Portrait Gallery: Nichelle Nichols

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

A subject who needs no introduction, and whose name is widely known. Nichols, of course, played Nyota Uhura in the original Star Trek series and movies. She was going to leave the role after the first season, but at a NAACP fundraiser, she met fan of the show who convinced her to stay on:

I looked across the way and there was the face of Dr. Martin Luther King smiling at me and walking toward me. And he started laughing. By the time he reached me, he said, yes, Ms. Nichols, I am your greatest fan. I am that Trekkie.

And I was speechless. He complimented me on the manner in which I'd created the character. I thanked him, and I think I said something like, Dr. King, I wish I could be out there marching with you. He said, no, no, no. No, you don't understand. We don't need you on the - to march. You are marching. You are reflecting what we are fighting for. So, I said to him, thank you so much. And I'm going to miss my co-stars.

And his face got very, very serious. And he said, what are you talking about? And I said, well, I told Gene just yesterday that I'm going to leave the show after the first year because I've been offered — and he stopped me and said: You cannot do that. And I was stunned. He said, don't you understand what this man has achieved? For the first time, we are being seen the world over as we should be seen. He says, do you understand that this is the only show that my wife Coretta and I will allow our little children to stay up and watch. I was speechless.

On Sunday, join the downtown branch of the Seattle Public Library for the "Star Trek Geek Out". Costumes are encouraged.

A rainbow of grief

Published January 28, 2016, at 11:54am

Paul Constant review Tom Hart's Rosalie Lightning.

Cartoonist Tom Hart's daughter died in her sleep for no apparent reason just shy of her second birthday. How do you find the words for that kind of a loss? You don't.

Read this review now

Thursday Comics Hangover: To be young and sad

Local cartoonist Elk Paauw’s minicomic It’s Okay to Be Sad Sometimes is a collection of short comics about sadness. Are all the sadnesses linked to a single cause? Maybe; it’s not entirely clear, though Paauw does allude to a breakup several times. In any case, the book works as a narrative about a single depression or as a thematic collection.

In the first couple pages, Paauw draws themself crying on a train; Paauw’s eyes are big, doe-y bubbles with leaking reservoirs of tears just underneath. A woman on the train turns to Paauw, who angrily replies, “Yes. I’m crying. Move on.” That’s the whole strip, and it seems to be a real you-get-it-or-you-don’t kind of an affair. Either you’ve been sad in public and can relate, or you haven’t and you don’t.

Recognition is key to the appreciation of Sad. The comics in the first half are all about being sad in various situations — buying ice cream, attending a party, riding transit — and the comics in the second half are about what happens when you try to climb out of it. (Will sex help? Is it even possible to find someone to have sex with? How does anyone successfully manage to have sex?) Most of the comics are just a few panels long, and the book feels slight, like a rough draft of something bigger (though for $5, you probably shouldn’t go in with expectations for a dense narrative in the first place.)

Paauw is a gifted young cartoonist. They use dense, almost Sharpie-like lines in their art, but the amount of expressiveness they draw from those lines is surprising. The manga-by-way-of-Scott-Pilgrim influences are clear, but not oppressive; unlike the exaggeration of the comics that influence Paauw’s art, these comics are strictly grounded in realism. You’ve made these faces, worn clothes that hang like this, hugged your mother and cried this way.

Sad is obviously a work by someone who’s just getting started as a cartoonist. You won’t find the shorthand and nuance of, say, a Peter Bagge comic here. But if your cartooning tastes veer more toward the punky end of the spectrum — those works of art that are all about truth and attitude and feelings — you’ll find a lot to like here. It’s a story of figuring it all out, written by someone who is standing on the crossroads, trying to decide what to do next. Whatever “next” entails for Paauw, hopefully they’ll keep making comics.

Book News Roundup: The diversity in publishing edition

In 2014, Amazon's warehouses--65 million square feet of space--employed roughly 30,000 full-time workers and 104,000 part-time and seasonal workers. But including all the jobs lost from stores whose sales Amazon supplanted, Amazon sales "produced a net loss of 135,973 retail jobs."

Matt Cunningham of Civic Economics noted, too, that in 2014 Amazon book sales were about $5.618 billion, some 11.6% of Amazon retail sales. That amount of sales represents about 3,600 "bookshop equivalents and 40,000 bookstore employees," which he called "a sobering statistic."

  • The results of the Diversity Baseline Survey, investigating diversity in publishing, has been released. You should go read all the results, but in short the publishing industry is overwhelmingly straight, white, and female, though predictably the executive level is much closer to an even male-female split.

  • With that in mind, please enjoy this story about a girl who was "sick of reading about white boys and dogs" and so started the #1000BlackGirlBooks hashtag.

  • Scientists have named a new type of leech after author Amy Tan. When she heard of the honor, Tan was delighted.

Body of work

Published January 27, 2016, at 11:57am

Cate McGehee review Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts.

Is pregnancy inherently heteronormative? Can writers like Maggie Nelson and Jen Graves help us push through some of our assumptions about gender and motherhood and art?

Read this review now

Browsing the shelves at Push/Pull

If you browse the comics section at Push/Pull, you might find a Post-It note affixed to the front of a minicomic here or there. These are the local equivalent of staff recommendation tags, only all the Post-Its are written by owner Maxx Follis’s son, and they are completely adorable. One Post-It on a book called The Age reads “It has amazing twist. —Sean.” A recommendation stuck to another book, I Think Our Friend Dan Might Be a Dolphin, by James Stanton, says “Funniest commic of 2015 — Sean, 8.” (The 5 on 2015, best of all, is backwards.)

Sean is on the right track: I Think Our Friend Dan Might Be a Dolphin is pretty goddamned funny. It’s narrated by someone who is just starting to recognize the warning signs about his friend Dan: “I first noticed the blowhole stains when I ran into him at Hot-Wing City last Friday.” It goes on like that, getting weirder and weirder along the way until you turn to a shot of Dan, drawn in Stanton’s impeccably cartoonish linework, with each of his tail fins crammed inside a gaudy running shoe. If you’re not amused, you’re probably a little bit dead inside.

Another funny comic at Push/Pull: How Baseball Works, by B. Lehmann. In it, the players try to explain the rules of baseball to the readers in as simple language as possible. A pitcher looks at us on the first page, explaining that “I’m gonna throw this ball real fast and my intention is that the batter tries to, but doesn’t hit it, three times and he’s out.” The first base coach adds, “I’m gonna tug my ear and then make tootley dootley hand signals.” It goes on from there.

Not all of the books are funny. Push/Pull founding member Seth Goodkind’s Predators and Prophets: A Comic History of Pacific Northwest Cults collects short strips identifying some of the highest-profile cults from the region. Illustrated in Goodkind’s dense, inky, hyperrealistic style, these profiles of Rancho Rajneesh, the Love Israel Family, and the Indian Shaker Church are a little bit creepy and entirely fascinating. It’s the kind of book that makes you wonder: are colorful cults weirdly specific to this part of the world, like serial killers? Or is Goodkind just really good at research?

Some of the comics veer more toward good old-fashioned zine territory, as with Bunny Lee’s Confusing Costume: Liberated Fashion Zine. On colorful pages packed with handwritten prose, Lee describes how “Life was vexing before I learned how to speak through fashion.” To her, fashion is bright and colorful and expressive — though she’s bothered when people say that she dresses like a child. Later, she urges her readers to remember that they’re “morally compelled to be confusing,” to challenge the “assumptions others may make about you.” It’s a bright and energetic encomium to individual style, and it comes with a mix CD featuring songs like “Vogue” and “The Humpty Dance” and Rufus Wainwright’s “Puttin’ on the Ritz.” You can’t read it without feeling waves of gratitude that people are still sending messages like these out on the rafts of Push/Pull’s shelves.

These are not mass-market stories; the books that Push/Pull carry often have print runs in the three or even two digits. They’re tiny, personal monuments to a moment in time, a wall full of love letters just waiting to jump into your arms and go home with you.

Previously, in our Booktore of the Month series:

Push/Pull is our January Bookstore of the Month

The many sides of Push/Pull

Push/Pull gives a home to artists who feel underrepresented.

In defense of italics

I first encountered this tweet while I was reading Johanna Sinisalo's wonderful The Core of the Sun:

And while I guess I've never opened up a novel and been excited about the presence of italics, I've certainly never been disappointed to see italics, either. The Core of the Sun features quite a few passages in italics — the book is made up of a collage of letters and dictionary entries and other odds and ends — and it works really well; the italics signify difference in a visual shorthand that's not quite as jarring as, say, switching to a different font.

And when I see italics, I automatically read the passage differently than I would otherwise. I've never tried to put this into words before, but I guess to me, italicized passages read as tough they're spoken in a whisper. Those passages seem more reflective to me, a little more intimate; maybe this just stems from the way I lean forward to read italics a little bit more carefully than I do "normal" text.

Anyway, the tweet reminds me of a story from my bookselling days. A customer came to me looking for a recommendation. She wanted a family story set in small-town America, something funny and appealing and well-written. The novel that fit every aspect of her description had just come out in paperback, and so I handed it to her: Empire Falls, by Richard Russo.

I described the story to her, and she started to get very excited about it. But then she opened the book and flipped to the first few pages and the smile fell off her face. She clapped the book shut and thrust it back into my hands.

"Italics," she said, by way of explanation. "I don't read italics."

It's true that Empire Falls opens (and closes) with a long passage in italics, but those passages make up something like one or two percent of the entire book. I suppose I felt a little annoyed at her for passing up a great novel for such a superficial reason, but mostly I felt bad for her. She was denying herself the reading experience that she most wanted and needed at that time in her life just because of a stylistic peccadillo. It's like meeting the love of your life and deciding you don't want anything to do with him because he's wearing a green t-shirt. What a waste.

Punk snot dead

Published January 26, 2016, at 12:00pm

Andrew Hamlin review Maire M. Masco's Desperate Times.

What was it like in the Seattle punk scene in the early '80s? And why even look back? What's the difference between nostalgia and history? Andrew Hamlin looks at Desperate Times, a book about a magazine about a music town back when those in the town had to fight for every gig, and every scrap of recognition.

Read this review now


From the first day, the teacher wrote as she spoke. An inkwell was a hole
without words, on the desk, which was like a pasture, leaving me free to think.
I could not repair my cursive with my pen or with my breath on the window pane.
The inkwells were filled from a large bottle of ink kept in the teacher’s closet.
My mother was disgusted by the inkwells, and by how I was forbidden to write
a letter to a friend. Was I the only one who found inkwells in the picture book?
The older boys sanded wood into serpents with claws, and filled the inkwells.
To my surprise, the words were more brown than black in my notebook.
Birds are called quills, when used. I could see the globe and the squares of Palmer
Method, encircling the room like wallpaper. The rustlings under my pen traveled far,
the faintest murmur. The word “recess” was next. In his lunch pail, the boy beside me
discovered a meal of cold potatoes. I felt the embarrassment of hooking the lunch pail
through my fingers. Weird tether. To make a ball, each of us brought some string
from home. We tried to dip the string into our inkwells. The teacher called out
positions to get into, such as a hawk. I saw my score. Woebegone, so much to do.
I positioned myself like a startled hare. Our desks sloped, and there was a groove
for our pencils and pens. The serpent of our script crawled off the page.

Michael Schmeltzer's Elegy/Elk River

Our thanks to Floating Bridge Press for their sponsorship this week. They're showing off 2015 chapbook award winner Michael Schmeltzer, and his winning work Elegy/Elk River. The titular poem is available to read on our sponsors page, and it is an amazing piece of work. His accolades are well deserved.

The 2016 Chapbook Competition is now accepting entries. The winner will be joining an impressive line of poets going back twenty years. There's more information on the sponsor page, but if you're a poet looking for opportunities to submit your work, you should certainly pay attention here. You'd walk away with a cash prize, and publication of your chapbook. Be sure to check it out.

Also, big news! We've just opened up our Spring/Summer block of sponsorships, and we have some openings coming up as early as February. Book now to grab your spot, our last block of sponsorships sold out. We'd love to get your project, event, or publication in front of our readers. Reserve your spot now so that we can make that happen, or read more information about our sponsorship program.

Anti-censorship group "alarmed" by decision to pull A Birthday Cake for George Washington

Ron Charles at the Washington Post writes that Scholastic's decision to recall their children's book A Birthday Cake for George Washington is being protested by the National Coalition Against Censorship. (If you need a primer on the swirl around Birthday Cake, you should read Lisa Gold's excellent review, which we ran last week.)

“There are books that can — and should — generate controversy,” the organization said. “But those who value free speech as an essential human right and a necessary precondition for social change should be alarmed whenever books are removed from circulation because they are controversial.”

This is an interesting choice by the Coalition. Strictly speaking, Scholastic's decision is not "censorship." The author and illustrator of the book are more than welcome to publish the book with another press, or to self-publish it. Scholastic decided that they didn't want their name on the book. That's totally their right.

And to call the book "controversial" seriously undersells the issue. It's a historical book that misleads its readers — children — about what it was like to be a slave in the early days of America. As Gold wrote, even the author admits in the notes to the book that the supposedly happy slave she depicted ran away on Washington's birthday. Though that fact is included as an aside in the historical notes, it's nowhere to be found in the actual story. The fight against censorship is vital, but this case seems less about censorship and more about correcting a mistake.

Scholastic today released a response to the charges which tries to make that distinction:

On Monday, Scholastic replied to all fronts on this expanding battle. Saying that PEN and the NCAC “apparently did not correctly read” Scholastic’s earlier statement, the publisher sought to clarify its motives. The book was withdrawn, the publisher insists, “not in response to criticism, but entirely and purposefully because this title did not meet our publishing standards.”

Why they published Birthday Cake in the first place even though it supposedly did not meet their publishing standards, of course, is another story.

Your Week in Readings: The best literary events from January 25th - 31st

MONDAY What better way to kick off your week than a brainy talk about aspirational science? Head to Town Hall Seattle for Oliver Morton, reading from his new book, The Planet Remade: How Geoengineering Could Change the World. It’s about how “an increasing number of climate scientists are advocating for more proactive human intervention in the biosphere,” which can mean anything “from cultivating photosynthetic plankton to seeding clouds with fleets of unmanned ships.” Sounds like this could be a rare hopeful climate-related event.

TUESDAY Tonight, you’ll want to head to Elliott Bay Book Company, where Seattle-by-way-of-West-Virginia novelist Ann Pancake will celebrate the paperback release of her excellent short story collection Me and My Daddy Listen to Bob Marley with author Valerie Trueblood, who will herself be debuting a new collection of stories titled Criminals: Love Stories. Pancake is one of the top five best short-story writers in town, and she works pretty slowly, so you might not have another chance to celebrate a publication date with her for a while. Get out there and enjoy the moment while it lasts.

So that’s your Tuesday sorted, except there’s just one thing: Chop Suey is hosting an event called “A Loose Leaf Reading: An Evening Of Story Telling and Music” that looks really good, too. So I’m going to call this one a tie. This reading, like the Elliott Bay event, is free, and it features musician Nora Hughes with writers Patty Belsick, Casandra Lopez, Jenny Hayes, Kristen Millares Young, and featured reader Michelle Peñaloza. Good stuff.

WEDNESDAY This will be big fun: Seattle science fiction writers Nisi Shawl and Eileen Gunn will be reading at Cafe Racer as part of a science fiction and fantasy-themed open mic night called Two Hour Transport. I have to be honest, here. I’ve never heard of Two Hour Transport before, but it sounds like a fun time: featured readers share the stage with readers who sign up to read their sci-fi stories of five minutes’ duration or less. Gunn has won or been shortlisted for a boatload of awards. Shawl writes short fiction, publishes book reviews, and she has a novel coming out this September that we at the Seattle Review of Books are just dying to read. Maybe you’ll get a sneak preview of that book tonight.

THURSDAY Maggie Nelson reads at Hugo House. Chances are good that if you know a local writer, they have waxed rhapsodic about the idea of attending this reading. Maggie Nelson is an incredible writer (you should absolutely read Bluets and The Argonauts) and a world-class thinker. Tonight, she’ll be discussing “our different writing bodies and what they mean." There will also be a Q&A. This is the highest-profile reading of the week, and the hottest ticket in town.

FRIDAY Musician Korby Lenker reads at Elliott Bay Book Company tonight. He’s got a short story collection titled Medium Hero, which is full of all sorts of great opening lines:

  • “You were my old piano teacher, and now you are dead.”
  • Come pick me up is what the text said.”
  • “I was in a mood.”
  • “Maybe it’s because I’m single again, maybe it’s because my dad had to go to the hospital last week for weird symptoms associated with stroke, but I’m going to write this story down.”

If you’re into short stories, you know the opening lines are half the battle. Not every story in this collection is a jaw-dropper, but they’re all energetic and exciting and eager to be read.

SATURDAY If you’re into the Seattle comics scene, your heart probably broke a little bit when you heard that Intruder, the invitation-only free local comics anthology newspaper, was going to end with issue #20. It’s so good! It’s been going for so long! We all thought Intruder would be around forever! But we still have a few issues left to appreciate, and the Intruder #18 release party is tonight at music shop Spin Cycle on Broadway, so you should go and share some of that love. This party features free comics, live DJs, and, reportedly, “a bag of kettle chips.” Does their generosity know any bounds? Apparently not.

SUNDAY The downtown branch of the Seattle Public Library is hosting something called “The Star Trek Geek Out” all weekend long. Costumes are encouraged. Today’s events include live action interpretations of classic Star Trek scenes, a screening of 2009’s Star Trek reboot movie, and a panel discussion “on Kirk, Spock and gender.” This is not strictly book-related, but come on. Us nerds gotta stick together, you know.

The Sunday Post for January 24, 2016

‘I was terribly wrong’ - writers look back at the Arab spring five years on

Eleven writers (including Laila Lalami) revisit their views of five years ago on the Arab Spring uprising.

In January 2011, days after the first uprising in Tunisia and the protests in Tahrir Square, the Guardian invited leading writers from across the Arab world to reflect on the revolutionary fervour sweeping the region. Then, they expressed great optimism for the future. Here, they revisit their responses and ask, is there still room for hope?
Erik Spiekermann

An interview, conducted by technolgy writer Om Malik, with Erik Spiekermann, a typographer and type designer whose work you, even though you don't know it, have seen many times over your life. If you saw the movie about the typeface Helvetica, called Helvetica, Spiekermann was the one telling you how much he dislikes the titular typeface. This is a great interview with a challenging and creative force of a man.

In 1985 I had the job to design a new typeface for the German post office. I went to Linotype to talk to them about digitizing my sketches, and they had a Macintosh. I had seen photographs but not held one. So I lifted it up and put the little floppy in, and then I borrowed this thing and went over from Frankfurt to Bonn, to the ministry.

I went in and told these guys, “This is typesetting & is the future. And this floppy, which I have in my shirt pocket, has the typeface on there.”

They looked at each other and went, “This guy’s gone mad.” But I knew intuitively, just like with the first smell of printed paper, that this was the future of my business.

From Pickup Artist to Pariah

For anybody fascinated by — or perhaps disgusted, freaked out, and fed up with — men publically struggling with the idea of masculinity while internetting, this is a nuanced and layered story of being caught, having regret, and maybe not really knowing what it was you got in trouble for in the first place. Will anything save us from the logical men of the internet?

Jared Rutledge has been called a sociopath. Strangers have picketed outside his coffee shop, calling for his castration. People he thought were his friends won’t return his texts. There are a few places he still feels safe: weekly lunches with his grandma, his therapist’s office, the meetings of his peer-facilitated men’s support circle. At night, he reads fantasy books and loses himself in a universe with societal rules unlike the ones he broke here in Asheville, North Carolina.
How Stories Deceive

Well, perhaps stories can save us from the logical men. Let's hope so.

In his book “Actual Minds, Possible Worlds,” Jerome Bruner, a central figure in the cognitive revolution in psychology, proposes that we can frame experience in two ways: propositional and narrative. Propositional thought hinges on logic and formality. Narrative thought is the reverse. It’s concrete, imagistic, personally convincing, and emotional. And it’s strong.

In fact, Bruner argues, narrative thinking is responsible for far more than its logical, systematic counterpart. It’s the basis of myth and history, ritual and social relations. The philosopher Karl Popper “proposed that falsifiability is the cornerstone of the scientific method,” Bruner told the American Psychological Association at their annual meeting, in Toronto, in the summer of 1984. “But believability is the hallmark of the well-formed narrative.” Even scientists construct narratives. There is no scientific method without the narrative thread that holds the whole enterprise together. Stories make things more plausible, more convincing, and more fundable. Rightly or wrongly, a research proposal with a compelling narrative arc stands out. As the economist Robert Heilbroner once confided to Bruner, “When an economic theory fails to work easily, we begin telling stories about the Japanese imports.” When a fact is plausible, we still need to test it. When a story is plausible, we often assume it’s true.

Making Room for Good Trouble - Kickstarter Fund Project #3

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?

Making Room for Good Trouble. We've put $20 in as a non-reward backer

Who is the Creator?

Microcosm Publishing.

What do they have to say about the project?

Microcosm is an independent, punk-inspired book publisher. We're about to turn 20. This is our story.

What caught your eye?

We love seeing indie publishers, especially ones as long-lived as Microcosm — they started in 1996 as a record label and distributer — and especially ones in the Pacific Northwest — they're based in Portland. After twenty some years, they have published over 350 books, have nearly three million books in print, and are still going strong.

So why throw a Kickstarter? Well, their founder Joe Biel wrote a book about his experience in publishing, and it's coming out soon. They're trying to clear space in their warehouse, so the Kickstarter is about selling backstock to make room.

So the rewards are all about getting you some books. In fact, in one of the best deals on Kickstarter, if you back for $50 you get a signed copy of Joe's new book Good Trouble, plus 24 more books. Whoa. That's an average price of $1.90 each. Total score — there's some great stuff in there.

Why should I back it?

Get the 24 pack! But also, you have to love Microcosm's message. On their website they say "Microcosm Publishing empowers readers to make positive changes in their lives and in the world around them. Microcosm emphasizes skill-building, showing hidden histories, and fostering creativity through challenging conventional publishing wisdom with books and bookettes about DIY skills, food, gender, self-care, social justice, and art."

And 50% of the books they publish are by women. Yes!

How's the project doing?

5 days to go, and they've more than doubled their goal of $3,000, so they're gonna make it. Just get in on this for the 24 book deal. Seriously!

Do they have a video?

Kickstarter Fund Stats
  • Projects backed: 3
  • Funds pledged: $60
  • Funds collected: $0
  • Unsuccessful pledges: 0
  • Fund balance: $980

Sponsorships through July now open

We’ve just released our next block of sponsorships, from February-July. A week of sponsoring the site is $150, currently. You get a prominent mention on each page, and a mention in our social media the Monday your sponsorship goes up, and also on Saturday, a day before it goes down.

Our sponsors are the best — local poets, writers, and events across all genres. Our sponsors allow us to pay poets and writers to bring you the content you see here every day. In return, they get exposure to the most passionate reading audience we’ve ever seen.

You can sign up on our Sponsor page, or feel free to email sponsorships at seattlereviewofbooks.com if you have any questions. We’d love to talk to you about how we can get your work in front of our readers.

The Help Desk: A favorite author let me down. Should I stop meeting writers I love?

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,

Once, I met an author I loved and it was a total letdown. She was narcissistic and bored by all the people who came out to hear her read, and I disliked her so much it made my skin crawl. Now I can't enjoy her books because it reminds me of how unpleasant she was. Should I bother going to readings anymore? I don't want to lose any more favorite authors, and the risk of them being jerks is scaring me away.

Mary, Bainbridge Island

Dear Mary,

Once, I was invited to a fancy literary party full of very impressive people – best-selling authors, sitcom writers, actors, comedians. I couldn't throw a fork without hitting someone whose work I admired. As parties go, it was normal: People sipped champagne, talked child rearing, traded jokes and were surprisingly tolerant of me sweating on them. I should say, it was normal except for me. Intimidation, my natural dearth of social graces and a near-painful desire to make a good impression rendered me mute – that is, until the hosts' daughter, a sweet-looking girl of about 12, emerged from the kitchen with a plate of fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies and began offering them to guests.

“Mmmm, is there anything better than a cute little girl handing out warm cookies?” One actor asked rhetorically.

That is the moment I found my voice. “Only if she's stripping,” I said.

The actor stared. The child proferred her plate to me with pity in her sweet brown eyes. There was a moment of silence as everyone in the room wished my place were filled by someone who could pass the very low bar of not sexualizing children in casual conversation. That was the day Paul Constant learned that bringing me as his date to parties is like reading Proust to a pig.

I bring up this story, Mary, to illustrate how awful some writers are at interacting with other people. Others are just awful in general (Norman Mailer was a notorious misogynist who once told a crowd of fans that “a little bit of rape is good for the man's soul.”). Either way, you have to separate the person from his or her work and be generous enough to pity them when they act like dicks in public, as all those people pitied me years ago.

Because by their nature, books are a private obsession, both for writers and readers. So attending an author's reading is, to me, an unparalleled act of public intimacy that can go horribly wrong or beautifully right. Personally, I think it's worth wading through a few assholes to experience the beauty.



Book News Roundup: Amazon finds a new way to screw over authors

  • The Seattle Weekly's Mark Baumgarten talks with David Brewster about his Seattle atheneum, Folio. I wrote about Folio last fall, and it's now open to the public. If you're wondering whether a paid library/coworking space is right for you, you should drop by and take a look. It's on Marion Street, between 3rd Ave and 4th Ave downtown.

  • VIDA updated their excellent list of presses run by women this week. Women still don't possess an equal share of high-profile positions in the pubishing industry; supporting these presses is a way to help correct that imbalance.

  • The people behind popular narrative horror/comedy podcast Welcome to Night Vale are branching out by launching a podcasting platform, reports the New York Times. They hope to experiment with longform serialized fiction podcasts, which sounds like a great idea.

  • Newspapers are dying. No, really.

  • Graphic novel sales in bookstores increased by 22 percent last year.

  • We've been hearing from a lot of self-published authors who are upset with Amazon lately. Author A.M. Madden has published an open letter to Amazon on her blog that lists the majority of these complaints: basically, Amazon keeps changing the rules on their self-published authors. These changes result in huge financial losses for the writers, who are locked into Amazon's ecosystem and are, therefore basically powerless. "My fans have increased, and I now have nine books published instead of just three, yet in 2015, I made less than half in royalties that I made in 2014," Madden writes. Go read the whole letter.