Seattle Writing Prompts: the PI-Building Globe

Seattle Writing Prompts are intended to spark ideas for your writing, based on locations and stories of Seattle. Write something inspired by a prompt? Send it to us! We're looking to publish writing sparked by prompts.

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This globe was first raised over their building at 6th and Wall in 1948. The Post-Intelligencer — a combined name (the Seattle Post merged with the Intelligencer in 1881) that feels like a commentary name — had its headquarters there, in a building that is now housing City University. You can still see the round entry where the globe sat before they moved it to the newer waterfront building in 1986.

The P-I was a Hearst paper. During it's long run, northwest novelists Tom Robbins and Frank Herbert were employees, as was EB White (as in Strunk-and, and Charlotte's Web) for a spell after he got fired from the Seattle Times ("A youth who persisted in rising above facts must have been a headache to a city editor" he wrote later. He also wrote, after reading his journals of his time in Seattle, "As a diarist, I was a master of suspense, leaving to the reader's imagination everything pertinent to the action of my play").

The globe is certainly an icon in this town. Any montage worth its salt is sure to show it. It currently belongs to the Museum of History and Industry, but exactly what they have planned for the big metal ball of steel and neon has not yet been revealed. But, wherever it goes, it will still inform you: "It's in the P-I".

Surely, there were thousands of stories that took place as that globe turned and the desks turned in their reporting. But let's try something different, if you're game. Let's think of a few stories that take place all within view of the PI Globe.

Today's prompts
  1. The Jogger — Back then, going through Myrtle-Edwards at night wasn't the best idea, but a tough guy like him wasn't gonna get scared off his nightly run by some hoods in a park. But when a charley horse in his calf pulled him up short by one of the pocket beaches, he could hear the lapping of the water against the rocks and wood. And he could hear the voice coming up low and stranled, "help me, please!"

  2. The Artist — Finally, a show in New York. Working around the clock was worth it. But the loft space that used to look at the water now looked at that damn new building for the paper. And they lowered that kitschy monstrosity on top, and lit it up, ruining the light in the studio. Nothing doing, the paintings had to get finished. Even if the seeping influence of that glowing ball found its way into them....

  3. The Accident — It was just their luck. The road was wet, just on Elliott where it turned. The Camaro they jacked was powerful, but with bald tires. They slid, sideswiping that other car, then careening into a parked car, smashing the front-end. Now they had to choose: run for it, or stop to help the woman they just hit.

  4. The Informant — He kept to the shadows across from the paper, up their on 6th. He risked lighting a cigarette, then cupped it in his hand so as not to draw attention to himself. That reporter knew where he was. She'd want to know all the details, and he was ready to spill. Damn the consequences. Ain't no good having connections when they all just gonna turn on you. Best thing you can do is turn on them first, and get out of town. That's just what he planned to do. He pulled his hat down to shield his eyes from the rain, and waited to for the dame to get off her duff and come find him.

  5. the Chaplain — The bay was well protected, both by these inland waters they'd been exploring on the Wilkes Expedition — still going strong in 1841 — and by the natural land forms that curved about it. Jared Leigh Elliott, chaplain on the Vincennes, had borrowed a glass to observe the shore from the ships rail. Suddenly, he had a vision through the scope that quite shook him. A vision of a globe, lit by some ghastly ominous light, with letters surrounding, quite clearly spelling "IT'S IN". A moment later, the vision was gone, and Elliott scanned the land again, trying to find whatever it was he surely must not have seen. Wondering if he was having a fit. He heard the steps behind him, knew it was the captain come to chat. Wondered exactly if he should tell him what he had seen. A glowing world. Why would the lord visit such strange visions upon him?

A piece for the Millions titled "Against Readability" by Harvard College Writing Program professor Ben Roth has been circling the lit-o-sphere this week. It's a classic finger-wagging routine about serious literature from an establishment male:

“Readable” has become the chosen term of praise in our times precisely because so many of us find ourselves unable to concentrate as we once could or still aspire to. But to praise readability is to embrace the vicious feedback loop that our culture now finds itself in. Short on concentration, we give ourselves over to streams of content that further atrophy our reserves of attention. Soon a 1,000-word polemic seems too long to drag oneself through, and we resort to skimming. So websites post yet shorter articles, even warn you how many minutes they will take to read (rarely double digits; will they soon warn us how long one takes to skim?). Editors pre-empt their own taste, choosing not what they like, or think is actually good, but what they think they can sell. Teachers, even professors, shy away from assigning long or difficult books.

Sigh. Yes, and culture is dying and who will preserve our proud heritage and blah-blah-blah. But in the middle of trying to formulate a response, I encountered an excellent comment on Roth's own piece by commenter "Pete R," which I'll share here:

Accessibility and literary merit are independent. You could call the work of Chekhov “readable,” also Dickens, and neither should be considered inferior to Joyce. Is Dubliners inferior to Ulysses or Finnegan’s Wake?

There are so many elitists who would happily back literature into a tiny, private corner. “Make Literature Great Again” type of people. We must ignore them aggressively.

Such a great comment. Smart, to-the-point, and, yes, readable.

By now, you've undoubtedly gotten into the practice of contacting your local representatives about issues that concern you. That's great! Now, our friends at Hugo House are asking that you momentarily set aside your Trump-related concerns so you can advocate for them.

As you know, developers are right now constructing a fancy new building where Hugo House once stood, and Hugo House will have a home in that building. And the House is in the running for a state grant to pay for their new home. But that grant is not yet a sure thing. Here's where you come in. Hugo House Executive Director Tree Sweonson writes:

You can make a big difference by contacting your State legislators to let them know why you think it's important to have public support for a new and permanent home for Hugo House.

You can find a sample email and a link to a site that will tell you who represents you in the state legislator right here. If you've bemoaned the loss of important institutions during the Seattle real estate boom, this is your chance to speak out, to ensure that one piece of Seattle that's been around for decades continues to have a new life in the decades to come. Go make yourself heard.

The Help Desk: Even in an age of Trump, writers should be paid for their work

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,

I’m a poet. I’ve been published here and there, in a magazine you’ve maybe read. Like most creative people, I’m pissed about Donald Trump and so I’ve written a few poems about current events. I read one at a group reading last week and I was approached after the reading by someone who’s putting together an anti-Trump anthology. The good news: he wants to include my poem!

The bad news? It doesn’t pay. Now, a portion of the proceeds are going to the ACLU and other charities, which is fine by me, of course. But it’s only a portion, which to me indicates that he’s taking some of the money for himself. I’m sick to death of people publishing my work without any compensation, and it seems like he’s exploiting the moment and the outrage to make a few bucks. It’s not really about the money, it’s the principle. Should I just politely decline, or should I raise a stink?

Nora, Auburn

Dear Nora,

Throwing oneself in front of a Arc bus seems like a slightly more effective "get rich quick" scheme than conning poets out of poetry, but I'm with you: artists should be compensated for their work. When my biological father died, I passed out candy necklaces and to-go bags of his cremains to all the eulogists. Their response to my thoughtfulness was visceral.

It's perfectly reasonable and not turdish at all to email this person and ask for a breakdown of which charities will benefit and how the proceeds will be split. Ask outright: Are you keeping any of the proceeds for yourself? From there, follow your heart – or the potato you call a heart, if you're like me. Remember: We're barely into month two of this administration. I suspect there will be plenty of time to participate in anti-Trump anthologies in the coming years.

Kisses,

Cienna

Deborah Bogle at The Advertiser reports that Australian children's book author Mem Fox was "detained for two hours and aggressively interrogated by immigration officials at Los Angeles airport."

En route to Milwaukee for a conference on February 9, where she was to deliver the opening keynote address at a literacy conference, Fox was ushered into an airport holding room and told she was travelling on the wrong visa. This was incorrect and the US Embassy in Canberra has since apologised. Fox, 70, said that by the time she checked in to her hotel she was shaking and sobbing.

“I am old and white, innocent and educated, and I speak English fluently,” she said. “Imagine what happened to the others in the room, including an old Iranian woman in her 80s, in a wheelchair."

Bogle notes that Fox has visited the US over a hundred times, but now the author says she will probably never travel here again.

Portrait Gallery: Quenton Baker

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

Friday, February 24th
It Was Written book launch at Vermillion

This Friday, Minor Arcana invites local poets including Robert Lashley and Brian McGuigan to help launch It Was Written with a book party at Vermillion. They’ll be joined by other readers including Quenton Baker, a poet who got his start as a hip-hop artist. Because the party would feel really weird without some form of live music, self-described “beat scientist” WD4D will be running the turntables at the show.
Vermillion Art Gallery and Bar, 1508 11th Ave., 709-9797, http://vermillionseattle.com. Free. 21+. 7 p.m.

Criminal Fiction: Scottish Noir and books galore

Every month, Daneet Steffens uncovers the latest goings on in mystery, suspense, and crime fiction. See previous columns on the Criminal Fiction archive page

This weekend sees the inaugural Granite Noir crime fiction festival in Aberdeen, Scotland (February 24 – February 26). Heavy-hitters such as Stuart MacBride, Chris Brookmyre, Doug Johnstone and Denise Mina are just some of the featured writers participating in conversations, panels, workshops, film screenings, a special Noir at the Bar and — I particularly like the sound of this one — an afternoon discussing Agatha Christie’s favorite poisons.

Granite Noir offers a distinctly Scottish crime fiction flavor, nicely infused with touches of Nordic noir. If you’re not based in the Scotland’s Granite City, you can still follow some of the fun via Facebook and Twitter

Reading around: new titles on the crime fiction scene

I See You by Clare Mackintosh (Berkley) whose super-chilling psychological thriller I Let You Go was one of the creepiest of last year’s creepy crop, returns with a vengeance and an on-the-pulse tale of our real-life vulnerabilities when it comes to others’ nefarious digital activities. The novel kicks off with one Zoe Walker finding her own face illustrating a classified ad for the intriguingly named “FindTheOne.com” site, and veers into the “don’t-read-this-alone-in-the-house-at-night” stratosphere from there.

River Cartwright, a British spy based in Slough House – the dead-end office where disgraced MI5 agents are relegated to their final desk jobs – is off to visit his grandfather, former spy David Cartwright, who appears to be succumbing to old-age memory loss and ramblings. Not so reassuring for other spooks. Mick Herron’s terrific intelligence agents thriller series – this one, Spook Street (Soho), is installment number four – manages to be gritty and slick at the same time, and it’s a real pleasure to watch the super-smart if damaged Slough House agents rising to the occasion once again.

In Mark Billingham’s Rush of Blood (Atlantic), three British couples meet semi-cute on a Florida vacation, a vacay that’s marred on the last day when a young girl, unrelated to them, disappears. Back home, the six Brits stay in touch, meeting up for drinks and dinners while cops pursue the Florida mystery as well as a similar one in England. As he did in his previous standalone, 2016’s Die of Shame, Billingham does a tantalizing job of centering the smoothly paced tension around a small group of characters; and, as he did in Die of Shame, Billingham regular DI Tom Thorne makes a tiny but tenacious cameo.

If you like your thrillers to encompass a relentless chase across Europe, then Chris Ewan’s Long Time Lost (Minotaur) is for you. Nick Miller provides a very particular kind of service, relocating people in trouble with baddies to safer spaces with new identities. But with the addition of his latest client going to ground to hide from a very dangerous man, Miller’s entire network is suddenly under threat – especially as more than one element isn’t quite what they seem to be at first glance.

Ann Cleeves’s The Crow Trap (Minotaur) marks DI Vera Stanhope’s first appearance, back when the novel was meant to be a standalone mystery rather than the start of a series that’s going gangbusters 30 years later –not to mention being the basis of a current hit TV series. Three women gather in a small cottage in rural Northumberland to conduct an environmental survey, but it’s the pileup of dead humans that soon becomes their focus. The suspenseful story is beautifully paced and a welcome affirmation of precisely why – and how invasively – Stanhope got under Cleeves’s skin.

The Quintessential Interview: Kathleen Kent

Kathleen Kent, a bestselling historical novelist, turns her trusty pen to contemporary crime fiction in The Dime, a rollicking police procedural set in Dallas, Texas. Brooklyn transplant Betty Rhyzyk, refreshingly engaging and a committed detective with the canny voice of her tough-cop uncle a comforting – and life-saving –presence in her head, finds herself colliding with plastic-surgeried women, Mexican drug runners, Confederate re-enactors, religious fundamentalists, and, in a terrifically entertaining scene, an errant armadillo.

What or who are your top five writing inspirations?

Often, my inspiration for writing future projects will come while doing research on a current one. I’ll come across something odd or notable and it will go into my “ideas” notebook. The top five inspirational sources for writing would be newspaper articles (past or present), traveling, reading books of every genre and every possible subject, listening to music, and talking to old people. Old people have the best stories, and are usually very eager – and grateful – to talk about their lives and experiences.

Top five places to write?

My favorite place to write is at my desk, but I also relish writing in bed, on a train, on my patio when the weather is kind, and, sometimes, at a picnic table in a deserted park.

Top five favorite writers?

This is such an incredibly hard question, because there are so many wonderful writers in so many different genres, but I’ll go back to the writers that I’ve read more than once: Cormac McCarthy (Americana/Western), James Lee Burke (Crime), John le Carré (Spy/Mystery), Erik Larson (Non-fiction) — and now I’m going to cheat here because: Harper Lee, Toni Morrison, Margaret Atwood, Annie Proulx, Alice Walker, Barbara Kingsolver and many more….

Top five tunes to write to?

Music is very inspirational to me for setting the mood and narrative voice. While I wrote my first two novels, set in 17th century New England (The Heretic’s Daughter and The Traitor’s Wife), I listened to a lot of Celtic and Ye Olde English music, played on primitive instruments. My third novel was set in 1870 Texas, so I listened to Americana folk/country music, which, interestingly, has a strong Celtic influence as well. For The Dime, I made several playlists to inspire the action. My top five songs from the playlists are Bang, Bang, Bang by Dorothy; Back in Black by Brother Strut, featuring Lorna Fothergill; Conman Coming by Monica Heldal; Glory Box by Portishead; and Bad Things by Emilie Bouchereau.

Top five hometown spots?

Deep Ellum, for its restaurants and music clubs; the Bishop Arts District, for its home-grown craft stores, art galleries and indie bookstore, The Wild Detectives; Addison, north of central Dallas, for its fantastic assortment of Asian restaurants; Klyde Warren Park, for its public green areas, and nearby Dallas Museum of Art and the Nasher Sculpture Center; Trinity Groves, for its long pedestrian bridge crossing the Trinity River, walking trails and spectacular view of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge.

The best way to announce the discovery of new planets: poetry

Like everyone else, you probably grew a little bit misty at the news that NASA discovered seven Earth-sized planets some 40 light years away from us. It's wondrous news, by which I mean it inspires wonder in us.

But one of the neater and under-covered aspects of this revelation is that astronomer Sean Raymond, one of the co-authors of the report about the planets, announced the discovery with a long poem. You can find the poem, "Ode to 7 Orbs," on Raymond's site. A sampling:

This new star with planets is called TRAPPIST-1

It’s not a star that is at all like the Sun

It’s much much much smaller, and also less hot

Two thousand times fainter. (Now that is a lot).

An “ultracool dwarf” star they call it. And hey,

It’s just about 40-odd light years away.

The planets have letters for names. Now, you see,

From outside to in it’s h, g, f, e, d,

And, yes, as you guessed, after that, c and b

(The first one’s called b. There is no planet a.

The “a” is reserved for the star, by the way).

Okay, look: it's not great poetry. But it is absolutely adorable that a scientist is so excited about a discovery the he decided to celebrate it with an epic explanatory poem. The sheer exuberance of it is deeply moving.

Where can you get Maged Zaher's new book?

This week, I reviewed Maged Zaher's big new career-spanning collection, Opting Out. It's published by local press Chatwin Books, which is based out of Pioneer Square used bookstore Arundel Books.

If you've tried to order Zaher's new book online, you've probably noticed that it's not available. I talked with Chatwin/Arundel owner Phil Bevis about why that is. Basically, Arundel Books had to suddenly move their store to a newer, more favorable location. (Previously it was facing Occidental Park. Now it's at 212 1st Ave S.) But because the move consumed so much of Arundel/Chatwin's time and resources, the book has been delayed.

Bevis says the new publication date for Opting Out is April 7th. Any books you pre-order through IndieBound or http://www.chatwinbooks.com or any other online retailer will be fulfilled then. But if you can't wait to get your hands on a copy — and you should be eager to get your hands on a copy; it's an exemplary work — Bevis says "a limited number of pre-release copies are available now at Arundel Books' new location." So the only place in the world to buy Maged Zaher's new book right now is in Pioneer Square. Stop by, check out Arundel Books, and get a super-rare pre-pub edition.

Thursday Comics Hangover: Can you top this?

The eighth issue of Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber's crime comic The Fix was published yesterday, and this series keeps getting better. Ostensibly the story of two crooked Los Angeles cops and a drug-sniffing dog named Pretzels, The Fix keeps expanding to absorb more and more characters; what began as a character-focused heist story quickly (and effortlessly) became a huge ensemble piece.

Note those words: "expanding," "huge." This isn't the vocabulary you usually use to describe an Elmore Leonard riff. What wasn't apparent in the clever first issue of The Fix is that it's a shaggy dog story, a dirty-joke-riddled tall tale whose stakes are raised with every chapter. The reveal in the eighth issue is the biggest yet, and it leaves me wondering if eventually the threats in the book will have to transcend the semi-realistic sleazy LA noir genre to become intergalactic in scope.

Spencer's script is wry and character-driven. One of the two leads prays to God for a favor and apologizes for being out of touch for so long by saying "in Catholic school, they made it pretty clear it was you or masturbation, and I just--I got stuck with the home team, you know?" That is a lot of information about the character concealed within a gag that we didn't previously have before. A rule of thumb for reading a crime story: when a joke advances the plot, that's good writing.

From the wordless sequence depicting Pretzel's origin story that opens the issue to a series of pratfalls as a character tries to climb a fence that's too tall for him, Lieber's art is perfect for this kind of comedy. His figures and facial expressions aren't exaggerated in the least — he plays the characters straight, which makes the physical comedy and the quick stabs in the script land with even more force.

I have to wonder if The Fix might read better in collected trade editions than in single issues: while each issue feels like a contained chapter in a story, it could be easier to retain a sense of continuity when you read a bunch of chapters all at once. But no matter how you take it in, The Fix is a must-read: a funny, nasty, character-driven crime drama that keeps outdoing itself with every twist.

Book News Roundup: With today's special guest stars, Walt Whitman and L. Ron Hubbard

  • The Seattle Public Library has announced that they've made public a dataset which "includes a count of checkouts by month of both physical and digital items, and spans from 2005 to the present." You can find that list here.

  • The Nebula Awards ballot has been announced. We couldn't be more pleased to announce that Seattle Review of Books contributor Nisi Shawl's novel Everfair is on the ballot for best novel. We're bummed to see that Seattle author Cat Rambo's short work "Red in Tooth and Cog" was bumped from the novelette category because it's a little too short to meet the word count.

  • A novel by Walt Whitman has been discovered. (To quibble: At 36,000 words, it's more of a novella than a novel.) It sounds positively Dickensian:

...Life and Adventures of Jack Engle, is a first-person narrative following an orphan on his journey through New York, which included a full cast of colorful, diabolical money-and-power-hungry characters, as well as “virtuous Quakers” and a “sultry Spanish dancer.” Researchers believe that the work was never reprinted after it was published anonymously in the New York–area newspaper The Sunday Dispatch.

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

Wednesday February 22nd: The Burning World Reading

Hardcore zombie purists may not love Isaac Marion's young adult novel Warm Bodies — zombies who can talk? Sacrilege! — but everyone else seems to have fallen pretty hard. In the new sequel, the semi-alive protagonist learns how to reconnect with the human race and come to terms with his past. Bellevue Library, 1111, 110th Ave, 425-450-1765, http://kcls.org. All ages. 7 p.m.

Thursday February 23rd: Faggots in the Stacks

Likely due to its controversial name, the listing for this book group warns that “this event is not officially sponsored or endorsed by the Seattle Public Library.” Officially endorsed or not, it’s a must-attend discussion of Martin Duberman’s Hold Tight Gently, a true story of two artists during the AIDS epidemic. Capitol Hill Library, 425 Harvard Ave. E., 684-4715, http://wwwspl.org/. Free. All ages. 6 p.m.

Friday February 24th: It Was Written: Poetry Inspired by Hip-Hop Launch Party

See our Event of the Week column for more details. Vermillion Art Gallery and Bar, 1508 11th Ave., 709-9797, http://vermillionseattle.com. Free. 21+. 7 p.m.

Saturday February 25th: Adventures in Property Management Book Launch Party

Seattle author Chelsea Werner-Jatzke’s new book, Adventures in Property Management, is a chapbook from Sibling Rivalry Press. It’s a collection of (somewhat true) micro-fiction about a single apartment building. Tonight’s party features a reading from Werner-Jatzke along with guest appearances by local writers and a multimedia artist. Hugo House, 1021 Columbia St., 322-7030, http://hugohouse.org.. Free. All ages. 7 p.m.

Sunday February 26th: Laughing All the Way to the Mosque Reading

Zarqa Nawaz created a Canadian sitcom called Little Mosque on the Prairie. This afternoon, she debuts her new comedic memoir about being a Pakistani-Canadian experience, Laughing All the Way to the Mosque: The Misadventures of a Muslim Woman.Nawaz is in town for the Search for Meaning festival at Seattle University. Elliott Bay Book Company, 1521 10th Ave, 624-6600, http://elliottbaybook.com . Free. All ages. 3 p.m.

Monday February 27th: Gaslighting in Government

Two UW professors (David Domke, a communications expert, and Christopher Sebastian Parker, who specializes in political science) will talk with a mental health professional to discuss the idea of gaslighting — the imposing of a false reality upon an innocent victim who gradually accepts the fiction as real— and how that relates to the Trump administration. Town Hall Seattle, 1119 8th Ave., 652-4255, http://townhallseattle.org. $5. All ages. 7:30 p.m.

Tuesday February 28th: Bridges Not Walls

Many Seattleites will be attending the reading from George Saunders for his debut novel Lincoln in the Bardo at Town Hall tonight. But this event, which features Seattle authors like Donna Miscola and Kathleen Alcalá, deserves your attention as well. This event is designed to examine who deserves a platform, and who you’re silencing when you speak. Seems appropriate for the time. Juan Alonso-Rodriguez Gallery, 206 S. Washington St. #104, 390-4882, http://www.ravenchronicles.org/bridges-not-walls. Free. All ages. 7 p.

Literary Event of the Week: It Was Written book launch at Vermillion

Seems impossible in 2017, but you can still find people online who proudly announce that they don’t listen to “rap-crap.” Likewise, plenty of dudes will eagerly announce that they like all kinds of music except for country and hip-hop. Those are both statements that carry a lot of unspoken weight: if you dismiss country music and hip-hop with one broad shrug, you are basically saying “poor people make me uncomfortable and I prize comfort over everything else, including intellectual curiosity.” And dismissing an entire musical genre as garbage, especially when that medium was exclusively created by and largely fostered by young black artists, well — all together now — that’s racist.

Hip-hop is the fruit of a long, intertwined series of traditions, both musical and literary. The musical aspect is a fascinating act of reverse colonization, though which young musicians built entire cathedrals of rhythm inside tiny, repeating beats carved out of pop records. They dug into old records and found a universe of new songs there, hiding in the lines of a record. But the lyrical tradition goes back to times before record players ever existed—back to the call and response of churches, to plantations and ships crossing the Atlantic and further still. It is indisputably poetry. (For more information about the history of hip-hop, I can’t recommend Jeff Chang’s excellent 2005 book Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation enough. It’s exactly the loving, intellectual tribute that the genre needed.)

Small Seattle publisher Minor Arcana Press (slogan: “Good books for weird people”) is adding another level to the conversation between hip-hop and poetry with a new anthology titled It Was Written: Poetry Inspired by Hip-Hop. The book invites over four dozen poets to respond to hip-hop songs through verse, to open a conversation with artists they admire or struggle with (or both.) And then, in a genius move, It Was Written then flips the script by including “over 30 writing prompts* urging the reader to become a writer and join the conversation.

This Friday, Minor Arcana invites local poets including Robert Lashley and Brian McGuigan to help launch It Was Written with a book party at Vermillion. They’ll be joined by other readers including Quenton Baker, a poet who got his start as a hip-hop artist. Because the party would feel really weird without some form of live music, self-described “beat scientist” WD4D will be running the turntables at the show.

No, I’m not saying that your grandmother could become the world’s biggest Nas fan. Hip-hop is not going to be everyone’s favorite kind of music. But I am saying that hip-hop is alive and vital and inspiring conversations in a way that other kinds of art simply isn’t. By engaging with hip-hop head-on, Minor Arcana and its poets are contributing their own chapter to a history that is older than America as we know it. They’re keeping the conversation going.

Support Gay City!

Well, you rendered Northwest Associated Arts' sponsorship useless by buying all the tickets to their Neil Gaiman event, so they kindly donated this week's sponsorship to a good cause: Gay City.

Did you know that Gay City has a 7,000 volume library centered around LGBT interest and focus? Please consider donating to Gay City to support their important mandate for supporting LGBT culture and health in our city.

Sponsors like Northwest Associated Arts make the Seattle Review of Books possible. Did you know you could sponsor us, as well? Get your stories, or novel, or event in front of our passionate audience. Take a glance at our sponsorship information page for dates and details.

The Seattle globalist

Published February 21, 2017, at 12:09pm

Paul Constant reviews Maged Zaher's Opting Out.

Maged Zaher’s new book is a biography of sex, software, and worldwide revolution.

Read this review now

In light of yesterday's news that Simon & Schuster canceled Milo Yiannopoulos's book deal, Ron Hogan wrote a great Medium post explaining how book deals work. Short answer: Yiannopoulos likely made a lot of money out of this deal, free and clear. Go read the whole post.

SISTAHS - How We Got Ovah

"If Black English isn't a language,
then tell me what it is.
"
— James Baldwin (1934 - 1989)

Sunday Morning

Sun's up
they say it's Sunday
come to us again

Bacon and egg smells
float over from Master's House
somebody's smoking cigars
maybe two somebodies

Cigars they come here
by big riverboats
breakfast china dishes
they come too
and ice for fancy get-togethers

Cost lots of money

Last Sunday
they traded Jubilee
my grownup cousin
and Vashti my little sister
to pay for all the cigars
and all the breakfast china
but not for all the ice

They said too much
had melted on the way

(for Octavia Butler)

Fingers

I want to see fingers/ fingers flying across piano
keys/ fingers strolling over black notes & blue
notes & sharp notes & flat notes & get up in
the morning notes/ fingers/ I want to see
BB King fingers hitting Lucille's guitar strings

UM ain't that some stuff/ Nina Simone Queen
of Soul fingers backing up The King of Love/
Martin Luther King fingers & hands pounding
on America's pulpit/ yesterday & now I Have
A Dream fingers/ fingers/ my great grandfather's
CC Rider fingers taking the Bible to Black folks
using their fingers to read/ my grandfather's
chef fingers shaping fancy pastry & roasting
duck & making people lick their fingers

UM ain't that some stuff/ fingers/ my mother's
fingers/ my father's fingers/ all theses fingers
pushing me into circles of light/ my fingers/
this poem

Mirror Woman

Mirror, mirror on the wall,
who is the fairest of them all?

— Brothers Grimm, "Snow White"

Let me tell you something.
I'm a woman of African descent
and that isn't just something.
You hear me.
It is some thing.
Yes! I am a woman of African descent.

In a public library restroom
caught a sistah standing behind me
staring in the mirror at me.
"Are you mixed?" she says
at the back of my head.

I say to the mirror "What!"
as in — What's wrong with you, Sistah!
"Are you mixed?" she says
one more time
giving me the once-over
as though she'd paid admission
and was entitled.

Now I shake my hands dry.
I say to the sistah in the mirror,
"What!" as in
What manners did yo Mama
not teach you.

She blinks hard like I'm some
kind of puzzle. "Mixed," she says,
"You know, as in mixed!"
"No No No!" I say.

"I am not mixed. I am nobody's
mixed anything!" I hear my voice
rising . "I am a woman of African
descent. Just like you!"

"Passing," she says interrupting.
"Do you ever think of passing?"
"Why?" I say without thinking. "Why would
a woman of African descent want to pass?"

"Easier," she says. "Life would be easier,"
she says. "Easier for what?" I almost say.
"The Price of the ticket," I say. "That's
what James Baldwin would say."

"Who's he?" she says.
"Pass. You could do it."

I want to hug her. Yes. Maybe I
even want to give her my skin.

I move away
leaving her free to talk with that
other woman in the mirror.

Say My Name

Say my name please.
Please say my name. Look at me when you say
my name. My name. You put it in a bag and
tied it with wires at the top where the paper, the
parchment was peeling in little threads. Threads
like my mother used when she hemmed my
dress. Gauze. Gauze. Strips of gauze covered
with mericrome and witchhazel and in the
medicine cabinet with all those little bottles —
amber, blue-cobalt blue — where she put my
name before she closed the door, the mirror.

Wiped it clean.
I wrote my name in the steam on the mirror. She
wiped it clean, took my name away, this mirror
woman who polished what was left of the
light, the long could-be-singing nights with my
name. Here in the twilight of the sighs and long
meter hymns and someone breathing long and
low and heavy in the dark of my name. I hear it
low and sweet so sweet and hear, yes, the carry-
me-back-words of my name riding in a boat
with the gold leaf of its name Muerte — Muerte.

And on its sides,
this ship with its polished wooden sides, this
wooden carved maiden leading it in its name,
this wooden carving with its long green hair,
green sea waves... carry-me-back-waves/ carry
me back... Its rough lips wooden and pouting
and half open, taking in the blue-green ocean
waves and the foam, lips parted/ bared to the
blue wind as if to say my name, to sing it into
the blue-black wind.

Amazing Grace.
And who was that woman! Say it. Spit it Out.
Weave if from long colored banners from soft —
as spring wool, from cotton, yes cotton. Cotton
mouth. Poison. sssssssssssss. Please. Please say
my name. Please.

Look at me.

So it turns out that Simon & Schuster's "free speech" defense of Yiannopoulos was total bullshit. When people complained about Yiannopoulos's racism and sexim, Simon & Schuster was high on the free speech horse. But now that video has emerged of Yiannopoulos exercising his free speech about pedophilia, Simon & Schuster runs away.

In other words, it was only when Yiannopoulos started spouting unmarketable speech that Simon & Schuster got queasy. This was never about free speech. This was always about money.

Tess Townsend writes at ReCode:

Two University of Washington professors are teaching a course to help students “think critically about the data and models that constitute evidence in the social and natural sciences,” according to the introduction to the course.

The 160-seat seminar, titled “Calling Bullshit in the Age of Big Data,” begins in late March and continues for roughly 10 weeks. Members of the general public can follow the course syllabus, including readings and recordings of lectures, at the course’s website.

Here is the Calling Bullshit website, which includes a syllabus, tools, and case studies. The FAQ promises to post videos of the lectures in the near future. I hope professors Carl Bergstrom and Jevin West keep this project going beyond just the one class; we can use as many bullshit-callers as possible in the world right now.