Rahawa Haile’s short stories of the day, of the previous week, for October 17, 2015

Every day, friend of the SRoB Rahawa Haile tweets a short story. She gave us permission to collect them every week. She's archiving the entire project on Storify

On Thursday, October 22nd, Lit Crawl Seattle is bringing you readings from more than 65 authors at 20 different venues. The full schedule of events is a little bit daunting. How are you supposed to choose three readings out of this embarassment of riches? Let the Seattle Review of Books help! Here's our fifth suggested itinerary:

Today's suggested Lit Crawl itinerary celebrates the writers and organizations who are best known for creating captivating reading experiences.

1. APRIL Festival opens your night at Hugo House with "A Salty Reading," in which Sonya Vatomsky, Richard Chiem, and Princess Charming all offer salt-themed performances. In addition to presenting entertainers who know how to keep an audience on tenterhooks, APRIL also will provide free salt and vinegar chips tonight, for no real reason except it's funny.

2. At Fred Wildlife Refuge, Sean Beaudoin, Robert Lashley, and Amber Nelson will read on the theme of sex, drugs, and violence. Nelson and Beaudoin are both excellent readers, but Robert Lashley gave the best performance I've seen all year at the APRIL Festival. His reading style is absolutely compelling, and he's sure to be a highlight of Lit Crawl, too.

3. Seattle Public Library's own David Wright presents "Spooky Stories in the Stacks" at the Capitol Hill Branch Library. This is exactly what it sounds like: scary stories being read aloud at the library. What the hell else could you possibly want in a reading?

Podcast #1: The Art of Commerce talked with Third Place Books managing partner Robert Sindelar about the pleasures and problems of running a bookstore. (If you're wondering, the Seward Park Third Place Books is still scheduled to open early in 2016.)

Podcast #2 I talked with Brad Craft and Nick DiMartino for the 50th episode of their delightful Breakfast at the Bookstore podcast. We discussed the importance of criticism, what we've been reading lately, and why Martin McClellan and I started the Seattle Review of Books.

The Help Desk: The other Help Desk

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,

We can’t help but notice that several months after your weekly advice column, The Help Desk, launched on the Seattle Review of Books — to be specific, the first one was published on July 31, 2015 at 10:01am, PST — the New York Times Book Review is preparing to launch a literary advice column this week called Help Desk. You've written nine of these columns so far. Our question is: what the fuck do you think is going on there?


Martin and Paul, downtown

Dear Martin and Paul,

Ideas are always stolen, they don’t even have to be great ones. Russia stole the idea for invading Ukraine from the Poles, Michael Jackson stole moonwalking from the moon – or at the very least, astronauts – astronauts stole Tang from diabetes, and diabetes stole my grandmother’s pancreas. There’s no use being a frown clown; that’s just how the world works.

Here’s a more personal example: For awhile now, I’ve planned on having a baby and naming it Spite. The baby changes depending on my audience – for instance, if I’m frustrated with my grandmother and her lazy pancreas, Spite is half-black because it makes her deeply uncomfortable. I’ve told a few close friends about my Spite baby, including the spider that lives in my bathroom. Lo and behold, I get home from work yesterday to find my spider friend has hatched 1,000 babies on my bathroom wall. You guessed it: that bitch named every one of them Spite.

I could take it personally. Hell, I could shovelize her and her offspring in a heartbeat but she’s done nothing but be a good friend and sympathetic listener who knew a great idea when she heard one and ran with it.

The New York Times can offer book advice. They can even steal the name of our book advice column. But this is the same media outlet that taunts its readers with achingly beautiful portraits of homes we can never afford in places only those too poor to leave reside (“What You Get: $900,000 homes in Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Ohio”? Go fuck yourself, NYT), and thus it will never possess the charm, compassion and practical advice of a single woman living in a $500 rental full of pet spiders.



The only Help Desk endorsed by spiders™.

Portrait Gallery: Eileen Myles

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

Everybody's talking about Eileen Myles this week! That's because she'll be reading at Elliott Bay Book Company on Saturday. You should go see her. Until then, here she is with her dog, Honey.

On Thursday, October 22nd, Lit Crawl Seattle is bringing you readings from more than 65 authors at 20 different venues. The full schedule of events is a little bit daunting. How are you supposed to choose three readings out of this embarassment of riches? Let the Seattle Review of Books help! Here's our fourth suggested itinerary:

Look: sometimes you don't want to go to a reading just to hear some moron white guy complain about being a white guy. I get it. Everyone gets it. God, they just won't shut up! Here's an itinerary that does not include a single white male.

1. The Frye Art Museum is hosting an evening of Native writers reading poetry and prose. Here's the lineup:

Laura Da’ (Eastern Shawnee), Sasha LaPointe (Nooksack), Casandra Lopez (Chicana, Cahuilla, Luiseño, Tongva), and Sara Marie Ortiz (Pueblo of Acoma). Elissa Washuta (Cowlitz) hosts.

2. Women's writing colony Hedgebrook hosts the second event of the night at Sole Repair. Allison Green, Frances McCue, Felicia Gonzalez, and Anne Liu Kellor read new work, most of which was probably written at Hedgebrook on Whidbey.

3. VIDA closes out your evening at Fred Widlife Refuge, with women of color reading new prose. Readers include Shannon Barber, Jennine Capo Crucet, and Wendy C. Ortiz.

Thursday Comics Hangover: The end of Ms. Marvel

(Every comics fan knows that Wednesday is new comics day, the glorious time of the week when brand-new comics arrive at shops around the country. Thursday Comics Hangover is a weekly column reviewing some of the books I pick up at Phoenix Comics and Games, my friendly neighborhood comic book store.)

The world ends in superhero comics all the time. DC Comics published a company-wide crossover called Final Night almost twenty years ago in which superheroes and their supporting casts believed their worlds were about to end for real (no, for really real this time). This summer, Marvel Comics did basically the same thing as part of their big crossover, Secret Wars. They published “last issues” of their comics under the banner “Last Days Of…” with the premise that the world is about to end for real (no, for really real this time) and so their characters are forced to come to peace with the idea that they are powerless to stop the destruction of the universe. Like most of the Secret Wars crossover, the idea started strong but has gone on for way too long.

But this week, Marvel published the final issue of Last Days of Ms. Marvel, written by local author G. Willow Wilson and illustrated by Adrian Alphona, and it’s maybe the best single comic that Wilson has written yet. This is really saying something, considering that Ms. Marvel has been thoroughly delightful for every single one of its 19 issues. From the very first issue, Wilson and Alphona managed to capture that early Marvel superhero formula — the story of a quirky, flawed hero, as told by a writer with a strong voice and an artist with a fun, poppy style — and transplant it, seemingly effortlessly, into the 21st century.

Ms. Marvel has always been a dance between outrageous superhero adventure and the soap-operatic story of Kamala Khan, a teenage Pakistani-American Muslim growing up in Jersey City. The standard superhero tropes are all at play — can Khan keep her superhero life a secret from her hyper-conservative parents? — but Wilson’s low-key script and Alphona’s cartoony art kept the stakes at a happily human scale. Marvel Comics hasn’t debuted a superhero this promising in decades.

But that’s all old news. Yesterday, Marvel “ended” the series, and Wilson and Alphona took the opportunity to write a real, honest-to-goodness last issue for Ms. Marvel. As good as the series has been, this last issue is even better. Though she knows the world is ending, Khan doesn’t turn into Ms.Marvel,or use her shape-shifting powers even once in the issue. Instead, she has heartfelt conversations with her mother, with a friends, with other members of her supporting cast. These conversations, all of which take place in or around a high school in which residents of Khan’s Jersey City neighborhood are taking shelter from the apocalypse, are alternately touching, awkward, and earnest.

Relying as it does on dialogue crammed into a series of tiny bubbles, it’s surprising that this issue works as well as it does. Wilson is gifted at the haiku of comics scripting — seriously, count the number of words in a given comics issue and you’ll have a better appreciation of how hard it is to write dialogue for the medium — and Alphona does the rest of the work with his characters’ emotive faces and expressive body language. They’ve grown as a team over the two years that they’ve worked on the book, and this issue is the payoff for all that hard work. Rather than going out with a silly fight or existential angst, Ms. Marvel instead faces the end of the world as a human being.

Look, we all know it’s comics, and that Ms. Marvel is a popular book, and that nobody’s going to disappear forever. But the trick that Wilson and Alphona pull off in this issue is they take an overplayed gimmick and they use it as an opportunity to allow the characters to speak their minds and open their hearts and demonstrate how they’ve changed since we’ve first met them. This is a hell of an accomplishment: it’s an ending that leaves you desperate to read the next chapter.

On Thursday, October 22nd, Lit Crawl Seattle is bringing you readings from more than 65 authors at 20 different venues. The full schedule of events is a little bit daunting. How are you supposed to choose three readings out of this embarassment of riches? Let the Seattle Review of Books help! Here's our third suggested itinerary:

If you're sick and tired of "traditional" readings, where someone stands up and talks about their book for fifteen minutes, Lit Crawl's got you covered.

1. At Capitol Cider, Seattle Public Library librarians David Wright and Andrea Gough will present a cider flight, along with readings to go with each of the ciders. Gough and Wright are wonderful readers, and they're likely to uncover some real gems for this event. Plus, drinking with librarians is always a lot of fun.

2. At the Frye Art Museum, Rachel Kessler will present a slideshow performance of Christian Charm Workbook, "her multimedia memoir about growing up with the Jesus movement in 1970s Seattle." Kessler is a great local writer, and she always finds some interesting ways to incorporate other media and performance into her work.

3. It's back to Capitol Cider for you, where Book-It Repertory Theater will perform a segment of their adaptation of David James Duncan's brilliant novel Brothers K, which is a retelling of The Brothers Karamazov set in Washington state.

Teenage wasteland

Published October 14, 2015, at 12:01pm

Paul Constant review Alice LaPlante's Coming of Age at the End of Days.

In Alice LaPlante's new novel, a depressed teenager finds religion. Unfortunately, the religion is a doomsday cult.

Read this review now

Meet Josh Simmons at Short Run. Bring Xanax.

Our October Bookstore of the Month is a special one, because it’s a bookstore that will only exist in the world for one day. The Short Run Comix & Arts Festival will take place this year on October 31st at Fisher Pavilion in the Seattle Center, and for that one day, it will be the largest bookseller of independent literature, zines, and comics in the Seattle area. Every week this month, we’ll highlight a different Short Run exhibitor, to give you a better idea of the scope and breadth of the festival.

Josh Simmons has published three graphic novels — House, The Furry Trap, and Black River — with Fantagraphics Books. He’ll be selling the latter two books at his own table at this year’s Short Run, along with some black-light posters and original art. In addition, he’s debuting Habit #2, a collection of solo comics and collaborations with local comics contributors Tom Van Deusen, Eric Reynolds, and Ben Horak at the show. Simmons describes this issue of Habit as “52 pages of nutso horror comics.” (Oily Comics, the Massachusetts-based publisher of Habit, will also be exhibiting at Short Run this year.)

Simmons creates dreamlike horror comics that don’t fit the traditional horror narratives. In an interview with Paste magazine, he discusses why horror movies tend to be about women, and why women seem to make up a disproportionate amount of the audience for horror:

Is it something to do with owning or coming to terms with one’s place in a misogynistic society? Are women just more equipped to process dark, sexy, fucked up, fun shit, like horror movies? I’m not sure.

Simmons gave a very long interview with the Comics Journal about his process, his ambitions, and whether his work is nihilistic or not. He’s clearly a thoughtful artist, one who especially appreciates the elasticity of the comics medium for experiments in narrative storytelling.

This will be Simmons’s third Short Run. Ask him for a favorite Short Run memory and he’ll find it impossible to pick a single gem out of the “whirlwind mishmash of art shows” and the opportunities to meet other fans and creators. The “drinking, mania and exhaustion,” apparently, makes everything blur together. At this year’s Short Run, he’s especially looking forward to Jim Woodring’s new 3D comic, Frank in the 3d Dimension. Simmons’s advice for first-time Short Run attendees? “Bring snacks, cash, coffee, Xanax, a satchel and water.”

Great news! Jamaican novelist Marlon James has won the booker for A Brief History of Seven Killings. Everybody I know who has read this book has done nothing but rave about it, and as this linked BBC article says: “The judges had come to a unanimous decision in less than two hours.”

Congratulations to James. If you’d like to know more about him — and his winning book — Jess Walter and Sherman Alexie recently talked to him on their podcast A Tiny Sense of Accomplishment.

On Thursday, October 22nd, Lit Crawl Seattle is bringing you readings from more than 65 authors at 20 different venues. The full schedule of events is a little bit daunting. How are you supposed to choose three readings out of this embarassment of riches? Let the Seattle Review of Books help! Here's our second suggested itinerary:

You could attend a whole evening's worth of poetry readings at Lit Crawl with a nice mix of new, up-and-coming, and established names, providing an excellent cross-section of where Northwest poetry is right now.

1. Up at the Sorrento Hotel, Rebekah Anderson hosts a curiosity-themed evening of poetry with readers Lucy Hitz, Jourdan Keith, and Maggie Hess.

2. Chances are good you've already attended Cheap Wine & Poetry. It's just probability in action: Hugo House is always packed full of people during CW&P, and the series has been going on for years so it's likely you were in that crowd at some point. This special Lit Crawl edition of CW&P features wine at a buck a glass and readings from Arlene Kim, Matt Gano, and Seattle Civic Poet Claudia Castro Luna, with host Jeanine Walker.

3. Storied poetry journal Poetry Northwest caps your poetry adventure at Sole Repair, with readings from Clare Johnson, Suzanne Bottelli, and Emily Bedard. Poetry Northwest editor Kevin Craft will host the evening.

If you haven't yet read President Obama's interview with the incredible novelist Marilynne Robinson in the New York Review of Books, please take the time to read it. I can't recall a sitting president ever doing something quite like this. It's just too delightful for words.

Sorry, Eileen Myles

Published October 13, 2015, at 11:44am

Paul Constant review Eileen Myles's Sorry, Tree, Snowflake/different streets, and The Importance of Being Iceland.

Eileen Myles is one of our sharpest observational writers, and her poems contain the kind of contradictions that would break the brain of a lesser writer clean in two. Here's why she should be immortal.

Read this review now

Over at Crosscut, Knute Berger reports back on a little archaeological digging he did into Seattle's book history. He believes he may have found a record from Seattle's very first Library. Go read the essay, which began as a speech Berger delivered at an event celebrating Seattle's newest library, Folio Seattle.


To tell the truth, I have forgotten
which year goes with what.

My memory: as good as milk.
My family: spoiled through

and through. Pure as mold
on a September nectarine,

we refuse to announce defeat,
death. In this house, the margins

of mourning are tucked in,
pleated to the neck.

In August, my uncle dies
and no one tells his children.

He crosses his arms
in a blue suit in a coffin

where the ants
want in. In December,

my brother and I bundle up
for a storm that goes

through another town.
What were we preparing for?

My mother warns us:
beware of well-lit places.

Beware of fires burning
in the dark. If there is a spider

under your cup,
what will you do about it?

Since Shelf Awareness published the rumors that Amazon is preparing to open a bookstore in University Village, Geekwire has done a little digging into Seattle public records and uncovered blue prints for a space that "will combine elements of an Apple store and a Barnes & Noble, with areas for browsing books and checking out and buying new devices." It's a huge space.

On Thursday, October 22nd, Lit Crawl Seattle is bringing you readings from more than 65 authors at 20 different venues. The full schedule of events is a little bit daunting. How are you supposed to choose three readings out of this embarassment of riches? Let the Seattle Review of Books help! Here's our first suggested itinerary:

New literary magazines and publishers are popping up all the time in Seattle, and Lit Crawl is a great opportunity to sample what's out there. Whether you're an aspring author looking to network or a reader desperate for new voices, this itinerary is for you.

1. The James Franco Review reading at the Capitol Hill Branch Library starts off your Lit Crawl. The Review is dedicated to treating every author as though they're worthy of the privilege and prestige that James Franco enjoys every day of his life. JF Review ontributors Lena Khalaf Tuffaha, SRoB contributor EJ Koh, Isaiah Swango, and Leija Farr will read. Editors Corinne Manning and Aaron Counts will host.

2. Local publisher Instant Future, the e-book imprint of Portland's Future Tense, presents authors Zach Ellis, Litsa Dremousis, and Tara Atkinson at the Raygun Lounge. They'll each be reading from their novella-sized non-fiction e-books. This event is hosted by Instant Future publisher Matthew Simmons and Instant Future author Elissa Washuta.

3. End the Crawl up at Ada's Technical Books, where Spartan editor Ross McMeekin presents contributors Ian Denning, Jenny Hayes, M.C. Easton, and Robert P. Kaye.