Quick: what’s the oldest bookstore in Seattle? Generally when you ask a Seattleite that question, they break into a blank stare for a moment and then respond, “uh, Elliott Bay?” But no. Elliott Bay Book Company turns an impressive 43 years old this year. But our February bookstore of the month, University Book Store, celebrated its 116th birthday last month. 116 years! You’d be hard-pressed to find anything in Seattle that old. University Book Store has seen the World’s Fair come and go; it was here before the Alaskan Way Viaduct, and it will be here after the Alaskan Way Viaduct. It’s survived booms and busts and earthquakes and chain bookstores and online bookselling.
Of course, a bookstore can’t just survive through inertia: University Book Store’s selection is something special. They have among the best poetry and children’s book sections in town, and their science fiction section, managed and curated by Duane Wilkins, is quite possibly Seattle’s very best. Their reading calendar is stuffed full of everything from sci-fi authors to journalists to modern masters (I saw Alison Bechdel there a few years ago; it was one of my favorite graphic novel readings of all time) to some of the most popular people in the world (they brought Elizabeth Warren to town for her memoir in the heat of the “Draft Warren” movement).
And in a city full of knowledgeable booksellers, University Book Store claims an especially friendly staff. When you visit, you’ll most likely find yourself engaged in conversation with someone — used book buyer Brad, who hosts the Breakfast at the Bookstore podcast series, say, or Caitlin in the children’s department — who’ll most likely make you excited for a book you never knew existed.
It’s difficult to imagine a Seattle of 116 years ago. It’s even harder to imagine a Seattle without a University Book Store. Almost every notable event that’s happened in Seattle history — from our first and only female mayor to the “Will the last person leaving Seattle turn out the lights” billboard to the rise and fall of cozmo.com — has happened under its watch. It’s as essential a part of our history as the Pike Place Market — and it’s older than the Market, too.
The Wall Street Journal's Greg Bensinger quotes Sandeep Mathrani, a chief executive of a company that owns malls nationwide, as saying that Amazon could be opening as many as 400 brick-and-mortar stores in the US. It's just a rumor at this point, but it makes sense.
This, of course, is bad news for booksellers everywhere. University Book Store's manager Pam Cady recently admitted that the new Amazon Books in University Village has eaten into her store's profits, and other booksellers have expressed concern about Amazon Books opening near them. Independent booksellers and Barnes & Noble have peacefully coexisted for a decade now, but Amazon has a proven strategy of picking off brick-and-mortar bookstores. They would absolutely target pre-existing bookstores with their new outlets.
It would be an interesting time to be a writer in residence at the Hugo House; you'd be there during the transition period between the old House and the new. Why not apply? You can find details at the very bottom of this page.
Published February 02, 2016, at 12:00pm
Eli Sanders won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of a horrific South Park home invasion that ended in murder. His new book expands the story, and asks a fundamental question: are we doing enough to help mentally ill offenders before a crime happens?
Suppose it is February and there are writers writing at picnic tables in the park. Suppose writing leads us to this park.
Suppose the rhythm of the afternoon sky courses through you, igniting relief and terror. Suppose you are hungry and light-headed while hoping to retrieve the faintest mark.
Suppose a writer has planted a score inside her mouth. Suppose the wind morphs that score into something fizzy and warm. Suppose everyone puts pens down at the same time. Suppose each utterance is fatal.
Suppose the wind upends food in boxes sitting on tables. Suppose the grooves inside picnic tables become embedded with crumbs. Suppose you study everyone’s furrowed brow.
Suppose the writers are all writing about descent. Perhaps to bring Rene Char’s “ship closer to its longing,” you pin your sunken hearts to the ship’s mast in unison. Suppose the collective ache is relieving.
Suppose everyone lifted their palms from the page and pages inside their notebooks shuddered. Perhaps the times you’ve shuddered before, you felt an ancestor push through violently. Perhaps you tried to smooth it out and became very tired.
Suppose you can’t fix anything at all.
Suppose a bedazzled ax appears. Suppose the ax is offered to you first, since you’ve become impatient and you’ve been given permission to get to the light any way you can.
Suppose you strike down as if you have really strong arms.
Suppose you deliciously strike a piñata, block of ice or vial of liquid. Suppose diffuse light. Suppose you stopped going over your old movies. Suppose everyone leaves their spot and takes turns with the ax.
Suppose too much strength is not a good thing.
Suppose that even when autumn is long gone glamorous winds appear like time-release golden capsules. Suppose the barren trees have long oozed your secrets. Suppose your favorite body of water is a shade of bruisy blue.
Suppose all poems are evacuation routes. Suppose the most jubilant landings are the most dangerous ones. Suppose the park has become littered with foreign liquids, depleted wind-up toys and ticket stubs. Suppose the poem has an obligation to graph each scent wafting through.
Suppose teenagers strut through park in the dark. And that dancer you remember who wore a dress made of milk jugs. Suppose your phrases get caught in the jugs.
Suppose the park’s activation points are invisible and you’ve limited yourself by staying in one place. Suppose you give up and become giddy from reciting infinitives. Suppose you look up to find everyone’s eyes glowing in the dark.
Suppose brief-lived fevers are tossed back and forth. Suppose heads bow down and collapse into the spines of notebooks. Perhaps deceit is cooled inside this heat. Suppose your fever writes you back.
Suppose someone held your head, and their hand became a rhapsody. Suppose the dark is now the color of eggplant. Suppose eyes inside eggplant. Suppose the day’s pages shuffle before you like a child’s flipbook.
This gorgeous Bloomberg tour of New York's rare book shops is to be savored. My favorite part is the painting that became the cover of A Separate Peace.
The wonderful Entre Ríos Books is back as a sponsor, with their stunning book Twelve Saints. The work combines poems about twelve saints with collages built from tintype photographs. The effect is somehow both ethereal and concrete, and aesthetically it is absolutely gorgeous. We have a sample spread on our sponsor's page. The book is reasonably priced, for such a beautiful work, and available at many locations in town, as well as on the Entre Ríos website.
Entre Ríos took advantage of our sponsorship program — new dates are now available through the Summer. 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. Don't wait too long — we sold our last six month block out!
This weekend, G. Willow Wilson took a public stand against Marvel president Ike Perlmutter for donating $1 million to Donald Trump's weird pro-veteran charity thing. In her post on the controversy, Wilson made a joke about getting fired.
The next day, Wilson picked up an honor that definitely makes the case for her continued employment. Her Ms. Marvel comic won the Best Series award at the Angouleme International Comics Festival. It's the first Marvel comic to ever win the award. This is not the best year for the Angouleme — they're having a sexism problem — but they certainly made the right call with Ms. Marvel. Congratulations to Wilson, who certainly had a roller coaster of a weekend.
MONDAY Let’s start our week off with one of the last Works in Progress open mic nights at the Hugo House in its current location. Works in Progress has been going on for years now, and it will undoubtedly stick with Hugo House in their temporary location on First Hill, but there is a certain kind of magic to the Hugo House cabaret space right now, as awkward as it can be when there’s a full house. There have been a lot of readers on this stage, and this is one of your last chances to get up there and give it a shot. Why not?
TUESDAY It’s time for Salon of Shame at the Cornish Playhouse in Seattle Center. The Salon, in case you didn’t know, is an ongoing reading series where people read their awkward teenage writing aloud. It’s cringe-y and funny and kind of empowering, in that it reminds you that you have evolved beyond your teenage self, even if you essentially feel the same inside.
WEDNESDAY This is the big event of the week: Eli Sanders and Jennifer Hopper appear in conversation with with Marcie Sillman at Town Hall. Sanders’s long-awaited book about the South Park home invasion case, While the City Slept, is finally published on Tuesday of this week, and this is an event to commemorate the book’s release. We’ll have more to say about this book in the next few days, but you should absolutely read it. It’s beautiful and sad and a brilliant piece of journalism.
Across town, I’ll be at the taping of Civic Cocktail, which is a local-interest TV show hosted by Joni Balter. Steve Scher and I will be interviewing local treasure Nancy Pearl. Four of Seattle’s city councilmembers will be there, too, to discuss the new woman-majority council. You can register for that here.
THURSDAY Head back to Town Hall tonight for Ted Rall, who is reading from his cartoon biography of Bernie Sanders. I interviewed Rall last year when he came to town with his biography of Edward Snowden, and he’s a passionate, knowledgeable interviewee. If you have questions about Senator Sanders, this might be the place to get ‘em answered.
FRIDAY Elliott Bay Book Company hosts Anastacia Tolbert, who will be reading with Storme Webber and a touring program of Cave Canem fellows including Kamilah Aishah Moon and Librecht Baker. Cave Canem, if you didn’t know, is an organization that promotes and cultivates the work and careers of African-American poets. Every time they come to town, they blow audiences away.
SATURDAY Write Here Write Now happens at Fremont Abbey today. This one is for the authors: press materials promise a “one-day writing intensive like any other,” with an array of “mini-lessons, 1-on-1 author consultations, and lots of writing time with fellow writers.” This year’s keynote will be delivered by novelist Nancy Horan.
SUNDAY Seattle historian Paul Dorpat will discuss the life and legacy of Seattle restaurateur and personality Ivar Haglund at the West Seattle branch of Seattle Public Library. Dorpat has some rare photographs of Haglund and will talk about the clam guy’s West Seattle roots.
I've read many responses to Paul Graham's overly simple Economic Inequality essay. The best, I think, is this by Steven Johnson. Not only is he of tech culture, but he's willing to call out the things that are bad, as well as good. And he has an eye on a great truth of SF culture: it's not all money-grubbing venture capital bros. A lot of hard working, progressive people, willing to experiment with the foundations of their lives, are what makes the place tick.
When I first read “On Inequality” a few weeks ago, I found myself irritated by the hint of extortion in the way Graham phrased his argument: That’s a nice 50,000-year-curve of technological progress you got there; would be a shame if something happened to it. But the more I thought about it, the more I found myself considering all the forces that Graham left out of his startup-centric account of technological progress. Yes, hailing an Uber with your smartphone relies on innovations that made a small group of startup founders extremely wealthy. But think of all the other innovations that also make that experience possible, and the different economic models behind them. The Android operating system is a fork of the open-source operating system Linux, which was collectively authored by thousands of people all over the world, with no traditional ownership model for their creation. An iPhone contains many lines of code taken from open source platforms maintained by nonprofit working groups. The Web and TCP/IP protocols that allow the device to communicate with servers at Uber were developed by Tim Berners-Lee at CERN and by a handful of computer scientists around the world, many of them partially funded by the United States government. The network of GPS satellites that allow you to pinpoint your location on a map were initially created by the U.S. military. The atomic clocks that make GPS work were first built by national laboratories in the United States and the United Kingdom. Cellular networks were originally invented at Bell Labs, a research lab inside a giant corporation, whose innovations were effectively socialized thanks to the anti-trust agreement Bell, and then AT&T, struck to preserve its monopoly.
Look at this great, long piece about a neat local teenager with great ambition. Go Molly — You have the support of the Seattle Review of Books.
She became more drawn to the people doing the doing. The concept of “making change” stuck with her like leftover glue between her fingers, until it became clearer to the fourth-grader: politics.
“If I like politics so much, and if I just want to talk about politics all the time, why don’t I just be a politician? And so then of course my mind went straight to, Oh, I’ll just be the president.”
Molly’s held on to the idea ever since — except for a brief moment in middle school when she thought she should have a more realistic goal and decided she wanted to be a lawyer. “But now I’m kind of like, I’m just gonna shoot for the stars.” Her election year will “most likely be in 2048,” she says, when she’s “old enough to have experience but young enough to seem fresh.”
Are you really going to let this assertion stand, American writers? Vollying creative work back and forth between the states and the UK is an old tradition. It's time for us to have an American invasion of great children's work.
That said, this is a good point….
American fantasies differ in another way: They usually end with a moral lesson learned—such as, surprisingly, in the zany works by Dr. Seuss who has Horton the elephant intoning: “A person’s a person no matter how small,” and, “I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant’s faithful one hundred percent.” Even The Cat in the Hat restores order from chaos just before mother gets home. In Oz, Dorothy’s Technicolor quest ends with the realization: “There’s no place like home.” And Max in Where the Wild Things Are atones for the “wild rumpus” of his temper tantrum by calming down and sailing home.
Wide ranging inteview with the always interesting Junot Diaz:
I was living in Mexico City, I had a group of dudes and young sisters who liked to get together—we liked to go dancing, we liked to go drinking. One night I was out very late, this was like five months, no, maybe like four months into my trip. It was very late, and we were over at a friend’s house; the guy’s house who I was at turned out to—in the future—turned out to be a very famous Mexican actor. But that night we were just all hanging out and it was a bunch of Mexican bohemians and me and my Guatemalan buddy. And one of these Mexican cats just pulled a book off a shelf and just cornered me and was like, “My favorite writer in the world.” He was telling me, “My favorite writer in the world is Oscar Wao, I love Oscar Wao, Oscar Wao is brilliant.” And I was dying because I knew he meant Oscar Wilde. That’s where the book began. After that party I went home and I laid in bed, and I suddenly had this idea of this fore-cursed family. This idea of this awkward fat boy and this idea that this family would be cursed in love, that they would have great trouble finding love. You know it just felt like a real good kind of novella, telenovela type plot. I just thought, “Hey, I can work with this, you know, I can really change this into something else.”
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?
PEN America presents Passages. We've put $20 in as a non-reward backer
Who is the Creator?
What do they have to say about the project?
A new literary translation series featuring contemporary voices from around the world.
What caught your eye?
PEN American Center is a longstanding (since 1922!) org working to advance literature and defend free expression. Since 2005, they've been hosting the PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature.
According to them, in the US only 3% of books published are works in translation, and only nine languages account for 90% of the world's translations. They're doing work to make sure international arts are represented.
Passages will be a literary journal where each issue features a different region in translation. They've aready produced Africa, and Brazil and Mainland China are next.
Why should I back it?
Books are the greatest machines of empathy in the world. If you're feeling like your literature is staid, or you're tired of reading the same sorts of stories each week, or seeing the same sorts of covers coming out of the New York publishing houses, get a different perspective by backing this.
Scroll waaaaaaay down past all the 1-backer options (which are a little silly, but Kickstarter doesn't allow you to alter your pledges after they are backed) and get to that little gem of reward: $35 for all three issues mentioned above. That's where you want to be.
How's the project doing?
At 20 days to go, they're 90% funded, so looks like they'll make it. But still, throw your money in. This is a fine deal for a nice set and a good cause. They'll look handsome on your shelf.
Do they have a video?
Earlier today, the comics world responded to the news that Marvel president Ike Perlmutter donated one million dollars to Donald Trump's veteran event. Of course, if this were a simple donation to a nonprofit veteran association it would be a nonstory, but the fact that Perlmutter donated it to Trump's event made the donation much more morally sticky. The money did not go, as Trump claimed, directly to veteran's needs; it was donated to "The Donald Trump Foundation." The fact is, donating a million dollars to Donald Trump for any purpose is an ostentatious political statement, but donating a million dollars to the event Donald Trump hosted in lieu of attending the final Republican debate before the Iowa caucuses is tantamount to tattooing a "Trump for President 2016" banner across your forehead.
All day, comics creators who work for Marvel have been fielding questions about this on social media. Michael Moore publicly suggested that he might reconsider before buying tickets for the next Marvel movie. Boycott threats abounded.
Tonight, though, Seattle writer G. Willow Wilson, who writes the popular Ms. Marvel comic for Marvel, posted a thoughtful essay on her Tumblr about the situation. Wilson, who converted to Islam about fifteen years ago, takes the news personally. She writes, "The irony that Ms Marvel was launched on Perlmutter’s watch–while Donald Trump would like to prevent Muslims from even entering the United States–was not lost on the mainstream media, nor on me."
Wilson explains that a boycott will not hurt Perlmutter's finances in the least, but it will likely get a lot of comics written and illustrated by innocent (Trump-loathing) Marvel creators canceled. On the other hand, she observes, boycotts are pretty much the only way that people can make their voices heard in modern-day America. This is, she says...
...the great catch-22 of corporate art in any form. ( And it’s something I think about a lot.) It’s the flaw inherent in the system. There’s a lot I can’t say, so let me just say this: follow your conscience. I am going to continue to work on Ms Marvel, for the following reason: I have never, in my entire career, seen a character and a story light people up the way this has, and I need to see it through a little longer. (Unless of course I get fired for talking about this shit, in which case, it was nice meeting you all.)
Wilson then suggests that her readers donate to a (Trump-free) veteran's association in response to this news. You should read her whole response. It's a classy, thoughtful, compassionate piece of writing that really wrestles with the issue on a genuine level. And on a professional level, this is a brave essay for Wilson to write. Her work with Marvel has propelled her to a whole new level of stardom, and there aren't that many outlets for professional comics writers these days.
As a fan of Ms. Marvel, I must admit that the words "I need to see it through a little longer" fill me with dread. Ms. Marvel is one of the only Marvel series I follow closely because it's the most Marvel-y book that Marvel publishes right now — weird, soap-operatic, and a lot of fun. If Wilson quits writing it, I can't imagine the character will survive.
But the good news is that Wilson has acquired a fan base that will read her work wherever it appears; I'd love to see her and Ms. Marvel artist Adrian Alphona do a twist on their mainstream work at Image Comics. That way, they'd entirely own the rights to the work they publish, and they'd be from any association with the stench of Trump's hate-mongering. Wilson should know right now that her fans will follow her anywhere, no matter what happens. She's more than earned our respect.
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 email@example.com.
I love to read. I love to smoke pot. I can't smoke pot and read. I can get high and watch movies, but words on a page get all swimmy when I've had even just a single puff. But I have friends who love to smoke and read, and they make me so jealous when they talk about sitting down for a night with a book and a joint and reading two or three hundred pages at a go. Can I make my dream a reality, or is my own brain chemistry working against me?
Jean in Shoreline
I find your friends' claims of reading (let alone retaining) hundreds of pages of text while high incredibly suspect, perhaps because I have trouble with basic tasks while high, like peeling fruit, blinking, and telephones. What in the Oxford-loving fuck are your friends reading and how could it possibly be more fun than rubbing your belly and chanting the word "velocity" under your breath in a dark closet?
To your question: Instead of reading books, give graphic novels a try. Ignore what little text there is and focus on the beautiful illustrations. I'd start with Black Hole and Bottomless Belly Button – both of which, if memory serves, are pretty light on text. Another option is to pick up Weathercraft or Congress of the Animals by local genius Jim Woodring. Most of his books are wordless, beautiful and weird.
The New York Times has sued Powerhouse Books over the use of New York Times cover images in David Shields' most recent book, War Is Beautiful. Many are questioning the wisdom of the Times's suit; for more information, read this report by Jeff John Roberts at Fortune.
The American Library Association has gone back to print on the wonderful David Bowie READ poster, which features Bowie, barefoot and dressed like a teenager, leaping into the air while reading The Brothers Karamazov. The poster costs $18 and will be shipped in early February, making it an ideal Valentine's Day gift.
This page from Octavia Butler's notebook made the rounds on Twitter yesterday, and it is incredible:
Octavia Butler's notebook. "So be it. See to it." pic.twitter.com/LJXQEW64uQ— TyreeBP (@TyreeBP) January 28, 2016
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.
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.
The fourth issue of online literary magazine Moss is available for you to read. Contents include an interview with Elissa Washuta and a long short story by Seattle Times book critic Michael Upchurch. It's free. Go read.
Congratulations are due to Bellingham's wonderful Village Books, which has been shortlisted for Publishers Weekly's Bookstore of the Year Award. The winner will be announced in late March.
You should read this Shelf Awareness report on the results of a study of Amazon's economic impact:
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.