Artist Trust has announced the recipients of its 2018 Gap Awards, which is a $1500 project-based award for Washington State artists across multiple disciplines. Here are the literary recipients:
Congratulations to everyone on the list! We can't wait to see what you do with that money.
Published October 23, 2018, at 11:55am
Before you fall prey to the 1990s nostalgia that's sweeping the internet, you should remember the revolutions that were happening just beneath the surface back then, and all their casualties.
The birds are making a nest of me
out there, from all the hair I’ve lost
to my hairbrush and rug, bits of skin
and grey fuzz from my skirt too —
and everyone tells me
this doesn’t look good.
Am I shedding because it’s winter,
or because, as the Bad Luck Astrologer says,
Now at twenty-nine I’m finally completing
my first full twirl around the moon?
I think it must be both.
I should have known better then to test
my weight on that cold limb, should have
known better than to buy you
new shoes. All night they danced
around the house and just before dawn
tapped like a black moth
right out the door.
And all night
I brush my hair like a nearly dead plant,
letting the brown fall from its hard root
until it sings
like a sharpened knife
with its one sprout
of new life.
The Jack Straw Writers Showcase is one of the best ways to discover new writers to love. Committed to helping writers learn the craft of the page and the stage, Jack Straw has been around for twenty-two years (just old enough to drink!) and fostered some of the best-known names in town. Come out to the Central Library on November 3, take a seat in the Microsoft Auditorium, and prepare to be delighted — and to walk out with a list of names to watch for.
Jack Straw residents are curated each year by a known Seattle voice — this year, Daemond Arrindell — and the Writers Showcase is an incredible display of talent across genres, themes, and tone. 2018 residents include Kamari Bright, Dujie Tahat, and many others listed on our sponsor feature page.
The Jack Straw Showcase is hosted by The Seattle Public Library, who is also this week's sponsor. We're incredibly grateful for their support of this site and our literary community.
Sponsors like The Seattle Public Library make the Seattle Review of Books possible. Did you know you can sponsor us, too? There's only ONE slot remaining in our fall/winter block, for the week of January 21. Grab it fast, and be one of the first books (or events) our readers see in 2019! Take a glance at our sponsorship information page for details.
Half-Breed is a reading and musical performance by PC Muñoz, who will at this show be releasing his album Physical Science, which has a companion chapbook titled Inside Pocket of a Houndstooth Blazer. Here is a trailer for the event:
Hugo House, 1634 11th Avenue, 322-7030, http://hugohouse.org, 7 pm, $10.
The local poetry publisher celebrates three years in the cut-throat publishing business with some short films and a great lineup including...
...Rachel Kessler, Melinda Mueller, Maya Jewell Zeller, and E. Briskin. Hear new translation work by Deborah Woodard and play excerpts from Christine Deavel and J.W. Marshall.
Hugo House, 1634 11th Avenue, 322-7030, http://hugohouse.org, 7 pm, free.
See our event of the week column for more details.
One of Seattle's finest authors, Anca Szilagyi, teaches you how to write your own fairy tale in this free class at Seattle Public Library. Szilagyi's debut novel uses fairy tale imagery to tell a story that feels pointed and new. Maybe this is how that novel, Daughters of the Air, got its start! helps you write your own fairy tale *Seattle Public Library, Queen Anne Branch, 400 W Garfield St, http://spl.org, 2 pm, free.
Elliott Bay Book Company, 1521 10th Ave, 624-6600, http://elliottbaybook.com, 7 pm, free.
At Third Place Books Seward Park on Thursday night, former South Seattle Emerald editor Marcus Harrison Green, who now writes for the Seattle Times, presents the second anthology of writing from the Emerald, Emerald Reflections 2. It's a celebration of all things south Seattle, by the only site that regularly reports on Seattle's most diverse neighborhoods.
Readers include Green, Tiffani Jones, Rollie Williams, Nakeya Isabell, and many more. If you're a Seattleite and your media diet doesn't include the Emerald, you're missing out on some vital voices.
And then, as if to prove the strength of south Seattle's literary scene, the Type Set coworking space in Columbia City is also hosting a reading on Thursday, featuring local authors Kirsten Sundberg Lunstrum, Michelle Bailat-Jones, and Anca L. Szilágyi.
Type Set wants to set itself apart as a coworking space with a literary bent — they're hosting a very smart and no-frills reading series featuring some of Seattle's most up-and-coming writers. If you see someone read at Type Set, you're likely to hear a lot from that writer in the weeks and months to come.
Unfortunately, both these readings happen at the exact same time, so you have to choose between them. But whichever reading you choose, south Seattle is the place to be on Thurdsay.
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.
Jamal Khashoggi's last column.
Arab governments have been given free rein to continue silencing the media at an increasing rate.
Brendan O’Connor ties together threads after an appearance by Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes turned violent last week. If you've been thinking of the vicious proto-fascist group as a fringe element, this article is an education.
Bound together by violent misogyny and ultranationalism, these groups stand for nothing resembling a conventional political program or platform — but that does not mean they are apolitical. Pragmatically sidestepping the question of race, they now make their proto-fascist appeal in the language of patriotic individualism: pro-America, pro-capitalism, and pro-Trump. (Its effectiveness should not be understated: for years, antifascists in New York City’s soccer supporter scene have been working to alienate Antillon, a frequent attendee of New York City Football Club matches at Yankee Stadium, from friends and fellow fans who don’t have Nazi tattoos—with little success.) Around the country, the Proud Boys have replicated this strategy, appealing primarily to people’s class interests—as small business owners, for example, or as the children of families who fled socialist revolutions—as well as traditionalist gender politics, temporarily deferring the white nationalist project in the interest of swelling their ranks. As it happens, this is the strategy that has also allowed them entry into the Republican mainstream.
Composer Nico Muhly on the process of creating music, which involves much more file structure than you might imagine. His description of the primary task of composition — "to create a piece of art that is better than the same amount of silence" — is delightfully straightforward, and the essay is delightfully full of the details of his craft.
In general, the next step — before involving notes and rhythms — is a period of improvisational research. I begin with a simple idea, such as ‘old broken Gibbons piece reveals itself’, and then start exploring. Soon I find myself engaged in research about the power of relics in Buddhism, which leads to the Lacanian notion of the objet petit a, soon displaced by my delight in Obelix’s dog Dogmatix being called Idéfix in the original French, which leads to the way a single obsessive idea can dominate every aspect of a text, which leads to Gollum, which leads to Tolkien’s use of dead languages to create a set of fictional languages, which leads to old words taking on new meaning, which leads to Wendy Carlos’s interpretation of Bach, and so on. All these articles, pictures and fragments get printed out and digitally saved and put in folders, and the result — for me — is a magical vessel full of information and possibility.
From this, the notes come quickly.
Steven Kurutz profiles Kathy Hourigan, Knopf Doubleday's vice president, managing editor, and longest-tenured employee at 55 years and counting. Look at that office! A book-lover's lair.
Her career has spanned the discreet era when authors mailed a single typed manuscript along with a carbon copy to be passed around, to today’s convenient but somewhat alarming electronic system where with one keystroke, a book can be widely distributed. She is reminiscent of long-forgotten characters like Harry Ford, a poetry editor with “an unerring ear,” according to his obituary in The New York Times, and Mr. Koshland.
Indeed, Ms. Hourigan would rather talk about them than herself. She gave up her writing ambitions, she said, when “I realized that all the manuscripts coming through the slush pile were written better than I could write.”
Celeste Ng has a nuanced and thoughtful response to harassment of Asian-American women who choose a non-Asian partner or have multiracial children. The contrast between her response and the trolls' attacks is ... striking.
There’s a range of behavior from men who engage in this harassment on Reddit, Twitter, and other channels. The problem is that even legitimate concerns end up entwined with these more extreme views. Some of the men on these forums argue that they are overlooked culturally and that Asian women’s activism sidelines them — a point that the Asian community can and should civilly discuss further. However, most speak not about cultural representation and activism, but about what they perceive as a dearth of dating opportunities for Asian men. The most toxic posts come from men who argue for racial purity and refer to Asian women as if they are commodities rather than people. Yet men all along this spectrum of opinions engage in similar harassing behavior, using similar misogynistic language and similar bullying tactics — and placing the blame for the entire array of complaints squarely on Asian women.
Seattle Walk Report is a charming and delightful Instagram account run by an anonymous Seattlite. You can read Paul Constant's review with her, but here we dig into the most important question of all: when she's not walking or drawing, what is she reading? Special thanks to SRoB reader Josie who recommended we reach out to Seattle Walk Report. We love recommendations! Who do you want to hear from, here? Let us know.
What are you reading now?
Due to a serendipitous library encounter, I'm currently reading Looking at Cities by Allan B Jacobs. It's about the crucial role of street-level observation in truly understanding the story of a city. Jacobs, an urban designer, delves into what you can learn about an area if you know what to look for and take the time to explore, and how that exploration can lead to building better cities. It was published in 1985 so some of the case studies in the book are a bit dated, but the essence and message of the book rings as true as ever. I'm really enjoying it so far.
After getting a totally preventable drawing injury, my friend gave me a lovely signed copy of a book called Draw Stronger: Self-Care for Cartoonists and Other Visual Artists by Kriota Willberg, which I've been reading and re-reading. The illustrations are laugh-out-loud funny at times and the writing is completely accessible. I highly recommend it.
What did you read last?
What are you reading next?
It's up for the Library hold system to decide, but I have a few that I'm especially looking forward to: 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Harari, Seattleness: A Cultural Atlas by Tera Hatfield, Jenny Kempson, and Natalie Ross, and the graphic novel Be Prepared by Vera Brosgal. Middle grade graphic novels are a joy no one can take away from me!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
What's the best musical ever made from a book. No picking Hamilton.
Tia, On the Boards
By far the best book-to-musical adaptation I have ever seen is Struwwelpeter – Shockheaded Peter – which toured Seattle in 2001. The book is a collection of German victorian children's morality fables that illustrate what happens to children who won't eat their soup (they starve), who whip dogs (they are badly bitten), and who suck their thumbs (their thumbs are cut off by a maniac with large scissors). The stories were narrated by the Tiger Lillies and an accordion.
I would like to see more musicals commissioned to tell vital stories that people avoid because they are too sad or too true to deal with right now: Bastard out of Carolina, When Breath Becomes Air, The New Jim Crow, Fear: Trump in the White House – someone should jazz up those word piles with a few aggressively catchy songs and shove 'em on stage.
Maybe also The Old Man and the Sea because I can't think of an author more antithetical to the genre and I want to watch an old man sing to a large fish for at least two hours.
Thursday, October 18: Walter Mosley
Walter Mosley is an iconic author — one of the few writers left who draw a massive audience on the strength of his name alone. (And he always dresses like a star for his readings.) His latest book, John Woman, is about a man with a mysterious past.
Northwest African American Museum, 2300 S Massachusetts St, 518-6000. http://naamnw.org, 7 pm, free.
Canadian ebookseller Kobo published a very interesting post about the way ereaders have been received by consumers. Turns out, nothing happened the way the experts predicted. "Instead of being a transition technology, eReaders have become an interesting case study in how specialized hardware survives in a multi-function world," writes Kobo's Michael Tamblyn.
It's interesting, even on a blog by a company that is interested in selling ereaders, to read what people are not interested in when it comes to ereaders. Turns out, the most successful ebook purchasers are self-selected; ereaders aren't the best gifts, Tamblyn writes, because they work best when consumers "decide for themselves to give eBooks a try." But once they do self-select, people who buy ereaders are loyal to their devices — meaning they rarely trade up but prefer to stay on the same device, even when newer and flashier options are available — and they buy a lot of ebooks.
It doesn't seem that ebooks will ever dominate the publishing sales charts, but ebook buyers do seem to be a solid niche.
Originally published back in 2000, Karl Kesel and Tom Grummett's Section Zero was an adventure comic that paid tribute to some of Jack Kirby's greatest creations — primarily the Challengers of the Unknown and the Fantastic Four, though with some Kamandi and Demon thrown in for good measure. The limited series, about a secret team of supernatural explorers employed by the United Nations to investigate mysterious happenings, was packed full of the stuff that made Kirby's comics great: wild character designs, a breathless pace, and plenty of action. But Section Zero was caught up in a publishing implosion and the inaugural adventure was never completed.
Books that are canceled in medias res are a risk of reading serialized comics. They don't happen too often, but every once in a while you'll have your heart broken by a story that never ends. The heartbreak of Section Zero, though, was that Kesel and Grummett seemed to be having a blast with the series. You can tell when a creator is totally invested in a book, and Section Zero was clearly a labor of love.
This year, Grummett and Kesel launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to publish the first three original issues of Section Zero, and then to complete the story they started nearly two decades ago. I backed the campaign and just received my Section Zero: There Is No Section Zero hardcover book in the mail this week. It's a gorgeous book, even including a bright green cloth bookmark for extra classiness.
I'm happy to report that most of Section Zero's early issues have aged quite well. The team, featuring an unflappable leader, a grey alien named Tesla, a sea monster named Sargasso, and a kid with a cursed tattoo that turns him into a bug for a day at a time (he's gloriously code-named The 24-Hour Bug) is about as comic-book-y as they come.
And when it comes time to incorporate the new material into the book, Kesel and Grummett wisely don't pretend nothing has changed: instead, they skip the narrative ahead to 18 years later, following the characters over almost two decades of change. The new material — in conjunction with a framing device that shows off Section Zero teams of the past — allows the creative team to provide meta-commentary on adventure comics in history. They're not fighting the past, or living in the past, they're in conversation with themselves in the past, deepening and adding new layers to the story.
Only one main character — unfortunately you could argue the main character — seems unfortunately dated. With his cool-guy sunglasses, his edgy katana, his unfortunate facial hair, and his brown leather jacket on top of a full spandex outfit, Sam Wildman — the roguish Harrison Ford-type of the cast — feels pulled right out of the doldrums of late-1990s hero comics. The book is actively better when he's not in it, pushing his edgy vibes on everyone.
But what's a team of adventurers without at least one annoying character (looking at you, Fred from Scooby Doo) to make everyone else more relatable? Collected in one place like this, with the span of time incorporated into the narrative, Section Zero is like no other adventure comic on the stands. Here's hoping that Grummett and Kesel can keep telling these stories for as long as they desire.
Beloved speaker series TED X Seattle is happening this November at McCaw Hall, and there's a literary bent to the presenters this time around. Seattle Civic Poet Anastacia-Renee and children's book author barry johnson will be presenting new work on this year's theme, which is "Tall Order." (Read about the other, non-literary presenters, on TED X's site.) Get your tickets now; these events always sell out in advance.
Artist Trust is looking for a new Program Manager, which the company describes as "responsible for the development and implementation of Artist Trust’s grants, workshops, events, and resources, scaling program delivery to serve artists efficiently and maximize reach." If you like giving money to artists, maybe you should apply before November 5th?
One of America's very finest writing organizations, PEN America, has sued Donald Trump. John McMurtrie at Date Book writes:
PEN America, the nonprofit organization of writers and literary professionals, has sued the president for what it says an abuse of his powers “to retaliate against journalists and media outlets he finds objectionable” — in violation of the First Amendment.
Stephen’s decision to go after Moira is hostile and reprehensible. For me, it is unforgivable. He has aligned himself with a lawyer who stands with and for rapists, and is suing a woman who did nothing more than try to keep other women safe. Stephen’s desire to remain in the spotlight, to refuse to have his career wrested from him as a consequence of his own actions, has taken primacy over logic and sanity.
Friday @ChuckWendig lost his contract with @Marvel/@starwars because of his Twitter. His mistake was to attract sketchy Twitter, probably via @EthanVanSciver. This graph is tweets to/from/re Wendig before/after his “civility” tweets on 10/6 (https://t.co/h2H7ivZmJy). @mortenbay pic.twitter.com/cggHA1DTE5— Bethany Lacina (@bethany_lacina) October 15, 2018
When I interviewed Jeanine Walker back when she was our April Poet in Residence, she was talking excitedly about the return of her Mixed Bag reading series. The series, she said, was on hiatus, but it would be returning in a new home: the Hugo House. At the time, the literary center's grand reopening in the fall seemed so far away. But this Saturday, Mixed Bag finally returns. Walker graciously agreed to talk about what, exactly Mixed Bag is, and what she's been doing in the interim. This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
First, I have a very important classification question. Do you call Mixed Bag a literary event or an event with literary features?
I think it's probably best described as a variety show with literary events.
It's literary enough to be hosted by the Hugo House, apparently!
I'm so excited about being at Hugo House, because I had hosted Cheap Wine [and Poetry] and Cheap Beer [and Prose] there for four years, and, you know, it's a brand-new building but to me it has the same vibe and the same energy. This feels right for us.
And I do think that the literary audience is a great audience for us. We write the whole thing to make it literary, but it's also something that's going to appeal to people who love sketch comedy and music and film.
Could you talk a little about how Mixed Bag started?
My husband, Steve Mauer and I — we weren't married then, but we're married now — had started our band The Drop Shadows and we were playing shows, but it was always kind of at inconvenient times — you know, like 11 at night on a Wednesday. And then you had to get up and work, and it was tough. So we wanted to make an event where I could host and we can present our music as the house band at a more reasonable time.
One of the things I loved about hosting is that I could set up the reader to have a really great audience. So I thought, okay, if I'm telling jokes and I'm getting people laughing and comfortable and having a good time then when the reader presents whatever they're going to present, the audience is really warm to them. I love doing that.
The first show we did was in our garage, and both of our PAs caught on fire. Steve had a stop-motion video to play, and we had bought a projector. Something about the projector was messed up and so the PA caught on fire. Our friend brought his PA to replace that one and then that one caught on fire and so we started two hours late. But once it started, it was the most amazing feeling. We had about 40 people, which filled the garage, sitting on makeshift benches made out of cinderblocks and two-by-fours.
I recently watched some of those past shows, and it was just amazing. There's such good energy in the room. It was just fun for us, even though we had all these incredible mishaps in the beginning. We're pretty excited to be at Hugo house because I think it's going to have the same kind of vibe to it.
I've seen a lot of reading series and recurring literary events in this city go on hiatus. Usually, that means 'we're just going to a walk away whistling and never think of it again.' So it's fairly impressive to me that you managed to put your series on hiatus and then restart it in a new place. I was wondering if you have any thoughts as to why it's proven to be so durable.
From the beginning when we were in the garage, we couldn't really invite random people that we didn't know. We loved all the people who came, but we wanted to get people that aren't just our friends to come and we couldn't really do that in our garage. And it was getting too small.
So we went to the Royal Room and that was great — I mean, playing music there is amazing, but it's not quite the right venue for theater. And so we had always kept in mind that we wanted to get into a space that was right for every element of our show.
So when we found out that the Hugo House could be an option, it was really exciting. When we stopped doing it at the Royal Room, we had this move to Hugo House in mind, and we knew it would just be a little while because the space was being finished.
I think the answer to your question is that we already knew our next step when we stopped the previous version. And it helps that I live with the person who is my partner in it. It's our whole life — we work, and then we do a Mixed Bag. So there's not a day that goes by when we're not talking about it, or what's next for us.
Can you tell me a little bit about what's going to happen at this week's Mixed Bag?
I'm excited that Claudia Castro Luna is our guest artist because I love her, and her poetry, and she's been to the show. I remember distinctly that she came to one of the Mixed Bags and she was sitting there laughing and I was just so happy that she was there. I love her energy, so having her be part of this first one at Hugo House is really special for me.
And we have a great cast like Chris Walker, who is my older brother, and Amelia Peacock. It's great that they're returning, and that Jekeva Phillips is joining us on stage — I just love her performance style. She's really been impressive to me when I've seen her perform before, so I'm happy that she's part of it.
One of our old cast members came over the other day and watched us rehearse, and she said 'these are the strongest scripts you've done so far.' I think we keep getting better at it. And because we're about to hit our fourth anniversary, we've been honing what the show is. We're going to be four times a year at Hugo House, so as we continue doing that the space and the audience will shape the show. I feel I feel very comfortable there, so that's a good thing.
Is there anything else that you think our readers should know?
I loved The Last Mosaic and have added Elizabeth Cooperman and Thomas Walton to the bill. Claudia is still our official featured guest, but they'll be performing a short literary dialogue in the second half of the show. We'll have books for sale. And to try to keep up a little of the spirit of Cheap Beer and Prose, we have a drink special: purchasing a $5 limited-edition Mixed Bag pint glass at the show will get people $4 craft beers from the keg all night long.
And in general, I'm constantly thinking about why I'm doing Mixed Bag, and I think one of the things that is important to me is to foster connections with people. My whole hope with this is that there's many genres being presented at once, and that someone who loves music will come and say, 'oh, I guess I am interested in poetry,' and presenting poetry in this form will make it more accessible to people who might not naturally love it.
Or maybe people who come for the poetry will find out that they are interested in stop-motion video. I'm really excited to present each piece, and I do think each part will inform and I hope enhance the others. I'm hopeful that people will come out laughing and enjoying themselves and having a great time. I can't wait to be together with everyone in that room.
The BBC reports:
Anna Burns has been named the winner of this year's Man Booker Prize - becoming the first author from Northern Ireland to triumph.
Milkman, set in an unnamed Northern Irish city during the Troubles, is a coming-of-age story about a young girl's affair with a married man.
Milkman has not yet been published in the US. It's coming out from Greywolf soon, and you can reserve a copy at your favorite independent bookstore right now.
You may have seen that Sears filed for bankruptcy on Monday. But Sears isn't a bookstore! Why are you hearing about it on a book news site? Because Sears CEO Eddie Lampert was a hardcore Objectivist who led the company using the principles laid out in Ayn Rand's fiction.
This great PBS piece explains how Lampert murdered the company:
Lampert broke the company into more than 30 individual units, each with its own management and each measured separately for profit and loss. The idea was to promote competition among the units, which Lampert assumed would lead to higher profits.
Turns out, Ayn Rand's virtue of selfishness is a fast way to murder a community.
Published October 16, 2018, at 11:55am
In his first book, Jason Lutes perfectly captured what it was like to live in Seattle in the 1990s. His second book is a document of what it was like to live in Berlin in the early 1930s. It's unfortunately a very relevant story for modern readers.
Wayne would sit in front of the class
and tell us how it was to be afraid of death.
We called him the Mescaline Man
and not even behind his back. Before Wayne,
I thought mescaline was a bitter lettuce
I didn’t like. But Wayne made it seem fun
and then, not as fun. The ghosts he still saw,
the lost feeling on his left side, one leg
hanging from the stool two inches shorter than the other.
This was the way with adults then, with their slow
cautionary drums — the real dangers not yet ours to know.
Under the power lines drinking warm beers
I felt it too. At the top of the world, the pulse
of electricity at my feet, a buzz that kept the world
moving, people going where they needed to go.
And there I was, standing still, listening to the hum
of my body in the late summer grass.