Novelist Jonathan Franzen will be appearing on Celebrity Jeopardy with a number of other luminaries including Louis CK, Anderson Cooper, Al Franken, Melissa Harris-Perry, Lara Logan, and Chuck Todd. If Louis CK cleans Jonathan Franzen's clock on Jeopardy!, I will die a happy man.

Book News Roundup: How do you say "longlist" in Urdu?

  • Shelf Awareness reports that local book distributor Partners/West is closing. The Renton office will stop delivering books on April 1st. This is a huge bummer; it means that local bookstores in need of rush titles will have to rely on Ingram, the largest book distributor in the country. Though most bookstores try to order direct from publishers whenever possible because the discounts are better, distributors are the best way for bookstores to get books in a hurry. Booksellers turn to distributors when a book breaks big on NPR, for instance, or when a customer needs a special order. As an indie bookstore customer this news probably won't affect you directly, but it does mean that local bookstores have one less option for getting books, which could create larger problems down the line. As comic book stores have learned, having one major distributor for your product can be problematic.

  • Looking for a good new translated book to read? The Best Translated Book Award 2016 longlist for fiction has been announced. At 25 books long, it's a bit excessive, but there's something to be said for having a nice long shopping list at the ready for the next time you go book shopping.

  • Eight thousand library jobs in the United Kingdom have disappeared over the last six years, reports the BBC. This is terrible news for British library-goers, but speaking selfishly, it's a relief to read that this isn't America for once.

  • The Comics Journal published a long interview with Underworld artist Kaz, by Seattle cartoonist Peter Bagge. My favorite bit?

Yes, back in the day we were just called weird. Nerds were into science and such. I never thought of myself as a nerd. Geek makes more sense. My friend Jim Ryan called us Lowlife Scum.

The 2015 VIDA Count Is In

Every year, VIDA "examine[s] race and ethnicity, gender, sexual identity and ability" by counting the demographics of literary institutions like awards and magazines. Their 2015 Count examines literary magazines and review outlets, and the news is...[drumroll]...at least partially good!

Our Larger Literary Landscape count is in its third year, and we are seeing results worth celebrating!

Of the 26 publications in our 2015 Larger Literary Landscape Count, 15 of them published as many bylines by women writers as men, or more! We are celebrating A Public Space (72%), The Normal School (69%), Crab Orchard Review (64%), Jubilat (59%), Ninth Letter (59%), Cincinnati Review (58%), N+1 (57%), Conjunctions (56%), Gettysburg Review (55%), Kenyon Review (55%), Prairie Schooner (54%), Colorado Review (53%), Missouri Review (52%), Pleiades (50%), and Harvard Review (50%).

This is wonderful news. Of course, plenty of publications are nowhere near achieving gender/race/ability parity, and they're identified in this report as well. I suggest you go and spend some time with these infographics, which are fascinating. It's only by counting, by making a conscious effort to ensure that people are included, that we'll start to see significant change in the literary world. In fact, we're starting to see these changes already.

On this site's first day of publication, we ran an interview with the wonderful Nicola Griffith on why this is so important. If you'd like to thank VIDA for institutionalizing this kind of thinking, and for encouraging demographic parity in the literary world, they're running an Indiegogo campaign right now. Your donation would ensure that work like this continues into the future.

Your Week in Readings: The Best Literary Events from March 30th - April 5th

Wednesday March 30: Naja Marie Aidt & Andrés Neuman

Novelist Naja Marie Aidt is from Greenland and Denmark. Short story author Andrés Neuman is from Buenos Aires. Tonight, Aidt reads from her novel about a broken toaster and Neuman shares some of the stories that reportedly made Roberto Bolaño want to weep, in an international celebration of kickass literature. Elliott Bay Book Company, 1521 10th Ave, 624-6600, elliottbaybook.com. Free. All ages. 7 p.m.

Thursday March 31: Joyce Maynard

Joyce Maynard’s new novel, Under the Influence, is about an alcoholic mother whose irresponsibility caused her to lose custody of her child. She becomes friends with a wealthy couple who promise to help her regain control of her life and get her child back. Can she trust them, or herself? Folio: The Seattle Athenaem, 324 Marion St., 402-4612, folioseattle.org. $5. 7 p.m.

Friday April 1: Youth Speaks Seattle 2016 Grand Slam

Poetry slams aren’t for everyone, but the Youth Speaks Grand Slam is the most accessible example of the form. The enthusiasm young people bring to poetry is palpable, and these are the best young slam poets in the region. Host Hollis Wong-Wear will be joined by musical guest Mary Lambert to make things extra-special. Town Hall Seattle, 1119 8th Ave., 652-4255, townhallseattle.org. $10-20. All ages. 7 p.m.

Saturday April 2: Edible Book Festival

Every spring, Seattle’s edition of the international Edible Book Festival brings amateur and semi-professional chefs together to make plates of food that center around puns. (Past examples: The Silence of the Lamb Chops, A Game of Scones, and Ham of Green Gables.) Why? Who cares? At the end, you get to eat all the books. Third Place Books Lake Forest Park, 17171 Bothell Way NE, 366-3333, thirdplacebooks.com. Free. All ages. 11 a.m.

Sunday April 3: The Life and Times of Galileo

The kids of Seattle Historical Arts present stories of Galileo’s life through musical interludes, storytelling, and reenactment. A trio of classical musicians will perform music by Galileo’s father, composer Vincenzo Galilei, as kids reenact moments in the seminal astronomer’s life while dressed in period costume. This one one ought to be entirely adorable. Town Hall Seattle, 1119 8th Ave., 652-4255, townhallseattle.org. $6-12. All ages. 1 p.m.

Monday April 4: Rob Spillman

Tin House editor Rob Spillman is one of the best-respected figures in the literary scene. But thankfully his new book, All Tomorrow’s Parties, isn’t a bookish tell-all—book gossip is not juicy gossip. Instead, it’s a memoir of growing up in West Berlin and returning home as an adult after the Berlin Wall fell. Hugo House, 1634 11th Ave, 322-7030, hugohouse.org. $10. All ages. 7 p.m.

Tuesday April 5: Lesley Hazleton

Lesley Hazleton, delightfully, does not put up with anyone’s bullshit. If you’ve seen her read, you’ve probably seen her dismantle some lazy idea or another using just her smoky voice and easy laugh. If you follow her on Twitter, you’ve seen her talk proudly about her abortion, and against the tyranny of the zealots who somehow seized the moral high ground by claiming the name “pro-life” for themselves. (Hazleton has been involved with Amelia Bonow’s #ShoutYour Abortion movement from the very beginning.) At a reading for the whitewashed Seattle: City of Literature anthology last year, Hazleton discussed Seattle’s unspoken racist tendencies with a tenacious inquisitiveness that made some of the more delicate panelists and members of the audience turn even whiter out of mortification. She is, to put it simply, the kind of truth-teller we need more of in this town.

She’s just as cheerfully boisterous on the page, too. Hazleton writes books about the one subject that most authors would be afraid to touch — religion. Her trilogy of historical religious biographies — Jezebel, Mary, and, yes, The First Muslim: The Story of Muhammad —recontextualize some of the most controversial figures in history through a blend of scholarship, first-person reportage, and literary criticism. Another book, After the Prophet: The Epic Story of the Shia-Sunni Split in Islam,investigates a topic that most Americans would rather ignore, or at least stereotype beyond recognition.

So after years of writing about religion and the Middle East and abortion, what’s left for Hazleton to tackle? Well, she’s staking a spot directly in some of the most contentious territory imaginable, smack in the middle between religion and atheism. Hazleton’s newest book is titled Agnostic: A Spirited Manifesto, and it’s exactly what it sounds like: a full-throated defense of a stance, as she puts it in the title of the book’s first chapter, “Beyond Either/Or.” She’s celebrating Agnostic’s release with a big launch party at Town Hall this week, and attendance is mandatory, whether or not you’re religious or an atheist

Agnostic is, like all of Hazleton’s work, meticulously researched — she spends so much time at the UW’s Suzzallo Library that they really ought to name a reading chair after her — and unafraid to take a stance, even if that stance is not taking a stance between belief and disbelief. She calls it “an exploration of the agnostic perspective, or the zones of thought that open up once you break free of deceptively neat categorizations, and that then feed back into each other in fresh and unexpected ways.”

Agnosticism has always gotten a bad rap; nobody likes a fence-sitter. But when someone as hugely intelligent, curious, and fearless as Hazleton embraces agnosticism, it should encourage even the most ardent atheists to take notice. In 2015, most people form opinions in whatever amount of time it takes to craft a tweet; Hazleton is demonstrating an inordinate amount of guts by embracing “I don’t know” as a cause. Town Hall Seattle, 1119 8th Ave., 652-4255, townhallseattle.org. $5. All ages. 7 p.m.

Book reviewer predictably upset at author's big advance

Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney read from her debut novel The Nest at Elliott Bay Book Company last night. I didn't attend because I had writing to do. (Nothing takes away from your time to attend readings, I've found, like co-founding a book review site.) This review by Tom LeClair at the Daily Beast makes me wish I had gone to Sweeney's reading — not because the review is so good, but because it's so unfair that I wish I could have shown up to personally apologize to Sweeney on behalf of book reviewers everywhere. The first paragraph of the review ends like this:

The Nest is not just about money — a multi-million dollar trust fund—but is being promoted by money, the million-dollar advance the publisher proudly announced was paid for this first novel by an unknown writer. Sweeney and some other recent debut novelists who have been paid huge advances seem to be shaping a new genre for fledgling writers.

And then he continues, later in the piece:

I understand the economic strategy: a novelist with no history (of mediocre sales) can be publicized as the Big New Find because the author has been given a Big Old Advance. But I worry that Sweeney’s book and some other fairly recent first novels with huge advances—Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding, Matthew Thomas’s We Are Not Ourselves, and Garth Risk Hallberg’s City on Fire — suggest young writers are creating what I’ll call commercialit. All of these novels have at least one character who is either an English teacher or a writer, the existence of whom in the text implies that the novel must be literary. But the literariness of the four is a patina of fictional sophistication scumbled over conventional and therefore commercial components. Even if the characters don’t end up well, at least some readers do — entertained, unthreatened, and pleased to feel they’ve not been reading commercialock: commercial schlock.

Perhaps what I’m describing used to be called “middlebrow” fiction, but the four MFA-holding authors work in just enough evidence of literary knowingness — which gives a high tone to the gossip of The Nest — to make their novels commercialit.

Okay. There's a lot to unpack here. First of all, I don't care if marketing materials mention the author advance explicitly: there is almost no good reason for a book critic to ever mention an advance in a review. Everyone knows book criticism doesn't pay well; when a critic focuses on money, it always smacks of jealousy. To make your review pivot on salary is a choice that always feels petty and small.

But more importantly, the Creation of a Term to Identify a Publishing Trend You Just Now Noticed is a bad reviewing trope. LeClair shoehorned four different books into a category — "commercialit" — that doesn't even make sense. So these books are well-written but "safe," whatever that means? And LeClair thinks these authors are capable of better, and so he's disappointed? But he enjoyed reading The Nest and only felt scammed when he didn't like the way it ended? (I could stock a mid-sized bookstore with brilliant novels that have bad endings, Mr. LeClair. This is not a trend that was created by a new generation of writers.) And none of these young authors are William Gaddis? Okay.

Here's a rule of book reviewing: review what's on the page, not the buzz surrounding a book. And here's a corollary: don't turn your review into a trend piece if the only evidence you have is a bunch of books by young authors that you recently read. Complaining about the kids these days in a book review is about the most boring idea I can conjure.

This is not to say that there isn't an interesting piece to be written about the publishing industry spending too much money on debut novels. But that piece is not a book review. It's a reported piece, with interviews and supporting evidence and facts and sales numbers. To slather all this publishing gossip into a book review, and to round four young authors into a pen and demand that they do battle with Gaddis is frankly ridiculous. Stop trying to make "commercialit" happen, Mr. LeClair. It's not going to happen.

A pair of great opportunities

  1. Artist Trust's Grants for Artists Projects submissions process is open. Sixty Washington State artists will receive grants of $1500 for art-related projects, which they define as "materials, equipment, and artist fees needed for the development, completion, or presentation of new work; publication; travel for creative research; documentation; and workshops for professional development." Here's a PDF explaining the rules. Submissions must be received by May 23rd of this year.

  2. Hugo House is hiring a full-time marketing and communications manager because their current manager, the estimable Kristen Steenbeeke, is entering an MFA program. This is a unique opoprtunity to spread the word about the Hugo House as they enter a time of transition and rebirth. You get to promote writers, writing classes, readings, and all sorts of interesting ideas. Plus, you get to send e-mails to the Seattle Review of Books, which, really, is its own kind of reward. Apply now via Submittable.

Powells.com is having a big sale today and tomorrow: take 30% off your entire purchase when you enter the code "THANKS2016" at checkout before midnight on March 30th. You should absolutely visit and buy from your local independent bookstores first, but if there are any big purchases you've been saving up for, this would be a good way to get a solid deal right now.

Apology in the Age of Construction

We can only recall the freak accidents:
              the lightning bolt hitting the right arm
at a right angle, the bees pouring
              from an overturned truck, the crocodile
that escaped on a lawn, sipping lemonade.
              This is all to say: we did not mean to let
the road break in half. We laid down layers
              of asphalt in the tradition of weavers.
The sun hardened our loom.
              We were led here to break bread
and this is not a metaphor. The dawn
              gnawed down around us. Full appetite.
In the early morning, we mistook snow
              for falling specks of paint, a construction
site for an amusement park. We climbed up
              the rafters and were tall. And here we are.
Tall. Our limbs stretched out enough
              to call out our slights, strike by strike.

These poems are political

This is the most perfect thing for an election year. Sponsor Entre Rios books, who makes those lovely poetry volumes that are so beautiful in the hand, is back to show off their upcoming collection of Percy Bysse Shelley's political poems.

What? Didn't you know that Shelley wrote political poems? They were not collected until after his death, and were often passed around hand-to-hand in activist circles. We've got a sample page and sample poem on our sponsors page. The book will be available April 5th, so reserve a copy today.

If you're a small publisher, writer, poet, or foundation that is looking to back our work, and advertise your own in an inexpensive and expressive way, take a look at our open dates. We'd love to talk to you about opportunities to sponsor us. It's our way of making internet advertising something to look forward to.

Book News Roundup: The NRA's fairy tales are just as awful as you'd expect

Even if our poorest schools had broadband and ample devices, believing that free e-books are the key to ending our literacy crisis is dangerously misguided. Technology is repeatedly touted as a cure for the United States’ educational woes, promising everything from banishing boredom to widespread reform. Interactive whiteboards were the hope a few years ago, and Google Earth was supposed to make our children masters of geography. There is more technology in our classrooms and homes than ever, but too often these expensive technologies yield few gains in learning or gains not commensurate with cost.

Ramez Naam wins Philip K. Dick Award at Norwescon

Last weekend’s 39th annual Norwescon, as per usual, was the most fun a human being could possibly have in SeaTac. The sci-fi convention never fell for the media bombast and glitz that comic book conventions became enchanted by a decade ago; it’s always been a convention for fans and by fans, which means it’s a rare opportunity for writers and readers to get together in a low-stress, friendly environment.

The belle of the ball this year was Seattle author Ramez Naam, whose novel Apex won the Philip K. Dick Award at the convention. Apex is the third and final book in Naam’s Nexus trilogy — the others are Nexus and Crux — which centers around a nano-drug that telepathically links human beings. Naam is a central figure in Seattle’s up-and-coming sci-fi scene. He was one of three Seattle authors shortlisted for the award this year, and he humbly gave acknowledgements to the other Seattle authors who were nominated whenever convention-goers congratulated him for his win.

The 40th Norwescon will happen over Easter weekend of 2017. If you’re a local sci-fi fan or author and you haven’t attended, you should save the date. There’s a whole community out there just waiting for you to join.

What are the kids reading?

To celebrate the last week of our monthlong Seattle school library tour, we thought we’d ask a pair of librarians to share in their own words what books their students are reading right now.

Elaine Harger is a school librarian at Washington Middle School. She’s also the author of a new book titled Which Side Are You On? Seven Social Responsibility Debates in American Librarianship, 1990-2015.

The most popular book right now at Washington Middle School is Panic, by Sharon Draper. One of the characters is abducted from a shopping mall, and the book follows her story and those of her friends, with special attention given to different kinds of relationships. I always tell the students, “this is a heavy-duty story,” and it is.

Students like it for its realistic treatment of both abusive and loving relationships. I believe the fact that Draper resolves the horror of the abduction story with full human compassion also adds to the popularity of the book, although middle school students don’t articulate this reason. Most of the book’s readers are girls, but a fair number of boys have read it too.

Janet Woodward is a school librarian at Garfield High School. She also graciously offered a little insight into how she’s integrating e-books into the collection.

At one of our high school librarian monthly meetings, we compared titles that have been most popular via check-outs in the last 2 years and found some similar titles. We are able to use our circulation system to generate such lists. My top two books at Garfield High were The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I think these are popular because they deal with such difficult and tragic topics as death, prejudice and stereotypes in a stark but sensitive way. Both books also feature male and female protagonists so that they don’t appeal to one gender over another.

Social justice is emphasized in our school through student participation in a variety of clubs and through curriculum that faculty have developed in a variety of classes. I think these stories touch on how to face personal and societal challenges and are realistic yet hopeful. They are written by young adult authors who know how to craft a meaningful tale and both have also been produced as films.

It is hard to choose just one book, of course, and our Kindles and Nooks have been popular as well. If we don’t have a title in our library, then I download the book electronically onto the device and check it out to a student. I have 20 of these in the collection and more than half are gone at any given time.

Thank you so much to all the librarians who agreed to speak to me for this series. It was an absolute delight. And we will continue to talk about the terrible inequality issues facing Seattle's public shool libraries in the weeks and months ahead. #SPSLibraryEquity is very important to us, and to our readers, and we'll keep letting you know how you can help.

Jim Harrison, the prolific half-blind masculinist writer of many books of fiction and poetry, has died at 78.

Harrison was perhaps the last of a certain kind of writer, a craggy individualist compared often (to his apparent annoyance) to Hemingway and Faulkner; a man of great appetites (of which food should be included, as he wrote extensively on the subject), an outdoorsman, and, as might be imagined, an iconoclast of the particular rugged American variety.

He enjoyed his solitude ("I put a sign up in my driveway — 'Do not stop here unless you’ve called first' — but I didn’t have a phone"), but survived his wife of fifty years by only five months.

His string of awards and accolades was long and storied, and includes a Guggenheim Fellowship, as well as election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

His poetry was sometimes published by Copper Canyon Press — which is a Northwest connection worthy of note. Maybe it's right to close by quoting from one: in his poem "Barking", he said:

The moon comes up.
The moon goes down.
This is to inform you
that I didn’t die young.
Age swept past me
but I caught up.

The Sunday Post for March 26, 2016

Legalize It All

Dan Baum exploded the internet with his opening paragraphs of this piece about legalizing drugs, but the rest of it is worth spending time with.

At the time, I was writing a book about the politics of drug prohibition. I started to ask Ehrlichman a series of earnest, wonky questions that he impatiently waved away. “You want to know what this was really all about?” he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
The Impossible Task of Writing Historical Fiction

Kelly Kerney cracks open the heart of writing about history with verisimilitude, under that uncomfortable title of "historical fiction".

Too often in literature, history is either romantic background against which human dramas are played out, or a force buffeting helpless characters through a chain of events beyond their control. In reality, our relationship with history — especially for Americans — is much more dynamic. It has shaped us and we have shaped it, from the politicians we elect to the products we buy. History is not consigned to an academic bubble or a genre and it is not in the past. History is all around us, a continuum on which the past, present and the future interact constantly. Bear with me on this. I promise I’m not going to bust out any crystals. When I embarked on this novel a decade ago — a project that explores the surreal and tragic history of American intervention in Guatemala — my goal was to track this continuum and drag this history from the past. I didn’t want my readers’ hearts to merely break for the characters or even for real people who lived fifty years ago. I wanted their hearts to break for an entire nation suffering on their own continuum — now.
Up Against the Centerfold: What It Was Like to Report on Feminism for Playboy in 1969

Susan Braudy was the first woman to write for Playboy, and the job she was hired to write about was the "new feminists".

Jim Goode, Playboy’s articles editor, contacted me that afternoon. Speaking more slowly than I thought a human could, he explained that Playboy wanted an objective account of the entire spectrum of the brand new “women’s lib” movement. “These women have important things to say, and I want our readers to hear them,” he said. “Let yourself go. Write anything you like but don’t pass judgment. Be fair.” He concluded, “Write in a tone that’s amused if the author is amused, but never snide.”
The Things We Do To Promote The Books We Write

Summer Brennan, on undertaking a book tour.

Becoming a professional author can require writers to do strange and unnatural things. These acts against nature can include, but are not limited to: stepping away from the computer screen, leaving the house, and donning garments other than pajamas. Just when we’re feeling most comfortable in our private fug of creativity and creation that has led to the imminent existence of a book by us, the doors of our caffeine-fueled bower are thrown open and the world sweeps in, horns blazing, opportunities whizzing by and out of sight like swallows. I am speaking of course of the book publicity tour.
This Is Our Reality: Why I Couldn't Hold Back About the Bay Area's Real Transit Problem

In a week that saw Seattle's own light rail system expanding, the Twitter account for BART in the Bay Area dedicated itself to frank honesty.

Nearly every major public transit system in America faces a similar laundry list of woes—see the litany of problems in New York and Washington D.C., the latter of which had to shut down its Metro for an entire day last week. But I'm not here to wax nihilistic. Far from doing nothing, the people at BART are working feverishly to fix the system within severe financial constraints and, frankly, an increasingly hostile attitude toward public institutions in America. We've identified funding for most of our new Bombardier-produced rail cars, which are coming next year to replace the original 1972 fleet. We're building a new maintenance complex to repair damaged trains more quickly and are replacing miles of worn rail at a brisk pace. We're not sitting on our hands, and we're certainly not resigned to letting what we have crumble around us.

Ordinary Women - Kickstarter Fund Project #12

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?

Ordinary Women. We've put $20 in as a non-reward backer

Who is the Creator?

Feminist Frequency.

What do they have to say about the project?

Ordinary Women: Daring to Defy History is Feminist Frequency's new video series about challenging stereotypes, smashing the status quo, and being defiant.

What caught your eye?

You may know Feminist Frequency, and Anita Sarkeesian, from her Kickstarter campaign for the video series Tropes vs Women, which you may have heard about from the absolutely ludicrous, coordinated, and horrifying backlash against the project. The thing was that the backlash itself only proved the need for the videos she was making.

This series looks at women from history who stood out, fought against the societal roles prescribed them, and made a difference. Pretty cool.

Why should I back it?

The more women controlled media there is, the more women-centered stories there will be. That equation is easy to understand. What's harder to understand is how freaked out certain men get by the very fact that Feminist Frequency exists. They see conspiracy theories so nonsensical and overblown that, when you watch a video and find just a nicely produced video essay about presentation of gender stereotypes that is really kind of gender & media studies 101 told in a straight-forward non-inflammatory comprehensive way with a chill narrator who patiently makes her points and throws no bombs, you end up scratching your head about why the hell they freaked out so bad.

Then you decide to back everything she does because you hope that, in the balance of power, people like her end up having more than the people fighting her. And, because, after seeing her talk once you heard her say this great thing that has stuck with you ever since: "One of the most radical things you can do is to actually believe women when they talk about their experiences."

How's the project doing?

They need the help. They have 12 days to go, and they're only at under $84,000 of a $200,000 goal. They're using a new Crowdfunding Platform called Seed and Spark that is geared towards films, instead of Kickstarter this time. If you're in, better get in soon to help get them to their goal.

Do they have a video?

Kickstarter Fund Stats
  • Projects backed: 12
  • Funds pledged: $240
  • Funds collected: $160
  • Unsuccessful pledges: 0
  • Fund balance: $800

Book News Roundup: Cheap Wine & Poetry, The Lulu Fund, and Anonymous targets a bookstore

  • The lineup for the final Cheap Wine & Poetry at the Hugo House's current location has been announced. Sarah Galvin, Tara Hardy, Roberto Ascalon, and Michelle Peñaloza will be your readers at this historic event. This is the most consistently entertaining — and consistently crowded — poetry reading series in town, and on April 7th it will say goodbye to the stage where it was born. What's next for Cheap Wine & Poetry and its sister series Cheap Beer & Prose? Will it end, or will it continue? If it continues, where will it take place? I've got no answers for you just yet, but stay tuned.

  • Speaking of Cheap Wine & Poetry, your CW&P host Jeanine Walker is hosting her variety show, Mixed Bag, at the Royal Room tomorrow night. It features music and comedy and improv and even though it's not strictly a literary event, you should still go.

  • Beverly Cleary turns 100 on April 12th! What are her secrets for living a century? "Well, I didn't do it on purpose!"

  • Did you read this Salon piece about academia and writing? It's got a barn-burner of a first paragraph:

It is widely held and discussed in our literary community that we are not inclusive and remain biased in favor of the white male. The ongoing conversation about lack of access, lack of diversity of voice, and underrepresented writers led us to look critically at the system in place to discern what was working and what was not. What does it mean to be successful in the literary world? Who gets the prizes? Who has access to mentors and networks? Who is attending residencies that foster community, collaboration, and offer more time to write? In answering these questions, we kept getting pulled back to the same place: Academia. If literature has a gatekeeper, that gatekeeper is academia.
  • The writers of that Salon piece have launched something called The Lulu Fund which vows to work "within the literary community to shift established systems that benefit the few, and to promote the understanding within intersectional feminism that racial, gender, and class justice must be sought as a whole." The organization will give out their first awards, The Lulus, on March 31st.

  • Online activism group Anonymous has singled out Denver bookstore The Tattered Cover for their support of a business organization which promotes policies that are anti-homeless.

  • In Bosnian, says [Aleksandar] Hemon, “there are no words for fiction and nonfiction, or the distinction thereof”.

The Help Desk: Jonathan Livingston See-ya

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,

What’s the protocol for weaseling out of a relationship with someone over a book they own? I just discovered that my new-ish girlfriend has Jonathan Livingston Seagull steadying a wobbly sideboard in the basement of her apartment building. She oozes a snobby nastiness regarding her otherwise excellent taste in books that really turns me on, and I suppose there’s a chance that the sideboard isn’t even hers, but those facts are irrelevant. I don’t want to do the whole “it’s not you; it’s me" thing because it’s obviously not me, and I do believe that she deserves an honest explanation. I'd prefer a recommendation for action that doesn't make me look like a jerk.

Pavel, Capitol Hill

Dear Pavel,

Here is what you must do:

  1. Invite yourself over to your newish partner’s house and ask her to take a seat on her own furniture.

  2. Tell her you have something to say, and you hope she doesn’t judge you for it because you’re rather insecure and even though what you have to say will definitely make you seem like a jerk, you hope she is mature enough to keep those thoughts to herself that because maintaining the illusion that you’re not a jerk is very important to your half-baked ego.

  3. Tell her that you spotted Jonathan Livingston Seagull sitting in her communal basement propping up piece of broken furniture that may or may not belong to her.

  4. Explain to her that this has killed your boner for your fledgeling relationship. Since your previous few statements may seem nonsensical to her, you may wish to use an analogy to explain yourself: Your boner is like a whistle pig – a speed racing copulator that’s suspicious of its own shadow and absolutely terrified of top- or even bottom-level predators like seagulls and women who may or may not read books it disapproves of. Explain that your rodent boner for her is dead now and its carcass is being carried off by metaphorical seagulls to a new plane of existence that is not unlike heaven, yet isn’t heaven (if she’s actually read Jonathan Livingston Seagull these words may comfort her).

  5. Finally, shit your pants. This will ensure she’s too busy getting you off her furniture and out the door to care about what a jerk you are. Months, even years from now she will remember you with confusion and pity. Your story will become the fodder of legendary happy hours, which may be the best thing she gets out of this abbreviated relationship.

Kisses,

Cienna