Don't miss the Feb. 15 application deadline for Mineral School residencies

Applications for 2018 Mineral School residencies (and the six fellowships available to help cover costs) are due on February 15. Writers and visual artists who need a place to start something new or finish something big should leap on this: Mineral School is young, but rapidly gaining an ardent following. The setting is quirky and idyllic, the food is good, and the company is exceptional — just ask Clare Johnson, whose last round-up of Post-It Note art on this site documented her experience at the program.

Visit our sponsorship page for more details and a link to the application form. Or meet Mineral School in person on January 28, at the Seattle Public Library's Residencies Revealed event. They'd be delighted to see you!

Sponsors like the Mineral School make the Seattle Review of Books possible. Did you know you could sponsor us, as well? If you have a book, event, or opportunity you’d like to get in front of our readers, reserve your dates now.

Your Week in Readings: The best literary events from January 22nd - January 28th

Monday, January 22: The German Art of Raising Self-Reliant Children Reading

Apparently, German parents let their kids do anything up to and including running around cities unsupervised and playing with knives. So why isn’t a wave of juvenile delinquency wracking Germany? Apparently, it comes down to selbstandigkeit, which translates as “self-reliance.” Parents who are interested will find a lot to think about here. Westside School, 10404 34th Ave SW, 7 pm, $5.

Tuesday, January 23: This Is How It Always Is Reading

See our Event of the Week column for more details. Seattle Public Library, 1000 4th Ave., 386-4636, http://spl.org, 7 pm, free.

Wednesday, January 24: Shari'ah on Trial Reading

Evergreen State College, professor Sarah Eltantawi debuts her latest work of Islamic studies, Shari'ah on Trial: Northern Nigeria's Islamic Revolution. If you’re among the majority of Americans who know little about Islam and/or Africa, you should attend this reading. Elliott Bay Book Company, 1521 10th Ave, 624-6600, http://elliottbaybook.com, 7 pm, free.

Thursday, January 25: The Wizard and the Prophet Reading

Feuding 20th century scientists Norman Borlaug and William Vogt sound like a pair of genuinely fascinating men. Charles Mann’s new book details the ongoing battle between the two scientists, and how this schism is affecting our understanding of the world even today. Pigott Auditorium, Seattle University Campus Walk, 652-4255, http://townhallseattle.org, 6 pm, $5.

Friday, January 26: Best New Poets Reading

Join the best poetry bookstore in town as they celebrate the 2017 Best New Poets anthology with local contributors including Sarah Bates, Christina Im, Erin L. McCoy, Alyssa Ogi, Caitlin Roach, and Amanda Turner. New poets should be everyone’s business. Open Books, 2414 N. 45th St, 633-0811, http://openpoetrybooks.com, 7 pm, free.

Saturday, January 27: Yellow Kayak Reading

Nina Laden reads from her latest children’s book about friendship, adventure, and the importance of bravery. The illustrations by Melissa Castrillon are incredibly gorgeous. Third Place Books Ravenna, 6504 20th Ave NE, 525-2347 http://thirdplacebooks.com, 11 am, free.

Sunday, January 28: Seattle Writes: Residencies Revealed

Representatives from five writing residencies will talk about what they’re looking for in writers and which residency is right for you. Bring all your residency-related questions to this one. Maybe this will be the year you score a fabulous will share information on what they offer writers as well as tips for the application process. Bring your questions and don't let go of that dream of finding uninterrupted time to write.

Seattle Public Library, 1000 4th Ave., 386-4636, http://spl.org, 2 pm, free.

Literary Event of the Week: This Is How It Always Is paperback release reading at Seattle Public Library

A couple weeks ago, Seattle novelist Laurie Frankel talked with me about the difference between a hardcover and a paperback book launch. In hardcover, she said, the readers tend to seek out the book specifically because of reviews or word of mouth. They know what they’re getting into. But in paperback, she said, the book is priced for discovery—people see the book on a table at a bookstore, for instance, or their book club decides to read it.

If that assessment is true—and I believe it is—Frankel’s novel, This Is How It Always Is, definitely belongs in paperback. This is a novel that should be discovered and read by a very wide audience—preferably one that has no idea what it’s getting into. Always is a novel about a family that must change and adapt when one of the children realizes she is transgender.

Unlike most American families in literature, the family in Always is supportive and kind and loving. They adapt to the change, mostly, with good humor and an abundance of love. This is a book that can change hearts and win over minds precisely because it’s so warm and friendly that it throbs empathy like a beating heart.

Tomorrow night at the downtown branch of the Seattle Public Library, Frankel debuts the paperback collection of Always to a warm hometown crowd. Frankel confided that the paperback edition was causing more than a little anxiety in her life, precisely because it is likely to be read by a wider, and more unsuspecting audience. She told me that the book had already inspired “a not insignificant amount of hate mail and death threats and that sort of thing,” and she expected the lower price point to draw out more of the same.

I suspect that a lot of that hate mail came from people who didn’t read Always; most of the haters likely read that the book was about a transgender child and responded with outrage. I also suspect that if most of those so-called defenders of decency actually bothered to read Always, they might likely find themselves won over to Frankel’s side. Always is a book about a mother’s love for her child, and even in these hyperpartisan times, that’s still a relatively uncontroversial subject. This is a book that will likely charm a lot of people who need to be charmed, and for that reason it’s a book that deserves to be in front of a much wider audience.

Seattle Public Library, 1000 4th Ave., 386-4636, http://spl.org, 7 pm, free.

Meet the new Hugo House — and learn how you can help make it happen

On Friday, Seattle nonprofit writing organization Hugo House learned that the Washington State Legislature had given them a million-dollar Building for the Arts grant. The award ($1.032 million if we’re being precise) moved the House considerably closer to its new home.

“All our legislators have just been fabulous” in their support of the organization, Hugo House Executive Director Tree Swenson tells me over the phone. “All three of our representatives — Nicole Macri, Jamie Pedersen, and Frank Chopp — have all been amazing. The Hugo House adores all of them.”

A little bit of backstory: In May of 2016, the old House — built from an old funeral home facing Cal Anderson Park on Capitol Hill — closed its doors forever. For the last year and a half, a construction team has been building an apartment building on the site, with ground-floor retail space that was intended to be the new Hugo House.

This grant money puts the House on track to be complete by this coming summer. But now they need your help to fill in the final gaps.

You can see the plans for the new Hugo House online. It’s really something: 9,600 square feet of arts space including a 150-seat theater, a garden patio, a bar with plenty of cozy alcoves for writing, a cabaret space, six classrooms allowing the House to serve about half again as many students as before. Best of all, the whole space is finally ADA-compliant, meaning that everyone in the community can take part in every event the House puts on. The designs, by Seattle architecture firm NBBJ, incorporate elements from the original House (floorboards from the old building — complete with words drawn on them during the raucous closing-week party in May of 2016 — will make up the bar in the new space.)

Now that the grant has come through, Swenson says the new space “feels more real,” and she’s really getting a sense of what it will be like to walk around NBBJ’s designs. “It feels like a space that is so creative,” she gushes. “It feels like something creative must happen there, and I think that's so awesome.”

That one million dollars from the state puts the house within 90 percent of its final goal. Now they’re making an appeal directly to you. “At this point, we need everyone in the community to give as generously as they possibly can to help us complete this project,” Swenson says.

You can donate to the House through the New Hugo House site. Swenson thinks the designs of the new building will excite the community enough to get the project across the finish line. “I know there are a lot of people who really care about Hugo House whose lives have been changed by experiences they've had there— a lot of writers whose work has been formed and shaped there,” Swenson says. “We're counting on this community to pitch in to help us get to the final goal in the campaign.”

For me, the most exciting part of the new designs is the salon and stage in the picture at the top of this post. It’s a relatively small space — I expect the theater will be put in use for most of the readings at the new Hugo House — but I love that it’s so outward-facing, that it practically spills events out onto the street. It’s what you want a writing center to be: a house, yes, where people come to be comfortable, but also a place that’s reaching outward, inviting everyone to take part.

For the last year and a half, the Hugo House has operated out of temporary quarters — the building generously provided by the Frye on First Hill for instance, and the Fred Wildlife Refuge for big events. That’s been a great thing for the organization, Swenson tells me. It’s introduced the House to people who otherwise never would have known about it. But now it’s time for the community to come together one more time and help the House come home.

The Sunday Post for January 21, 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.

The Awl and the Hairpin’s Best Stories, Remembered by Their Writers

If you don’t get any farther in today’s Post than this “best of” the Awl and the Hairpin, selected by writers and editors from both blogs, that’s okay. I almost stopped there, too. Mixed in with dozens of links to hilarious, moving, smart, offbeat writing are elegies for the sunsetting sites. Some are nostalgic; others are righteously angry — Sam Biddle’s, for example.

DCist, the first place that ever published something I wrote, was recently killed by a spiteful billionaire. Gawker, the first place that ever paid me to write, suffered the same fate about a year earlier. Now the Awl, the first website that took a chance on publishing me when I was just some dipshit recent college grad (I am now a dipshit 31-year-old) is dead, not directly at the hands of a billionaire, but in part by the stupid, fucked-up publishing ecosystem that tech billionaires have helped build. I guess the lesson here is try to be a billionaire if you can.
In The Midst Of #MeToo, What Type Of Man Do You Want To Be?

On the anniversary of the Women’s March, Andrew Sullivan wrote that being an asshole is a biological imperative. Ijeoma Oluo did not write a rebuttal, but her recent essay on male choice might as well be one.

As I watch countless men (and sadly, quite a few women) jump to the defense of other men who have been outed for their coercive, demeaning, and abusive behavior towards women; as I watch them debate the fine points of whether or not a woman said no loud enough, whether her “I’m not comfortable” was strong enough, whether she was at fault for being mistreated by not yelling, or hitting, or running  —  I want to ask them all this question: Is this the type of man you want to be?

Sudden urge to put Sullivan in a room with Oluo and wait for her to come out alone. Sudden, better urge to put Sullivan in a room with James Damore and lock the door forever.

The diabolical genius of the baby advice industry

Oliver Burkeman’s essay on books that teach parents how to rear their children is blood-curdling. The entire genre seems based on the vulnerability of new parents who are, seemingly, a desperate and wild-eyed lot, all-too-easy to convince that one misstep will ruin your child for life. Thank heavens cat and dog people are free of any such neuroticism …

What I didn’t yet understand was the diabolical genius of the baby-advice industry, which targets people at their most sleep-deprived, at the beginning of what will surely be the weightiest responsibility of their lives, and suggests that maybe, just maybe, between the covers of this book, lies the morsel of information that will make the difference between their baby’s flourishing or floundering. The brilliance of this system is that it works on the most sceptical readers, too, because you don’t need to believe it’s likely such a morsel actually exists. You need only think it likely enough to justify spending another £10.99 on, oh, you know, the entire future happiness of your child, just in case.
Too Much Music: A Failed Experiment In Dedicated Listening

James Jackson Toth’s 2017 resolution — listen to a single album, and only that album, for every week of the year — died quickly and amusingly. But his take on how the internet has changed his relationship to music, with implied parallels to the problem of curating and consuming words, is interesting. And yes: algorithms can be magical, but I still like humans best.

Missing from a larger discussion is the radical idea that maybe it is the consumers who are being done the greatest disservice, and that this access-bonanza may be cheapening the listening experience by transforming fans into file clerks and experts into dilettantes. I don't want my musical discoveries dictated by a series of intuitive algorithms any more than I want to experience Jamaica via an all-inclusive trip to Sandals.
The Things That Come to Those Who Wait

The queue, as considered by Jamie Lauren Keiles, is an engine of desire and a microcosm of social hierarchy, competition, and collaboration. A gently serious piece about mostly lighthearted things — cronuts, iPhones, and sneakers — and how we give them value by our willingness to wait.

I’m left to keep up with the latest desserts through the Instagram posts of a random teen I’ve followed online for the last three years. This past summer, she visited New York and waited in line at a place called Dō, a “confection” shop near NYU that sells raw cookie dough in spoonable cups. A few weeks ago, I visited the shop, hoping to enjoy the society of its line and try its pasteurized (though questionable) product. But arriving at the shop on a weekday afternoon, the line I sought was nowhere to be found. Two French tourists dawdled out front, enjoying their bowls of uncooked dessert. I looked through the window at the empty café. It felt pointless to spend the $4 without waiting.

Whatcha reading, Lauren Cerand?

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.

Lauren Cerand is a literary publicist extraordinaire, PR rep, and strategic consultant based out of New York (and, full disclosure, a previous sponsor of the SRoB). She's working on great stuff this year: new works by Tayari Jones, Molly Crabapple, Daniel Handler (as well as Lemony Snicket), the Windham-Campbell Prizes, and Relegation Books.

What are you reading now?

I have been learning Italian — going to weekly language and conversation classes — for about six months, so I try to read Italian literature and books about Italian culture as often as I can. Right now I'm reading Natalia Ginzburg's Family Lexicon (NYRB Classics), which reminds me in some ways of The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, a novel that absolutely floored me in its depiction of a world of desire and fantasy encroached upon by malevolent forces. Family Lexicon in that in-between genre that we don't have so much here in America, a bit like French auto-fiction, where some elements are obviously novelistic and some are true and even more so, it's not really the point of the exercise. We tend to be obsessed with the idea of an objective truth to the exclusion of all else. The story is about a family living in Turin, their secret jokes and typical idiosyncrasies, and what their anti-fascism will cost them. Right now it's still early in the book, and the heroine's observations about her family, and how they might be different than other families, are richly layered with cultural and historical significance that I'm still puzzling out, sort of like when reading Georges Perec's "I Remember". So I'm taking this one slow, even though it's not a terribly long text.

What did you read last?

Owing to the aforementioned interest in Italian culture, I recently read a mystery, which I wouldn't normally gravitate to in other circumstances. It's called The Apothecary's Shop by Roberto Tiraboschi, and it was published by Europa Editions, which also put out Ties by Domenico Starnone, a novel of a marriage and family relationships that are not what they seem in retrospect. I read that a few weeks back and loved it (and which won a prize like, the next day, so I felt very clever for a moment with my morning coffee). In The Apothecary's Shop, the setting is Medieval Venice, not at all a period that I know much about. It's an extremely elegant intrigue, with cosmopolitan influences that reflect the character of the city, several unlikely plot twists, and the panache to put just enough confidence in the mind of the reader to keep the pages turning quickly. All of the characters are very strange in their own ways and very believable, and fans of Game of Thrones and all of the Law & Order type franchises would really enjoy this one. I thought I knew much more than I did, and discovering how small my vision was delighted me in the end. When I was in Venice in August, I sat for awhile in a garden on the island of Murano, and although it is small, uneventful memory in many regards, it is also a fully-formed one, and this novel was a window into things that might have plausibly happened there a millennium ago.

What are you reading next?

Right now I am waiting for a used copy of The Happy Summer Days: A Sicilian Childhood by Fulco Santostefano della Cerda, Duke of Verdura, who designed jewelry for Chanel, including her iconic Maltese Cross cuffs, and then under his own name, Verdura, inspired by natural motifs, to arrive in the mail. While I'm passing the time, I'll re-read Patrick Leigh Fermor's A Time to Keep Silence, a memoir of retreats spent writing and reflecting in monasteries across Europe. When I was reading Adam Federman's terrific biography, Fasting and Feasting: The Life of Visionary Food Writer Patience Gray last month, the quotable electric zing of her letters ("Everything that grows has its peculiar grace."), her commitment to personal originality, and her wandering ways reminded me Fermor, and so I went to find the book of his that I own on my shelf, and wouldn't you know, it's just the right one.

The Help Desk: Do only terrible men write books about terrible men?

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,

With all the harassing men in the media lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about this: where does the line between art and real life fall? Woody Allen keeps making movies about older men fucking younger women. Louis CK told hours of jokes about being a shit to women. Bill Cosby joked about giving roofies to women decades ago.

At some point, we have to realize that a writer who writes about treating women horribly is probably pretty likely to treat women horribly, right? I mean, I’m not saying that they should be locked up or anything, but women would be smart to avoid authors who write approvingly about being monstrous harassers, wouldn’t they?

The easy response would be to say that by that logic we should peremptorily jail mystery writers for murder, but that’s not right. Most mystery novels come down on the side of murder being a bad thing. I’ve read books by male authors that straight-up glorify misogyny. I know I would discourage my daughter from taking a class with those authors if the opportunity arose. Am I being alarmist? Do I even have a question or am I just blowing off steam at the horror show that is the news? You decide!

Kristen, Judkins

Dear Kristen,

I'd like to agree with you. It would make life simple if we could pass sweeping moral assumptions about artists based solely on their work. But that's not – or shouldn't be – the role of art.

To me, good art pushes its audience to think about aspects of humanity in ways they have never previously considered, or points out beautiful or horrible trends in our culture that deserve scrutiny or celebration.

Have you read Rabbit, Run? That's a pretty great example of a total shitbag character who peaked in high school and has no respect for women. However, through Rabbit, John Updike explores themes of alienation and the idea that American men aren't socialized with the vocabulary to express their emotions and basic desires (among other things).

It would be a shame if artists shied away from exploring and commenting on the world because they feared retribution. So how do we navigate art that makes us uncomfortable — and how should we approach the people who create that art? Here are two thoughts:

The men you all mentioned had autobiographical or confessional aspects to their work, but those weren't the dog whistles telling the world that they were alleged shitbag predators and perverts. The dog whistles were the scores of women who reported them as predators and perverts and were ignored for years. We seem to be on a path to listening to victims and taking their accusations seriously – investigating and when warranted, prosecuting them. I hope this trend continues, and it should affect their standing as artists.

Here is my second thought: I try not to read books that employ lazy misogyny or treat women as one-dimensional plot devices for men. How? I read book reviews and I take book recommendations from friends. (With movies, I try and consult the Bechdel test. And I avoid most stand up comedy.) Criticism is underappreciated but vital. Good critics evaluate what an artist was trying to do with their work and whether or not they succeeded in it. Great critics will follow an artist's oeuvre and point out weaknesses or troubling trends in their work, such as portraying women as tools rather than human beings. (That still doesn't mean that an artist views all women as tools. It could just mean that the artform they have devoted their lives to, and the mentors they have studied under, are steeped in misogyny that they may have to consciously remove themselves from. Unfortunately, women have been used as little more than narrative tools in most artforms – the archetypal victim who must be saved/avenged, the pure virgin who's a prize to be won, the heartless slut/seductress – for-basically-ever. It will take awhile to dismantle those constricting lady-shaped boxes.)

This is a bummer of a topic that I, along with many people, have struggled with. But it's a good struggle, like the struggle to remove the sweat from your third eye after a particularly intense bout of astral projecting yourself to Bill Cosby's house to take ghost shits on his pillow and chant "soon you will die and the world will be better for it" in his ear all night as he sleeps.

Kisses,

Cienna

Portrait Gallery: Carmen Maria Machado

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

Thursday, January 18: Her Body and Other Parties Reading

Author Carmen Maria Machado reads from her celebrated debut collection of short stories, Her Body and Other Parties. It’s a book that crosses lines from sci-fi to horror to thriller to odd Law & Order: Special Victims Unit parodies.
Seattle Public Library, 1000 4th Ave., 386-4636, http://spl.org, 7 pm, free.

Thursday Comics Hangover: I'd buy that for a dollar (and fifty cents)

Last year, small press comics publisher Alterna Comics began publishing a line of cheap comics. Printed on flimsy newsprint, these books sold for $1.50 a pop — about half the price of the cheapest monthly comics published by the big two mainstream publishers.

Unfortunately, most of what I've seen from Alterna Comics hasn't blown me away. One comic, Amazing Age is clearly playing for a noxious kind of superhero nostalgia. It reads like a Marvel Comic from the 1980s with worse art — full of self-referential superhero action with no depth or consequences. The comic appeared to be designed to appeal to the grown men who remember spending $1.50 per issue on comics, and really nobody else.

But at least one of Alterna Comics's line has very much impressed me with its wicked sense of genre fun. Written by Jordan Hart and illustrated by Emmanuel Xerx Javier, the four-issue miniseries titled Doppelgänger tells the story of a bland computer programmer named Dennis who finds himself copied by an ancient, evil magical creature. The Dennisgänger takes over Dennis's suburban life, sleeping with his wife and playing role playing games with his friends.

The second issue of Doppelgänger landed yesterday, and it's everything you'd want in a second issue. The book doesn't waste any time spinning its wheels, instead launching forward into Dennis's plan to take his life back. Meanwhile, the Dennisgänger begins to assert himself in dynamic ways at Dennis's job. The two are hurtling toward each other, and it's a real pleasure to know that the storytellers aren't going to waste their readers' time in the telling of the tale.

Doppelgänger is fantastic, pulpy fun — a dark fantasy thriller that seems to be hurtling toward a conclusive ending. I'd be thrilled to buy it at three times the price. At a buck fifty an issue, I'm not sure why it's not on the bestseller charts.

Book News Roundup: Dune Night redux, Seattle Public Library gets nerdy, and more

  • If you follow comics in Seattle, you probably know about Dune Night, the comics jam that happened regularly at Cafe Racer. Since the future of Cafe Racer is in doubt, Dune Night has been on hiatus. But there's no room for a hiatus in our hearts! Tomorrow night, the Leary Traveler in Ballard presents an art show of some of the best Dune Night pieces from 6 to 9. Expect many Duners (Duniacs? Dunes and Dunettes? Artists who have created work at Dune Night?) to be in attendance. The show will be up at Leary Traveler for at least a month.

  • Shelf Talk, the Seattle Public Library's blog, interviewed new Seattle City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda about the book that has been most influential in her career.

  • Emerald City Comicon is teaming up with the Seattle Public Library to bring comics education-themed programming to the library on Thursday, March 1st, including a number of panels on how to incorporate comics into literacy programs. ECCC says "An ECCC Professional Badge is required to attend ECCC at The Seattle Public Library. Pro Badges are free of charge to educators and librarians."

  • Bookselling Without Borders is now providing a scholarship to "send booksellers on all-expenses-paid trips to the world’s premier book fairs, including the Turin Book Fair, the Frankfurt Book Fair, and the Guadalajara International Book Fair." They are accepting scholarship applications between now and February 28th. If you're a bookseller and you'd like to connect to the larger international bookselling community, you should apply.

You have to stop letting Facebook tell you what to read

A few years ago, publishers allowed Facebook to become basically their sole source of traffic. Now, Facebook is cutting traffic to news feeds in an attempt to staunch the flow of fake news.

A couple of years ago, brainy blog The Awl moved all their pieces over to blogging site Medium, presumably in search of a business model that would sustain the site. (You don't change everything about your publishing model unless your publishing model needs serious help.) Last year, The Awl divorced from Medium and went solo again. This month, The Awl will close entirely. I very much enjoyed The Awl, which was basically a smarter, more patient, better-written Gawker. And now it is dead.

Look, friends. I don't want to make you feel guilty, but if your internet experience begins and ends with Facebook, this is kind of your fault. You own some of this.

Here's what I think you should do, instead: find an RSS reader that works for you. I pay for NewsBlur, because it's a great service and I like paying for services that I want to stay around. It's not based on a super-sketchy advertising model. There are some free RSS readers out there, though.

Once you choose an RSS reader, you should subscribe to the news sites that you like. Then, get into the habit of checking your RSS feed throughout the day. Don't feel as though you have to read everything; think of it as an email inbox. Some of it is obviously not interesting or relevant to you. Delete with abandon.

And if you're a writer: start a blog. Write about what you're interested in. Be plucky. Be opinionated. Don't have hot takes, though — cultivate some beats. Write about things you care about, ignore the rest. If you have other friends who write blogs, you should team up with them and make a bigger blog. Write well. You'll attract readers. And you should promote the writers and sources you like, too.

Look, if we learn nothing else from the 2016 elections, it should be this: what we read is way too important to leave up to anyone else. When we allow someone else to control our media intake, we're giving up a tremendous amount of power. We've got to take that power back.

Tonight's Words West reading benefits one of Seattle's best neighborhood independent coffee shops

Image from the C&P Coffee Company website.

For the entirety of its four-year existence, the Words West Literary series has been housed out of an independent West Seattle coffee shop called the C&P Coffee Company. Words West cofounder Susan Rich tells me over the phone that “C&P was the obvious place for us to hold these events because it's the heart of the community of West Seattle —not just the literary community, but the music community, the political activism community, the small business community.”

“That place is [Words West’s] heart,” Rich says, “so it has been really upsetting to get the news.” For 15 years, C&P has operated out of a cozy house on California Avenue; earlier this month, C&P’s landlords put the property on the market for 1.2 million dollars. The owners of the coffee shop were taken by surprise by this development, and they have started a GoFundMe to raise the down payment.

Rich says that C&P has been a “fantastic,” generous host for the series, graciously housing a bookshelf full of books from every author who has attended a Words West reading through the years. So now Words West is trying to return the favor. At tonight’s event, Words West will be collecting donations to add to C&P’s GoFundMe campaign.

“Once a neighborhood loses it soul, it's impossible to get it back again.”

“[C&P owners] Pete and Cam [Moores] have given so much of themselves to their neighbors,” Rich says. They’ve raised money for neighbors who lost their homes to fire, and Rich says that in addition to the readings and live music and community conversations, C&P has hosted “weddings, birthday parties, funerals and book launches.” For a neighborhood-specific reading series like Words West, which bills itself as a celebration of West Seattle literature, Rich says protecting C&P is more than just the right thing to do—it’s a call to arms. “Once a neighborhood loses it soul, it's impossible to get it back again,” she tells me.

Tonight’s very special Words West reading features Seattle-area librarian, literacy advocate, and novelist Nancy Pearl. Rich says she paired Pearl with another venerable Seattle literary figure: “Susan Landgraf is a poet, and a fiction writer, and a former journalist” who has recently become a published author for the first time. Rich can’t contain the wonder in her voice when she talks about Landgraf: “Without giving away her exact age, she's over 70 and she's publishing her first full book of poems and then a book of writing exercises. So, you know, 70 is the new 30.”

What should people who haven’t attended Words West before come to expect from the series if they show up tonight? “Okay, so I'm biased, but I do believe it's the best reading series in the city,” Rich says. The format is a little different from your standard reading: “We do what's called a living anthology, where instead of one writer reading her work and then going to the next writer, we ask them to, in some way, go back and forth between their work.” It’s a more “collaborative” approach, putting the authors in conversation rather than keeping them in silos. Tonight’s theme is on New Year’s resolutions, kept and broken.

You don’t have to be a West Seattleite to attend Words West, Rich says. “I think sometimes people are a little afraid of getting to West Seattle, and I'll say that there's a [RapidRide C Line] bus stop directly in front of C&P Coffee from downtown. It's really accessible.” Seattle is one of the only cities in the country — maybe the only city in the country — that can sustain reading series in every one of its neighborhoods. But for those readings to thrive, they need independent places like C&P Coffee Company to house them, to give them a place to live. I hope you’ll consider supporting C&P’s GoFundMe if you can.

Mail Call for January 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.

This is not the plagiarism story you're looking for

Look, I think fan fiction is a great thing. People have been writing fan fiction for as long as there's been stories — you could make a very compelling case for playwrights and poets telling multiple versions of the same stories as an early draft of fan fiction.

But there is a bit of a "controversy" circling the most recent Star Wars film, The Last Jedi, and I think it's ludicrous. Fans are claiming that Rian Johnson, the writer/director of Jedi, plagiarized the film from a work of fan fiction published right after the release of the first film in the modern Star Wars trilogy, The Force Awakens.

Here's a long post outlining the similarities between the film and the fan fiction. (Spoiler warning, obviously, if you haven't seen Jedi and still plan to.) The similarities include a character fighting with a staff, formerly deceased characters returning as ghosts, and an arrogant character being busted down to a lower rank due to their hotheaded nature. The post ends, "I think Lucasfilm has some explaining to do."

Look: the dirty little secret about writing is that ideas are impossibly cheap. An idea is nothing, and what most writers call "inspiration" is simply an idea that thinks a little too highly of itself. The fact is that if an idea ocurred to you, it has likely occurred to someone else. In writing, it's what you do with the idea that matters most.

Am I saying that nobody, in the history of writing, has ever plagiarized an idea from another writer? Of course not. You can find exceptions to prove the rule anywhere you look. But for a proven writer/director — Looper is one of the best original sci-fi films of recent years — to willingly crib ideas from a fan fiction that is relatively popular in the fan community for use in one of the most anticipated films of the decade would be a spectacular brand of career suicide.

Let's pretend for a moment that Johnson was trawling fan fiction for ideas for Jedi, even though most writers on an IP would likely avoid fan fiction as though it were poisonous for this very reason. And let's say Johnson did find the stories in this fan fiction to be absolutely irresistable. The most likely course of action then would be to track down the writer and get them a story credit on the film. That would be a much cheaper course of action than whatever the settlement from a plagiarism suit would cost.

Fan fiction is fun, and it's a great way to practice writing and build an audience. But to add another layer to fan fiction with an elaborate plagiarism conspiracy theory seems unproductive. We don't need more people on the internet crawling up their own butts like this. We need people writing and putting creativity into the world.

Literary inequality gap grows even larger

The New Statesman reports that it's getting harder than ever to make a living as a novelist in Great Britain:

In today’s market, selling 3,000 copies of your novel is not unrespectable – but factor in the average hardback price of £10.12 and the retailer’s 50 per cent cut, and just £15,000 remains to share between publisher, agent and author. No wonder that the percentage of authors earning a full-time living solely from writing dropped from 40 per cent in 2005 to 11.5 per cent in 2013.

Barring the few true literary superstars, writers have always needed a side hustle just to get by. But an abundance of publishing options has left most writers with a smaller share of the pie, and money doesn't go as far anymore.

The truth is, this is less of a publishing story and more of an economic inequality story. A true and just society would allow more citizens to follow their dreams — and not just if their dreams involve making some shitty app that sells advertising on the back of a huge user base. Until we fix these problems, it's not going to get any easier to make a living through following your dreams.

Coincidentally, we're talking about economic inequality in next month's Reading Through It Book Club at Third Place Books Seward Park. We'll be discussing Robert Reich's cartoon guidebook to economics, Economics in Wonderland, which is published by Seattle's own Fantagraphics Books. If you want to get a basic understanding of the forces that are making everything shittier for everyone, you should RSVP on Facebook and then drop by.

Banana Res Publica

So the candidate
Is less than candid
And the office holder
Heavy handed,

While the Senate
Dabbles in senility
And the city feeds
On incivility.

When fact is fiction,
Faction fact,
What tribute
Should the tribe exact?

Few words follow
Veni vidi vici veto.
Forensics
Stuffs its face with Cheetos

Like rodents
Gnawing at a rostrum.
The Social Wars —
Now there’s a custom

Any pleb can get behind.
Time again to face the nation.
One in ten
Is decimation.

In this week's sponsor sample, meet a warrior with a heart and a mission

The fabulous Grey Sun Press is this week's sponsor, and they're sharing a meaty chapter from the fast-paced fantasy epic Amaskan's Blood by Seattle author Raven Oak. The first book in the Boahim series, Amaskan's Blood introduces a young woman warrior with a bit of a problem: she's miles from home and from her people, tangled in political intrigue, and suddenly unsure that even her name is her own. The e-book is available on Amazon.com this week for just $0.99 — a crazy small amount of money for this much fun.

The excerpt, a boudoir scene with a twist — a potentially deadly one — introduces the warrior's story, though not the woman herself. It's the perfect entry point to the series, with the second book (Amaskan's War) due out in 2018, and a very satisfying read. Check it out on our sponsorship page.

Sponsors like Grey Sun Press make the Seattle Review of Books possible. Did you know you could sponsor us, as well? If you have a book, event, or opportunity you’d like to get in front of our readers, reserve your dates now. The first half of the year is almost gone; snap up the last spots while you can.

Your Week in Readings: The best literary events from January 15th - January 21st

Monday, January 15: The Silence of Our Friends 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.

Tuesday, January 16: Chain Letter S2 V1: A New Chain

The second year of the popular Chain Letter reading series begins in earnest on Capitol Hill. Tonight’s readers are next month’s event curators. Here are a whole bunch of exciting new names: C.C. Hannett, Ray Stoeve, Brilligh, and J’owl. I don’t know any of these poets, but I’m excited to learn more. Vermillion Art Gallery and Bar, 1508 11th Ave., 709-9797, http://vermillionseattle.com, 7 pm, free.

Wednesday, January 17: Red Clocks Reading

Elliott Bay 7 pm Portland author Leni Zumas’s second novel centers around five women in a post-apocalyptic Pacific Northwest where abortion has been made illegal again. For Mike Pence, this is a happy ending; for the rest of us, it’s a nightmare. Elliott Bay Book Company, 1521 10th Ave, 624-6600, http://elliottbaybook.com, 7 pm, free.

Thursday, January 18: Her Body and Other Parties Reading

Author Carmen Maria Machado reads from her celebrated debut collection of short stories, Her Body and Other Parties. It’s a book that crosses lines from sci-fi to horror to thriller to odd Law & Order: Special Victims Unit parodies. Seattle Public Library, 1000 4th Ave., 386-4636, http://spl.org, 7 pm, free.

Friday, January 19: Iron Gold Reading

Science fiction author Pierce Brown debuts a new phase of his Red Rising sci-fi series. A war hero finds new relevance in Iron Gold. Tonight, Brown will be in conversation with Seattle-area fantasy author Terry Brooks. University Temple, 1415 NE 43rd St,634-3400, http://www2.bookstore.washington.edu/, 7 pm, $28.

Saturday, January 20: Killing Marias Reading

Seattle’s first Civic Poet, Claudia Castro Luna, is now on her way to becoming Washington State’s next Poet Laureate. Tonight, she reads from her latest collection, which was published late last year by the amazing Two Sylvias press. Elliott Bay Book Company, 1521 10th Ave, 624-6600, http://elliottbaybook.com, 7 pm, free.

Sunday, January 21: Jack Straw Winter Showcase

Jack Straw helps writers and performers better convey their work in live and recorded settings. Tonight, Jack Straw artists including Leilani Lewis, Tai Shan, and ilvs strauss will perform new works intended to showcase the breadth of Jack Straw’s portfolio. Jack Straw Gallery, 4261 Roosevelt Way N.E., 634-0919, http://jackstraw.org, 2 pm, free.

Literary Event of the Week: Silence of our Friends reading at Elliott Bay Book Company

Jim Demonakos is best known in the city as a comic shop owner and the founder of the mighty Emerald City Comic Con. But since he’s sold the show to international convention promoter ReedPOP and stepped back from the organization, Demonakos has time to move to the other side of the comics industry — focusing on his work as a writer. Tonight at Elliott Bay, he celebrates one of his early works.

Co-authored with writer and video game designer Mark Long, Demonakos’s book The Silence of Our Friends, is named after a famous quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. (“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.") It’s a slightly fictionalized account of Long’s childhood in 1967 Texas, and it’s about the struggle of a white family — based on Long’s — and a Black family trying to free five young Black students who were unjustly taken into custody for the death of a cop.

Silence was originally published in 2012 by First Second, which has become one of the most consistently high-quality young adult comics presses in the business. It’s drawn by Nate Powell, who went on to illustrate Congressman John Lewis’s award-winning memoir comic about the civil rights movement, March.

Silence is being re-released this month by mass-market YA comics publisher Square Fish, and it couldn’t be revived at a better time. The points addressed in this book — of criminal justice reform, of the bland suburban face of white supremacy, of the importance of a free press and activism — are more relevant today than they were on the day the book was published.

Elliott Bay Book Company, 1521 10th Ave, 624-6600, http://elliottbaybook.com, 7 pm, free.