Sharing the last of our food

Published September 28, 2016, at 12:00pm

Sonya Lea reviews Sebastian Junger's Tribe.

When you're setting a place at the table for all, what if you don't see who you're leaving out?

Read this review now

Your Week in Readings: The best literary events from September 28th - October 4th

Wednesday September 28th: Eye on India

The latest in a series of panels about the Indian/South Asian diaspora brings novelist Amitava Kumar, here with a book of essays titled, delightfully, Lunch With a Bigot; novelist Karan Mahajan; and musician Vidya Shah. The latter will perform some songs, and all will discuss what it means to be an Indian artist. Seattle Asian Art Museum, 1400 E Prospect St., 624-6600, $10. 7 p.m.

Thursday September 29th: Writing for a Cause

At a time when Donald Trump can block newspapers he doesn’t like from covering his campaign, this is more relevant than ever: Journalists Muatasim Qazi, Frederica Jansz, and former Seattle PI reporter Mike Lewis will discuss censorship. Jansz and Qazi both came to US after facing censorship abroad, only to find new threats here. Town Hall Seattle, 1119 8th Ave., 652-4255, $5. All ages. 7:30 p.m.

Friday September 30th: A Night with Wave Books

See our Event of the Week column for more details. Fred Wildlife Refuge, 128 Belmont Ave. E., Free. All ages. 7 p.m.

Saturday October 1st: Catharsis: A Community Grief Ritual

Why wait for a funeral to cry in public and mourn? This event co-sponsored by the Hugo House and the Seattle People of Color Salon is a place for people of all backgrounds to come and “honor their emotions,” a safe space to grieve people—and places, and emotions—that are never coming back. Hugo House, 1021 Columbia St., 322-7030, Free. All ages. Noon p.m.

Sunday October 2nd: Seattle Writes

Once when I worked in a bookstore, a customer asked me to help him find a book he’d heard about on NPR. He explained that in the book, “a man meets another man, and there’s a conflict.” Seattle novelist Karen Finneyfrock’s latest writing class is all about how every book has conflict at its heart.Delridge Library,5423 Delridge Way SW., 733-9125, Free. All ages. 2 p.m.

Monday October 3rd: M Train Reading

Everyone is currently losing their mind over Bruce Springsteen’s new memoir, but if you’re gaga over The Boss and you haven’t read Patti Smith's second memoir, M Train, you’re missing out. Smith’s book—now out in paperback—is a literary marvel, a gorgeously written piece of art. Beat that, Bruce. University Temple Methodist Church, 1415 NE 43rd St, 634-3400-4255, $17.54. All ages. 7 p.m.

Tuesday October 4th: Citizen Scientist Reading

Mary Ellen Hannibal is not a scientist — by which I mean she did not spend the better part of a decade honing her scientific understanding in a university program. But her new book extols the joys of citizen science: observing the world, researching what happens, and reporting what you see. Town Hall Seattle, 1119 8th Ave., 652-4255, $5. All ages. 7:30 p.m.

Event of the Week: A Night with Wave Books at Fred Wildlife Refuge

Wave Books has, in a relatively short span of time, become the second best poetry publisher in the Seattle area. The best, in case you’re new to town, is Port Townsend nonprofit publisher Copper Canyon Press; given that they’re probably the best poetry publisher in the country, there’s no shame here in a second-place finish.

And besides, Copper Canyon and Wave Books traffic in very different styles of poetry. Copper Canyon publishes, for lack of a better word, traditional poetry, which is to say they publish poems with the structure and the heft of generations. Their poets are continuing a long international poetry. Wave is further out on the edge. They publish experimental, risky poetry, kind of the poetic equivalent of modern art. If you were to coax your the average non-poetry-reading American into looking at a Copper Canyon title and a Wave title side-by-side, they’d most likely choose the Copper Canyon book over the Wave book simply because it would look more like what they’d expect.

But out on the edge is where the rapid advancements are made. Not every Wave Book is for everyone, but sometimes they strike some element of the collective consciousness just right, and when that happens, those books resonate through the ages. Seattle poet Don Mee Choi’s Hardly War is a perfect example of one of Wave’s winners. War, which I reviewed earlier this year, is a brilliant book combining collage, historical documents, and memoir to create something new.

This Friday at Fred Wildlife Refuge, Wave Books is hosting an evening with two Seattle poets (Choi and Wave editor Joshua Beckman) along with Wave writers Tyehimba Jess, Anselm Berrigan, and Lisa Fishman. Of those three, the one to watch is Detroit native Jess, who writes gut-punch poetry about race and music and memory that make no apologies.

One of Jess’s poems is titled “Mothafucka” and it’s dedicated to absent fathers:

will the real mother fucker please stand up?

are you the devoted fucker of mother,

one who would stay to raise his kids

to be bigger, badder, better motherfuckers?

are you one who simply fucks our mothers?

one who fucks any mother in sight?

one who, by fucking, left bastards behind?

Earlier this year, Seattle poet Maged Zaher wrote a scathing essay for the Seattle Review of Books praising Wave Books for its forward-thinking poetry, but also demanding that Wave do better in representing Seattle—Choi and Beckman pretty much represent the only Seattle writers Wave has published to date—and in representing writers of color. (Copper Canyon has done a much better job with both.) Based on the excitement I’ve seen among Seattle-area writers for this event, the community has a lot of enthusiasm for Wave; hopefully, this evening is a sign that Wave wants to do a better job of representing and including its community.

Fred Wildlife Refuge, 128 Belmont Ave. E., Free. All ages. 7 p.m.

You always hurt the ones you love

Published September 27, 2016, at 1:03pm

Paul Constant reviews Maria Semple's Today Will Be Different.

Maria Semple's followup to Where'd You Go Bernadette is a mean, flawed book about a mean, flawed woman.

Read this review now

Your one-stop shop for depressing library-related news

In Ireland, librarians are protesting plans to fully automate a library. The only paid human staff in the library on a recent test run were on the security team. A library solely staffed by security guards is an incredibly depressing thought.

In other depressing library news: Linda Jacobson at the School Library Journal reports that more librarians are self-censoring their collections these days:

School libraries at all levels are more likely than they were eight years ago to place content labels on books or to have restricted sections for books containing mature content, a data comparison to a 2008 SLJ survey on collection development and self-censorship revealed. The practice of using content labels has increased the most at the elementary level, from 18 to 33 percent. At the middle school level, 27 percent of respondents say they currently use labels, compared to 10 percent in 2008, and in high school, the number has increased from six to 11 percent.

Go hug a librarian today, okay?

All our Tuesday Poems

For over a year now we've been publishing poems by local writers every Tuesday (you can see them all on the archive page). Each poet recommends the next in a chain that has led us through some of the most fascinating corners of the Northwest poetry scene.

We wanted to take one week out of our schedule to look back, in appreciation to the poets who have shared their work with us, and in hopes that you might discover a piece or two that speaks to you that you may have missed the first time.

Next week, we'll be back with the start of our Fall chain, but in the meantime, here's a retrospective.

Our first poet was Kelli Russel Agodon (she also wrote for us about poetry going viral). After her: Kathleen Flenniken, Anastacia Renee Tolbert, Michelle Peñaloza, Arlene Kim, and Don Mee Choi.

EJ Koh was next — we're presenting her, Robert Lashley, and Sherman Alexie at the Elliott Bay Book Company on November 11th, so please save the date. Then: Claudia Castro Luna, Jourdan Imani Keith, Felicia Gonzalez, Emily Bedard, Erin Malone, and Christine Deavel.

We spent the month of December celebrating the life of Madeline DeFrees by running five of her poems: "Matinal", "Phobias Incorporated", "Grandmother Grant", "In the locker room", and "Going Back to the Convent".

We opened 2016 with Sarah Mangold, and Amaranth Borsuk. We did a brave thing, then, breaking our tradition of publishing only women with three short poems by Maged Zaher.

Deborah Woodard rebalanced our gender ratio, followed by Samar Abulhassan, Meredith Clark, Melanie Noel, Jessie Knoles, Ashley E Booth, and Sierra Golden.

We were thrilled to run a lovely piece by an unknown local writer we think has a great future: Sherman Alexie, followed by Jane Wong, Quenton Baker, Alex Gallo-Brown, and Bill Carty.

Kristen Steenbeeke ended April for us, and Rebecca Hoogs led us into May, along with Rachel Kessler (who also did a bang-up job covering all of AWP Los Angeles for us).

JM Miller was next, followed by afrose fatima ahmed, Michael Schmeltzer, Sonya Vatomsky, Meghan McClure, and Rick Barot.

We then turned to Lena Khalaf Tuffaha, Billie Swift, Martha Kreiner, and Laura Da’.

Clare Johnson provided us with poetry illustrated with images on Post-it notes, and following her was Matthew Schnirman, Julene Tripp Weaver, Suzanne E Edison, Paul E Nelson, and John Olson.

Finally, last week, we ended our first cycle with work from Priscilla Long, who has two new books out this month.

So, that's a lot. In these works you'll find humor, beauty, playfulness, anger, sarcasm, frustration, desire, love, bravery, and exhilaration. We couldn't be happier about our Tuesday Poem series, and are so pleased to be able to offer it to you.

Please do spend today browsing them, and we'll see you next Tuesday with new poets and new work.

Mark the date for the Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair

This week's sponsor The Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair is back, for their twenty-ninth annual show at Seattle Center, happening October 8th-9th. The fair is an amazing event, a place to see rare books, ephemera, maps, and collectibles.

Find out more, and see a great video about the fair, on our sponsor's page.

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

Out of the running

Published September 26, 2016, at 12:01pm

Paul Constant reviews Craig Tomashoff's The Can't-idates.

Over a thousand Americans ran for president in 2016. Craig Tomashoff's book highlights 15 of the most obscure would-be POTUSes.

Read this review now

Human fiction-factory James Patterson has announced that his November title, a mystery titled The Murder of Stephen King, has been canceled. Jackson McHenry at Vulture writes that Patterson announced the cancellation "after deciding that he did not want to cause King and his family 'any discomfort' given that fans have reportedly 'disrupted the King household in the past.'"

It's true; considering that King has had several stalkers through the years, Patterson's novel, in which a would-be murderer combines the techniques and characteristics of various King antagonists, seems in exceptionally poor taste. I first heard of this book last month, and I naturally assumed that Patterson had gotten permission from King before writing it. That certainly seems like it would have been a wise thing to do.

You can travel to the other side of the world, but you'll never find another bookstore like Lion Heart

Well-versed in the contents of his shop and the world of books, a recommendation from David is a valuable gift. He went straight from high school to bookselling and has held his current position as caretaker of Lion Heart Book Store for 15 years. In a half-serious, half-joking tone (leaving the facts amusingly uncertain), he explained that his father offered him three choices after high school: he’d send him to vet school, send him to prison, or help him start a bookstore.

Luckily for us the third option won, and now you have a list of recommendations for autumn and an excuse not to leave home. David recommends: The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown, We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac, and The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver. His favorite book is Candide, which, like his own life, he says, deals with finding love, disappointing young ladies, and searching for the philosophy of life.

Although Pike Place houses several amazing bookstores, Lion Heart is the crown jewel. Cared for by an involved owner and standing at the heart of the market, it pumps energy through the several crowded floors and lengthy hallways of Pike Place. Visited by locals and tourists alike, by literary aficionados and surface browsers, the shop lives in the best of all possible worlds, acting as a trading post for stories both verbal and written.

4,800 miles away, my new home in London boasts an incredible literary scene. There are several bookstores in my neighborhood and countless more in Central London. They are historic, quaint, and some even famous, yet none compare to the underground nook by Puget Sound. No owner leaps from their desk to help (elderly British booksellers can’t be bothered), no customer rambles about their life, and no one sends postcards from their travels the way people do for David. The only thing I’ve found to be on par with Lion Heart Book Store is the talk of the weather and the rustle of raincoats as people shuffle past each other in the I-want-to-look-at-the-shelf-you’re-in-front-of dance.

I walked a few miles through Central London, stopping by several bookstores — most of them on Charing Cross Road — to get my books for this semester, a Harry Potter-esque experience of walking through cobblestone alleys with bags full of school supplies (sans owl, sadly). These tiny old bookstores are majestic and breathtaking, usually full of beautiful Jane Austen editions and Shakespeare compilations. But there’s the key difference: London bookstores pride themselves in their content, while Lion Heart Book Store sees the importance of the people that visit.

London bookstores are city fixtures, impassive to the comings-and-goings of tourists, while Lion Heart changes for and with its customers. Although there is a beauty in the static existence of century-old bookstores here, Lion Heart reflects the livelihood of Pike Place Market and the changing scene in Seattle. Already the fifth incarnation of the shop since its establishment in 1961, it’s exciting to see where it will go and how it will continue to interact with the people who visit it.

The Sunday Post for September 25, 2016

What We're Saying When We Talk About Hillary Clinton's "Likability"

Sady Doyle unpacks the gendered responses to the first woman to be a major party candidate.

No, Hillary Clinton is not a flawless person — or politician. You can complain about her secrecy, her hawkishness, or her husband all for good reason. But Clinton is, according to available biographical evidence, normal. Ordinary, even. She’s like countless women of her generation: Caught between the second wave of feminism and the marital norms of a pre-feminist age, driven to prove herself but cautious about seeming “pushy” or radical, aspiring to lead the nation into the 21st century yet baffled by her own fax machine. Her soul contains little poetry, and less mystery. Her flaws exist on an identifiably human scale.
Despite Legacy Of Racism, Black Women Rock On

Latonya Pennington, in The Establishment, on black women playing rock music, and being recognized for it.

Why are the contributions of black musicians like these so rarely acknowledged? In part, it has to do with monolithic stereotyping of black musicians and black music listeners—the association of current black musicians and black music fans in the United States with only hip-hop, R&B, and pop. In her book What Are You Doing Here?: A Black Woman’s Life and Liberation in Heavy Metal, music journalist Laina Dawes states that the monolith stereotype is the result of the whitewashing of rock music, as well as the black community’s need to preserve cultural bonds and appear respectable.
I Used to Be a Human Being

Andrew Sullivan talking to how a steady stream of instant media nearly ruined his health.

If the internet killed you, I used to joke, then I would be the first to find out. Years later, the joke was running thin. In the last year of my blogging life, my health began to give out. Four bronchial infections in 12 months had become progressively harder to kick. Vacations, such as they were, had become mere opportunities for sleep. My dreams were filled with the snippets of code I used each day to update the site. My friendships had atrophied as my time away from the web dwindled. My doctor, dispensing one more course of antibiotics, finally laid it on the line: “Did you really survive HIV to die of the web?”
Can the South Make Room for Reconstruction?

Bill Rauch looks into resistance from certain corners in the South in telling the true story of the Reconstruction, after the Civil War.

The National Park Service has also commissioned a study to explore creating official commemorative sites—and two places that are likely high on the list are Beaufort, South Carolina, and Natchez, Mississippi. That study is currently in its “final review” phase within the agency and is expected to come out in the next few months, probably right after the November elections. Reflecting the most recent historiographical thinking on Reconstruction, the long-awaited study will no doubt also emphasize the controversial era’s role as the essential precursor of the civil-rights movement in the 1960s.

The Responsible Communication Style Guide - Kickstarter Fund Project #36

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

What's the project this week?

The Responsible Communication Style Guide. We've put $20 in as a non-reward backer

Who is the Creator?

Audrey Eschright.

What do they have to say about the project?

The Responsible Communication Style Guide is a stylebook for writers and other media creators

What caught your eye?

Recompiler Mag is a feminist hacker magazine, and like many publications, they run into a myriad of style issues. Specifically, they are concerned with proper inclusive language, and the cases where language may exclude or diminish.

So why not write their own style guide? They're focusing on five areas: race, gender, sexuality, religion, and health and well-being. Each aspect of open communication, and how to present topics in ways that don't exclude people, are considered.

Why should I back it?

Style guides are suggestions (unless you're a language absolutist), and reading suggestions about ways you can be more aware in your writing and tone, especially if you're going for a neutral voice, is never a bad thing. Knowing what language may offend or alienate people you've never thought about can make your work reach a larger audience. And, with the exception of certain politicians, writers, and narrow-minded charlatans, limiting your audience is generally a bad idea.

How's the project doing?

Ouch! Only 45% there and five days to go. They need help. If you get behind this project, help spread the word!

Do they have a video?

Kickstarter Fund Stats
  • Projects backed: 36
  • Funds pledged: $720
  • Funds collected: $640
  • Unsuccessful pledges: 2
  • Fund balance: $300

The Help Desk: Am I stealing from the library?

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

Dear Cienna,

I recently moved from Seattle to a small town in the Midwest, giving up the Seattle Public Library’s massive collection for something much more modest. Now, our library system here is pretty good! I have no real complaints. But every so often, there’s a book I want to read that they don’t have but, lo and behold, SPL has the ebook version. Since I still have a working library card, I can check out ebooks from the SPL with no problem. I’m not paying Seattle taxes anymore, but I can’t seem to resist, well, taking advantage of Seattle taxpayers. How big of a sin am I committing? Should I just rip up my old library card?

Amanda, Midwest

Dear Amanda,

Congratulations. By relocating from Seattle to a small town in the Midwest, you have become a “woman of the world.” There are many perks accompanying your new status: you are likely better at identifying mountains than your Midwestern peers and can more closely relate to the kidnapped survivors of Boko Haram than your Seattle peers, if not spiritually then at least geographically. Savor this feeling.

As for your sin of committing library fraud, to use the analogy of sports I don’t follow, I consider this sin to be golf-ball sized – it would probably choke a baby but a belligerent adult could swallow it just fine with a chaser of Bud Light Lime.

Here’s the good news: The Seattle Public Library does issue library cards to non-Seattle, Washington state residents for a price ($85).

If your moral compass so guides you – did I mention women of the world are also fitted with strong moral compasses? – start making an $85 annual donation to the Seattle Public Library and continue using your fraudulent library card guilt-free. But if you accidentally left your moral compass in a corn field somewhere in Ohio, it’s not the end of the world. Simply befriend a librarian in your new hometown and confess your sin to her or him over happy hour drinks (that you will pay for). Absolution is a tradition in the Catholic church, which is a sport I follow only slightly more than golf because of the drinking involved.

In the meantime, avoid befriending babies and no one gets hurt.



As Jennifer Schuessler reported in the New York Times, the MacArthur Foundation announced their annual "Genius" grant winners yesterday. I'm very excited to see that the new list of "Geniuses" includes authors we've written about here at the Seattle Review of Books over the past year.

Congratulations to all the "Geniuses," (Those quotation marks are accurate, according to the MacArthur style guide, but they always feel so sarcastic whenever I write about the MacArthur grants that I always consider leaving them out.) I look forward to publishing many more pieces about their works here on the Seattle Review of Books in years to come.

Portrait Gallery: Clark Humphrey

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

Seattle's perennial ambassador to the micro-cultures of the Pacific Northwest, Clark Humphrey is appearing Sunday at Vermillion Art Gallery and Bar to celebrate the new edition of his encyclopedic work on Seattle's music scene, LOSER: The Real Seattle Music Story.

Criminal Fiction: our inaugural mystery, suspense and thriller column

New column! Every month, Daneet Steffens is going to uncover the latest goings on in mystery, suspense, and crime fiction. Welcome Daneet!

I’m delighted to be kicking off this column for the Seattle Review of Books during a month full of crime-fiction action. Bloody Scotland, Scotland’s International Crime Writing Festival, toasted its fourth year, crowning Christopher Brookmyre with the top McIlvanney Prize, and featuring the traditional England crime writers vs. Scottish crime writers football match (England won, 7-1). Stateside, Bouchercon took over New Orleans, a city made for murder mysteries, police procedurals, and vampiric thrillers: Seattle native Glen Erik Hamilton picked up the Best First Novel, and Mark Billingham, Doug Johnstone, Stuart Neville, and Bill Loehfelm rocked out at the New Orleans House of Blues. And, back in the UK, the third Noirwich weekend in Norwich welcomed a rich range of crime writers including Ian Rankin, Denise Mina, Eva Dolan, Sarah Hilary, Peter James, and Dreda Say Mitchell.

Reading around: new titles on the crime fiction scene

Allusions to Batman abound when sports agent Myron Bolitar and his longtime partner-in-solving-crimes Win – that’s Windsor Horne Lockwood III to you – return in Home by Harlan Coben (Dutton). Last seen in 2011’s Live Wire, a fictional year has passed since that book’s events, and Bolitar is happily engaged to be married. Win, on the other hand, is engaged in tracking down two teenage boys who disappeared as six-year-olds a decade ago. When one of the teens is found, and Win calls on Myron’s assistance, the friends pursue an emotionally-charged mystery, tangling with a Bond-level villain, as well as with two sets of still-grieving parents.

In So Say the Fallen (Soho Crime), Stuart Neville’s persistent policewoman, Detective Chief Inspector Serena Flanagan, already has plenty domestic tensions to deal with when she’s called to investigate the apparent suicide of a wealthy car dealer. The case appears straightforward, but Flanagan has a nose for the extraordinary, especially when it comes to criminal minds. While executing a taut, heart-stopping police procedural, Neville is equally skilled at imbuing the darkest corners of our minds with a bleak beauty of their own, uncovering humanity in the most inhumane of baddies.

With her Simon Waterhouse-Charlie Zailer series of mysteries, Sophie Hannah has proved herself as fiendishly astute as Agatha Christie when it comes to the innermost (read: darkest) workings of human psychology. She also shares with Christie a dry, wry comedic touch that rises to the surface when least expected. Closed Casket (William Morrow), Hannah’s second sophisticated take on Christie’s Hercule Poirot, is both entertaining and clever, pitting the Belgian detective against a houseful of suspects – including an Enid Blyton-like writer. A canny ode to the great Christie, and a formidable showcasing of Hannah’s own crime-writing skills.

Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart was one of the most enjoyable literary surprises of 2015, and the sequel, Lady Cop Makes Trouble (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), pursues its clever premise. Based on the real-life Kopp sisters of Bergen County, New Jersey – and the career of Constance Kopp, one of America’s first female deputy sheriffs, in particular – this adventure finds Constance’s deputy sheriff status at stake when she tricked by a nefarious con man. The multiple crimes that Stewart weaves into her tale are one thing, but equally compelling are the lovingly rendered characters, including a shining cameo by William Carlos Williams.

Finally, set in segregated Atlanta in 1948, the year the city hired its first black policemen, Darktown by Thomas Mullen (37 Ink), tackles legal, systemic racism at its most horrific, alongside the new beat cops’ job of upholding the law when it comes to murder, moonshine and mayhem. Two of the black policemen, Boggs and Smith, tangle in particular with Dunlow, a nasty, corrupt cop, whose young partner, Rakes, is too new and tentative to do anything but observe Dunlow’s violence. Tenebrous and super-cinematic – film/television rights are already with Sony – and in no small sense reminiscent of 1997’s L.A. Confidential.
The Quintessential Interview: Chris Holm
In 2015, Chris Holm’s The Killing Kind — which just won the Anthony Award for Best Novel at Bouchercon — introduced Michael Hendricks, a hit man who targets other hit men. Its follow-up, Red Right Hand, finds Hendricks on a bit of a revenge trip when FBI Special Agent Charlie Thompson taps him for assistance: a viral video of a terrorist attack in San Francisco reveals that an FBI witness whom everyone thought was dead is, in fact, very much alive. Red Right Hand is perfectly paced page-turner: Holm elegantly juggles multiple characters, perspectives and locations, without a single misstep.

What or who are your top five writing inspirations?

I have a deep and abiding love of classic pulp. I’m fascinated by what drives good people to do bad things. By how bad one can be without becoming irredeemable. By the slipperiness of identity and what we consider to be our essential selves. And I should give a nod to my adopted hometown of Portland, Maine, since I never seriously considered pursuing a writing career until I moved here—and I worry the words will dry up if I ever leave.

Top five places to write?

The left side of my couch. The University of New England’s Westbrook College Campus library. Coffee By Design on Diamond Street. The right side of my couch. On the backs of receipts at stop lights in my car.

Top five favorite writers?

I’m only allowed five?! I just broke out in a cold sweat. Today, let’s say Megan Abbott, Raymond Chandler, Tim Powers, Donna Tartt, and Donald Westlake. Tomorrow, I might cough up a whole new list.

Top five tunes to write to?

My favorites include Benny Goodman Orchestra’s “Sing Sing Sing (With a Swing),” Budos Band’s “The Sticks,” DJ Shadow’s “Organ Donor,” Mono’s “Ashes in the Snow,” and Rodrigo y Gabriela’s “Diablo Rojo.” I have a tough time writing to anything that features words, so all my picks are instrumental. I use them sparingly, whenever I feel as if my writing needs a boost.

Top five hometown spots?

The secret garden behind Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s house on Congress Street. The tasting room at Allagash. The gloomy labyrinth that is Portland Architectural Salvage. Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth. And Halcyon Tattoo in Windham.

Thursday Comics Hangover: Doom, again

Sometimes you just fall in love with an artist’s work at first sight. That was what it was like for me reading the first issue of DC’s new Doom Patrol, which was published last week. I don’t know where Nick Derington comes from, but that two-page spread he drew that opens the issue, with a long, narrow panel of protagonist Casey Brinke driving an ambulance, is this kind of a moment for me. Derington has everything I love in an artist: simple lines, fine details, expressive facial expressions. This is the same kind of feeling that hit me when I first saw Marcos Martin’s art, for instance: pure love.

Derington’s art is beautifully complimented by Tamra Bonvillain’s coloring, which straddles the line between digital realism and gaudy comic book fluorescence. Together, you get the sense they could illustrate anything. And so they do: alien worlds, the back rooms where ambulance drivers wait for the next distress call, cramped apartments, heavenly throne rooms, and sterile hotel conference rooms. This is a comic book that charms you with the turn of every page.

I wish I could say the same for Gerard Way’s script. Way, the rock and roll singer who wowed comics fans with his weird superhero series Umbrella Academy, is launching a new weird adult imprint for DC Comics called Young Animal, of which Doom Patrol is the flagship title. And several of the new characters that Way introduces in the book — Casey Brinke, a singing telegram girl from beyond the stars — are absolutely fascinating. But only part of this book is treading new ground.

In a text piece at the end of the issue, Way talks about his love for Grant Morrison and Richard Case’s Doom Patrol comic from the 1990s. While that Doom Patrol run was absolutely incredible — I recently re-read it and was happy to find that much of it holds up — some of the elements in this new Doom Patrol feel a bit too eager to retrace those steps. The beauty of Morrison’s run on Doom Patrol was that he took an old, unsettling superhero comic and transformed it into something new and unsettling. It was of its time, and it happily discarded elements of the past to build its own identity. If Way is unable to make something new here, his Doom Patrol could wind up being nothing more than a nostalgia act.

Comics is not hurting for nostalgia; in fact, nostalgia is what is holding comics back. And those terrific books that ran during the heyday of Vertigo Comics — Doom Patrol, Animal Man, Sandman — deserve more than nostalgia. The best homage Way could pay to Morrison’s run would be to ignore it, and to head in a different direction entirely.

Feminism a la carte

Published September 21, 2016, at 12:00pm

Amy R Peloff reviews Kameron Hurley's The Geek Feminist Revolution, and Andi Zeisler's We Were Feminists Once.

Two indie feminists come at commerce, advertising, and how to best love media from different angles.

Read this review now