundup: Are hate groups protected speech in libraries?

At the top of the hierarchy is Amazon. And at the bottom are record numbers of homeless people. The rise of Seattle’s socialist movement can be explained in part by its ability to link the city’s inequality to a wider critique of capitalism. Amazon may have succeeded in crushing the business tax earlier this year. But Socialist Alternative’s Sawant, as well as all the activists working alongside her, helped ensure that the tax was on the city’s agenda to begin with.

[The Intellectual Freedom Committee] strengthened the 1991 “Meeting Rooms: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights” by adding legal citations; expanding the text on the purpose of meetings rooms; and clarifying the description of admission fees. The interpretation cites specific examples of groups that may choose to use meeting rooms.

“If a library allows charities, non-profits, and sports organizations to discuss their activities in library meeting rooms,” states the interpretation, “then the library cannot exclude religious, social, civic, partisan political, or hate groups from discussing their activities in the same facilities.”

  • Uh, sorry, no. Hate groups are not protected speech. Hate groups are shouting "fire" in a crowded theater. Hate groups are calling for the murder of people not like them. We need as a nation to come together and realize that white supremacists and their like aren't a political group. They're terrorist organizations. This isn't a slippery slope. This is about an existential threat to civlization and a real physical threat to our neighbors. Stop it.

  • Evening Magazine interviewed Seattle cartoonist Ellen Forney about her self-help comic Rock Steady:

Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick

Published July 11, 2018, at 12:00pm

Jessica Mooney reviews Leni Zumas's Red Clocks.

With Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy retiring, we turn to last January's Red Clocks, by Leni Zumas. Reviewer Jessica Mooney looks at the book-flap question raised by the book: what is a woman for?

Read this review now

New Hire: Meet Rob Arnold, the Hugo House's new events curator

At the end of June, Hugo House announced that they had hired Rob Arnold to fill the events director position previously held by novelist Peter Mountford. The press release cited Arnold's impressive resumé — he "has held key positions at Ploughshares, Beacon Press, Fence Books, the National Poetry Series, PEN New England and, most recently, at the literary agency Aevitas Creative Management in Boston, Massachusetts" — and his education as a poetry undergrad at the University of Washington.

Over the phone, Arnold sounds elated about his new job — and, if anything, he seems even more excited about coming back to Seattle after many years on the east coast. Arnold recalls coming to the House back when it first started in the late 1990s. "I really gravitated toward [Hugo House's] sense of community," he explains.

"I've been aware of Hugo House for a long time," Arnold says, and as he's established a literary life on the east coast, "I've been watching the House from afar. Peter [Mountford,] especially, has really brought its event series into national prominence. When he announced that he was leaving, it seemed like a really good opportunity to come back."

Arnold has roots in Seattle, and returning to its peculiar Northwestern rhythms was easy and enjoyable for him. "I keep joking with my east coast friends when they ask me how Seattle is. I say 'it's relentlessly pleasant.'"

It helps that Arnold is intimately familiar with the Northwestern tradition of poetry. At UW, he explains, "my first very first workshop was with Rick Kenney." he says that experience "really opened my brain in the best possible way, and so I studied with him a lot. I was a Rick Kenney acolyte." He also learned from Linda Bierds and Robert McNamara.

I ask Arnold if he can think of any literary events he's attended that especially stood out as something he'd like to emulate at the Hugo House. "Any time Margaret Atwood is in a room, it's going to be remarkable," he says. "But I remember seeing Margaret Atwood at the Boston Book Festival interviewed by Kelly Link." Link at first seemed like she might feel "dwarfed" by Atwood's brilliance, Arnold says, but "Atwood was so incredible and so generous and just fiercely intelligent, and it was one of the most riveting experiences."

Arnold will be putting together the very first events in Hugo House's brand-new home. "Part of my role, of course, is to curate to the new space, but so much of what Hugo House has been doing already has been so vital and so compelling to the community that following the guidance of my predecessors is going to be something that I keep in mind a lot."

"We do have this amazing new theater space that's going to be really thrilling," Arnold says. "It will seat 150 and then they'll have expanded seating available for more."

But even Arnold doesn't know what the events slate will look like a year from now. "I'm still getting to know the space and I imagine that once I get to know all the different spaces we have to work with, I'll be booking different kinds of events to occupy different parts of the space in the building."

You can expect some popular House reading series to continue, including the themed Literary Series and the craft conversations. Arnold is excited about incorporating more genre authors into the series, including a craft talk from mystery author Elizabeth George. "I'm looking at erasing some of the boundaries that have existed a little bit too long between literary and genre. I think those boundaries are blending a little bit now, particularly in the post-Harry-Potter age when people feel less divided about genre."

What other sneak previews can Arnold provide? "Lauren Groff will be taking part in our fall series. That's super exciting for me. And the poet Natalie Diaz is going to be doing a really amazing event for us on the Edward Curtis legacy. That's going to be really interesting."

Hugo House, he says, is "a community center, and we're working with a lot of other literary organizations — hosting events for them, working with them in partnership — and so we're not just a resource for writers, but a resource for writing and literary arts in general in the city, like a portal to the larger literary world."

One of Arnold's central missions is to strengthen the House's "commitment to equity — racial equity, economic equity — and reaching audiences that sometimes the literary community can forget about." It's his job, maybe most importantly of all, to open the House to people who don't even know they're welcome there yet.

Small towns need books (all towns need books)

Skykomish's Little Free Library was launched by Savannah Slone and her girlfriend to give the small town's readers better access to books that touch on poverty and LGBTQIA+ issues (among others). Books available — as of publication — in the exceptionally well-curated library include Roxane Gay's Hunger, Amanda Lovelace's The Princess Saves Herself in This One, Ariel Gore's We Were Witches, and Jeannette Wall's The Glass Castle.

In my rural Washington community, I'm the new owner of a Little Free Library, which my family and I named "Bookworm Exchange." Visitors can take a book, leave a book, or both. My girlfriend and I received a grant to bring our new library to Skykomish with the intention of increasing access to books for our impoverished community. We both have lived in poverty and exist within the LGBTQIA+ community, and books are vital to our feeling heard, included, and worthy. We understand the importance of having free books available, especially for people who don't feel accepted or represented.

It’s safe to say most people are shocked at just how small Skykomish is: a population of just 216. When I graduated from Skykomish High School in 2013, I was the only person in my class. Even though Skykomish School District serves not just Skykomish, but the surrounding communities of Timberlane, Mill Town, Grotto, Baring, and Index, there are currently only 43 students in the entire school district. Preschool through twelfth grade are educated in a single building.

I grew up and still reside in Skykomish, where 96% of the population is white and 19% of the residents live below the poverty level. Eighty-two percent of Skykomish School District students are on a free or reduced-price meal plan. I was raised in one of these low-income households, and I know what a difference having access to books can make: without books, I'd have grown up only knowing the life stories of my peers, people with backgrounds very similar to my own. It would have been years before I interacted with and learned to value people outside of my community. This happens often in our town; small schools come with many benefits, but they also come with geographic isolation, small class sizes, and limited class offerings and extracurricular activities.

As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, I also know how uplifting it is to feel represented in the books you read. When young readers get their hands on stories they can relate to, they feel less alone. Having the opportunity to read outside of what they know increases empathy and understanding of ethnicities, gender identities, sexual orientations, abilities, and other life experiences that might be different than their own.

If I hadn’t had books with characters that I could relate to, growing up in a small town with few if any others who identified as I did would have been even tougher than it was. Simply living in an isolated area feels secluded and lonely. When you're struggling to pay bills or are a part of a marginalized group, there is an even greater sense of isolation that feeling heard can mend, at least to a degree. Reading about queer people, as well as about people living without much money, made me feel like I wasn’t alone.

Because Skykomish is so remote, our local King County Library System location can't be open as often as libraries. With such low circulation, there isn’t enough need. It's also difficult to find qualified staff willing to work more than three days a week in as rural an area as Skykomish. But the beauty of libraries is that everything is available for free, and that matters even more in small towns with limited resources. I've considered my local library a home away from home for as long as I can remember. I wouldn’t have been able to afford the books I’ve been fortunate enough to have access to without the Skykomish library. Skykomish doesn’t even have a grocery store — so, while the library is a necessity to our community, it is most certainly a privilege as well.

Thomas Jay, Superintendent of Skykomish School District, says, “The Skykomish community is not as passionate about literacy and reading as one would suspect or hope.” He attributes this to a lack of parental involvement and overall motivation. But maybe it's a question of access, too? By offering a variety of diverse books to anyone, at any hour of the day, we're creating the opportunity for an upturn in the town’s readers.

The Little Free Library is just a starting point. I also plan to hold events and start clubs to continue advocating for our town’s developing readers. My hope is that encouraging reading with our Little Free Library will play some role, no matter how small, in helping the youth of Skykomish feel less detached from the rest of the world. These kids would benefit from having more access to books that expand their worldview — and that represent them.

The personality test

Published July 10, 2018, at 11:48am

Paul Constant reviews Beck Dorey-Stein's From the Corner of the Oval, Amy Chozick's Chasing Hillary, and Amy Siskind's The List .

Why are we so obsessed with knowing a presidential candidate's heart? Is it even possible to know "the real" Barack Obama, or Hillary Clinton, or Donald Trump? Is there a better way to judge a president than by the content of their character?

Read this review now