Looking to GiveBIG? Here's a list of good literary causes that need your help

It's time again for GiveBIG, the one-day nonprofit fundraising event in which local charitable organizations batter your inbox in hopes of a donation. Many of these organizations rely on GiveBIG to raise a large portion of their annual funds, and lots of them have acquired additional matching funds to maximize your donation, so you really should consider donating if you can afford it.

Here is a list of local literary nonprofits that could use your support. Please note that many of these organizations could easily be categorized in two or three different listings — Hugo House, for instance, does writing education, but it's also a venue and a performance hub — so please look through the whole list before making your donation.

Library Organizations

Bellevue Friends of the Library

Books to Prisoners

Duvall Friends of the Library

Friends of the Library of Kirkland

Friends of the Shoreline Library

King County Library System Foundation

Seattle Public Library Foundation

Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation

Washington Talking Book & Braille Library

White Center Library Guild

Literacy Programs

Books of Joy

Creative Coloquy

International Dyslexia Association

Literacy Source

Page Ahead Children’s Literacy Program

Reach Out and Read

Slingerland Institute for Literacy

Worldreader

Literary Performance

Bushwick Northwest

Seattle Arts & Lectures

SPLAB - Seattle Poetics Lab

Literary Venues

Book-It Repertory Theatre

Folio: A Seattle Athenaeum

Geek Girl Con

Push/Pull

Short Run

Town Hall Seattle

Publications

Arcade

Copper Canyon Press

Crosscut

Minor Arcana Press

StackeDD Magazine

Whit Press

Writing Education

The Greater Seattle Bureau of Fearless Ideas

Clarion West

Hedgebrook

Humanities Washington

Jack Straw Foundation

Old Growth Northwest

Pongo Publishing

Queer Foundation

Richard Hugo House

Seattle7Writers

Till Writers

That's what we have. Go forth, give big, and remember to spread the wealth. It's hard out there for nonprofits.

Book News Roundup: Support your local comics newspaper

Reviewing is a strong word for what happens here

Published May 09, 2017, at 12:00pm

Martin McClellan reviews Claire Dederer's Love and Trouble.

Claire Dederer's much-anticipated new memoir "Love and Trouble" has arrived, and the questions it covers are not only hard to answer but also hard to ask.

Read this review now

Prince Credo

I believe in the dearly beloveds,
        in the temple of the power chord, and
        for years in the early 80's,
        that Prince was Filipino.
I believe in acting my age and not
        my shoe size. In never being
        a weekend lover, and in the hard work
        of a voice stretched into a silk bag
        filling fast with silt.
I believe in paisley and purple.
        That a kerchief is manly.
        That sexy is in the word and
        in the way that every guitar
        has its own ghosts to love.
Believe that the interval between
        the chorus and the solo is holy
        and that darling Nikki would happen
        one day in the ethereal dance of adolescence.
Forgive me if I go astray.
        Forgive me, but I believe
        in Apollonia, Apollonia,
        and Apollonia.

That the fastest way to heaven
        was across a Graffiti covered Bridge
        into the neck of a Stratocaster.
Believe in the litany of amplifier.
        In the hiss of feedback.
        In the bite of the lower lip. Beloveds,
        I believe in eyeliner.
        In androgyny and in the sylph-like tease
        of an upturned collar.
I believe in frills and crop tops.
        In the hard jab of a note
        between shoulder blades. I believe
        in smoke and the cherry red
        of the moon and trying
        to be quiet when the parents are home.
I believe in the gospel of summer
        and in the car parked sideways.
        And goddamn, I believe in the party,
        and that it was meant to last.

Keeping our sense of decorum as the world falls apart

Sponsor Anne Mendel is here with a full chapter from her comically twisted and dark novel Etiquette for an Apocalypse. Set in Portland in 2020, Mendel gives us a future when humanity is falling apart. But is that any reason to set aside manners?

Read the first full chapter on our sponsor's page — we think you'll really enjoy it. Visit Portland in the near future, and learn all about survival in a high-rise condo during the apocalypse.

Sponsors like Anne Mendel make the Seattle Review of Books possible. Did you know you could sponsor us, as well? Get your stories, or novel, or event in front of our passionate audience. Take a glance at our sponsorship information page for dates and details.

We've got some fine comics shops in Seattle

Free Comic Book Day seems to have been a success all over the city of Seattle. On Saturday, I walked a route stretching from Fremont through downtown and up to Capitol Hill, and every one of the five stores I stopped in was packed with customers. And these customers were people who likely never would've felt comfortable in a Seattle comics shop in the mid-1990s: women, people of color, families with young children.

Starting my day at Outsider Comics & Geek Boutique in Fremont was the right choice. Seattle's newest comics shop is small, but it's everything a comics shop should be: packed with personality, full of all sorts of neat stuff to buy (including, it should be noted, lots of things you'd never see in a typical comics shop, like socks and jewelry and other nerdy items,) and staffed with enthusiastic employees who love to give recommendations.

Outsider is top-to-bottom filled with good ideas for a comics shop: they've got starter packs of LGBTQ-friendly comics, and a book club, and eager staff recommendation cards. If you're someone who's never felt like you belong in nerd culture because of who you are — your gender, your sexual preference, your particular nerdy interests — there is a place for you there.

My day ended at Phoenix Comics & Games on Broadway, which now seems to be the busiest Free Comic Book Day shop in the city. A long line stretched through the store, and in the very back of the shop comics stars G. Willow Wilson, Kazu Kibuishi, and Zack Davisson did a marathon four-hour book signing session. Phoenix Comics sold out of Ms. Marvel books by the end of the session, just as they did last year — proof that more and more new readers keep coming to the series with each passing year.

Phoenix Comics launched on Free Comic Book Day four years ago, and it's grown an avid customer base in the years since. I thought at the time that Phoenix would be the last comic shop to open in Seattle — I assumed that the industry was dying, and that the market couldn't sustain any new shops. The fact that people still come out to celebrate Free Comic Book Day, and that entrepreneurs are still opening new shops in this city — still bringing new ideas to the comic shop model — indicates that predictors of doom are missing something. There's a place for comics shops in the 21st century, and Seattle's shops are figuring out what that future should look like.

"I'm being so manipulative:" Cathy Malkasian's latest comic is a polemic against social media

Cathy Malkasian’s fourth comic, Eartha, is a tense and gorgeous journey. Reading Malkasian’s comics is perhaps the closest equivalent to dreaming that you can experience while you’re awake. The comics feel raw and mysterious and unsettling and more than a little dangerous.

The titular character in Eartha is a naïve young woman who sets out to return dreams to her society. The book feels entirely set in the subconscious — a world in which people read four-word news blurbs printed on biscuits and then perform their emotions of distress about the news in public.

This Saturday, to celebrate the release of Eartha, Malkasian will appear in conversation with Fantagraphics publisher Gary Groth at the Fantagraphics Bookstore and Gallery in Georgetown. We talked about Eartha and her work over the phone last week.

You’ve done a few books with Fantagraphics now. What’s it like putting a book together with them?

The editing process is pretty free. Gary [Groth] really wants the artist to have their own visions, so he'll just ask me if something isn't clear. Sometimes I would want to take out some narration, and he would encourage me maybe to leave it in. He’d just do certain things for clarity. For the most part, he's hands-off. Which is just amazing.

Did you have conversations about the look of the book? It's just a gorgeous book, in terms of production value.

Oh god, Keeli McCarthy's design is so beautiful on this book. Her cover graphic is like a walking labyrinth for the eyes. You could get lost in that world. All of her choices — for the endpapers, everything — it's just beautiful.

I had a bit of say, but I don't like to impose too much of my opinions because I think that kind of hampers the creative process of the designer. So I had comments now and then but I basically just wanted her to just take off and run with it.

One thing that I think that comics can do better than any other medium, including movies, is convey the dream state. I think they can show dreams in a way that no other medium can. This is a very sort of dreamy book to me. I was wondering whether you agree with that or if you disagree.

Well, my general feeling about books is that they're the ultimate interactive medium. When you are reading a book, you're bringing your own unconscious to it, so there's a little alchemy going on there between what you're reading and what you're thinking. Movies will never be able to do that for you because they're controlling the pacing and the editing, but when you read a book, you're in charge of the pacing.

So, yeah, I think for conveying dream-like states and surreal states, I agree. There's nothing like a book. Maybe the next best thing is painting, and some kinds of music, but books — they just do something to the brain that video games and movies just can't come close to, in my opinion.

Sometimes things have to be on-the-nose.

The part in Eartha about news being printed on biscuits and people publicly wailing over the news in a performative state really stuck with me. I'm probably bringing some of my own anxiety to this but, boy, it felt like social media to me. And it very uncomfortable but very appreciated. I don't imagine you probably want to talk too much about the meaning of your work or anything —

No, I think I was pretty insistent on that one. I was doing that on purpose. I'm really worried about addictive technologies and social media. I'm really concerned about what it's doing to people's brains and their outlooks. I don't care if people think I'm being obvious. That's okay. Sometimes the metaphor doesn't have to be very clothed.

Every time I do a book, it's like a time capsule of whatever is going on. There's this proliferation of addictive technologies, and the people inventing them are even saying that: ‘Yeah, we invent them to be addictive. We want you to be on your phone all the time.’

In your profession, you have to be connected all the time. It's gotta be crazy-making, don't you think?

I certainly feel that way right now, yes.

Yeah.

So you have a more of a hands-off approach to technology, then?

I've lived most of my life before all this but I've been working with Apple computers since the late '80s. I love all that stuff. But then around 10 years or so ago, I guess when the first smartphones came out, I just noticed things started to change.

People's attention spans started to change and then social media came on the scene and it just felt like this runaway train. I really think it's changed people. It's changed their outlooks, their sense of reality, a little too much. Then apart from social media you've got this proliferation of cable outlets and reality shows, so-called reality shows. When everybody's wailing over their biscuits in the book, they're all sort of in their own little reality show where they're the star.

I really felt it. I really appreciated that it felt like I was on Facebook watching somebody melt down over the news in front of me a little bit — that sort of neurotic feeling that I get from watching somebody demonstrate the performative angst that you see out there a lot. Did you worry that it would be too on-the-nose?

No, I didn't. Because sometimes things have to be on-the-nose. I'm not worried about being really, really clever and impressive and intellectually tricky with people. I don't care about that stuff. I care about emotion.

I love that the main character is not a traditionally attractive heroine — that she has a different body shape than many female comics characters. And there are, of course, people who are making comments about her body all the way through the book. Was she always the protagonist, and was she always in this form?

As a protagonist and a hero, I wanted her to be a very socially awkward person who didn't know her own strength. Because who can't relate to that?

I wanted her to be as ordinary as possible. I really like every protagonist in stories I do to be someone very ordinary — someone who is very reluctant about getting involved.

If you ever get around to reading my first book, Percy Gloom, he's very much in that mold. He does not want to get involved. He is really mouthy but he ends up affecting a lot of change just through no conscious action of his own. It's just kind of from being there.

Does that present any challenge for you as a storyteller, having your main characters start out that passive?

Yeah, it's really hard to plot for a protagonist that's kind of passive. It's a real challenge. With [Eartha], she's especially kind and passive. Like, what's gonna wake that giant?

So you’ve really gotta create an antagonist who is doing so much obvious damage to everyone around him that she just, as the main character, can't take it anymore.

Does that maybe relate to how you feel about social media and technologies addictiveness? Are you at a point where you can’t take it anymore?

Well, I don't know. Maybe. I think that everyone has to come to that point within themselves. And that's sort of the whole gist of the book is that you can shut off your misery at any time.

Everyone's addiction is voluntary in this book, even though they've been very much conditioned into it. I guess that's my attitude right now, is that we're inundated with stories from all directions — from TV, from blogs, from social media, we are inundated — and we're exhausted. But I think if you can just land on something that feels real and deep, at least for a little while, it takes you out of that addictive behavior.

Do you ever worry that you're adding to the inundation of culture with your books?

Sure.

But I'm trying to work in a medium that consciously slows people down and gets them to focus. Because you just can't zip through any of the books I do. You’ve really gotta sit with them. You have to live with them and maybe read them a few times.

I know a lot of people don't want to do that, and that's fine. But for those that are looking for something to sit with and spend time with, then it can temporarily take them out of that.

The art is just gorgeous in this book, and it the sort of thing you want to spend time on every page because you put so much work into it, it's just very obvious.

Well, I'm trying to get people to slow down. That's part of the reason I did the artwork that way. I'm being so manipulative.

Is it moreso in this book that you're trying to get people to slow down, you think, or is that just your style?

Yeah, it is. Yeah, it's all of a piece.

I mean, the whole book is about people who are so fragmented to the point where they can't even dream anymore.

I know, from personal experimentation that if you have a day where you're on social media a lot or you have to be on the internet a lot, at the end of the day you are fragmented. It's really hard, for me at least, to concentrate or to even know what I think about anything because I've been taking in so many other stories. It's hard to know what my opinions are. It's hard to hear that still, small voice.

Can you tell me a little bit about what sort of techniques you used in the art to make people slow down?

Well, I'm trying to create environments and people that feel real to me.

You know, I can't spell it out for you, A-B-C. I'm not a trained artist. I'm more of a self-taught artist, so I go very much by instinct. And there's a stage — at right about the time when I'm writing and outlining and doing all that stuff — where I'm really envisioning the places and figuring out how the cities work and the countryside works and what the culture is and how the people treat each other.

I keep drawing until something feels real to me. And I don't even know what that mechanism is, but there's something that clicks, finally, and that's when it feels real to me. So I couldn't say, ‘oh, it's the composition,’or whatever. It's more like, ‘okay, I know I'm there now, I feel I'm there. Now the drawing's done.’

The same with characters, too. It just was really kind of a challenge to try and figure out how these personalities looked. Especially with Eartha. I drew so many versions of Eartha before I landed on the one that's in the book because she had to be powerful but very, very naïve and innocent-looking. She had to look very goodhearted and just open.

Finally, this is more of a personal note but I loved the character of Old Lloyd. I was wondering if it was based on a person or if it just came to you or what. I just loved that character.

Old Lloyd is my id. He's the character I relate to most when I get really disgusted about what's going on. He was very easy to write. Thank you for liking him, because he's my favorite character.

Oh, really?

Yeah. He is. He's crafty and he's grumpy as hell but real deep down, he's really kind. He's just worried.

I'm glad you liked him.

The Sunday Post for May 7, 2017

Each week, the Sunday Post highlights a few articles good for slow consumption over a cup of coffee (or tea, if that's your pleasure). Settle in for a while; we saved you a seat. You can also look through the archives.

The Writer Behind a Muslim Marvel Superhero on Her Faith in Comics

In case you missed the link in our warm-up to Free Comic Book Day, Jia Tolentino profiled Seattle’s G. Willow Wilson in a recent issue of The New Yorker. Wilson, author of the much-awarded Ms. Marvel reboot, is as likeable as her breakout superhero: gentle, direct, and taking absolutely no shit from anybody.

At the coffee shop, as a barista cleared our plates, we talked about how the stakes of every identity-politics debate feel heightened since November — and also about new alliances that seem to be forming in the election’s wake. Wilson spoke with some astonishment about the fact that she could include a gay secondary character in “Ms. Marvel” — the blond, popular Zoe — and still have mothers and daughters show up to her readings in hijabs. “It’s funny. Those right-wing bloggers who said my work was part of some socialist-Muslim-homosexual attack on American values, they really created the thing they feared. There wasn’t a socialist-Muslim-homosexual alliance before, but there sure as fuck is one now, and I love it."
How a Professional Climate Change Denier Discovered the Lies and Decided to Fight for Science

This week “Believe,” by Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal, is making the rounds with a characteristically cutting and charming assessment of why it’s so hard to change anyone’s mind. Over at The Intercept, Sharon Lerner interviewed Jerry Taylor, a one-time climate change denier, about his conversion to climate activist and how he’s working to shift others the same way. (Bret Stephens take note.)

If you talk about the need to transform civilization and to engage in the functional equivalent of World War III, you may as well just forget it. To most conservatives, that’s just nails on a chalkboard. Or if you say, you’re corrupted and a shill and ignorant. That’s no way to convince anybody of anything. What are the chances they’re going to say, Gee, you’re right? All that does is entrench someone in their own position.
Meet the world’s most powerful doctor: Bill Gates

Speaking of Seattle and superpowers … The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has a huge influence on global health, and their enormous philanthropic buying power put them on par with, and maybe above, international players like the World Health Organization. How does an 800-pound gorilla learn to throw its weight gently — and help prepare for its own exit?

Over the past decade, the world’s richest man has become the World Health Organization’s second biggest donor, second only to the United States and just above the United Kingdom. This largesse gives him outsized influence over its agenda, one that could grow as the U.S. and the U.K. threaten to cut funding if the agency doesn’t make a better investment case.
Things I haven't tweeted

A very short collection of tweets we wish Warren Ellis had posted.

Very excited about America these days. Really enjoyed the MAD MAX films, looking forward to the theme park

Seattle Writing Prompts: The Re-bar

Seattle Writing Prompts are intended to spark ideas for your writing, based on locations and stories of Seattle. Write something inspired by a prompt? Send it to us! We're looking to publish writing sparked by prompts.

Also, how are we doing? Are writing prompts useful to you? Could we be doing better? Reach out if you have ideas or feedback. We'd love to hear.

The Re-bar is so old that, if it were a person, it would be old enough to go to the Re-bar. In fact, it's twenty-seven or so. The infamous club, which one of the owners laughingly calls "straight-friendly," is one of the few remaining safe places for all people on the wide diaspora of queer culture. But sadly the building, once a modest island in a sea of parking lots, is now absolutely mobbed by huge glass construction; it's an oasis of artistry and self-made culture among luxury condominiums and offices that completely dwarf it.

It's where, famously, Dan Savage met his husband; where Nirvana had their record release party for Nevermind; where one friend fell for his wife because she was dancing topless on the speaker stacks; where Dina Martina put up her yearly hilarious shows; where beloved drag queen bouncer Isidor became the namesake of a DIY punk metal band; where calls home the longest running house music night on the West Coast (after DJ Riz Rollins, who started DJing there, was told when he started: NO HOUSE MUSIC!); where, long before idiotic debates over where people can pee became mainstream, Re-bar maintained genderless facilities (there were urinals, but I remember no labels on the doors, and a certainly looseness about which you might pick).

And, of course, perhaps most germane to these very pages, it's home to the Seattle Poetry Slam, every Tuesday night.

It boggles the mind to think of the stories those modest walls hold. Music, art, theater, films, dancing, and just the kind of place where artists and freaks go to hang out together. You go out, create a bit of life, and go home. Perhaps to someone else's place. Perhaps after having some drinks. Perhaps that night becomes a touchstone in your life.

And given the current political climate, let's just be extra fucking clear that we don't mean this god-forsaken place. Nor is it the bar of the same name in New York. To hell with those imposters. Those in the know understand how special our own Re-bar is. If you haven't been lately, perhaps you should stop by for an evening out. Who knows how long they can hold back the tide of property values?

As for those stories — how many can we uncover? I dunno. But maybe we should make up a few to see what happens.

Today's prompts
  1. One step at a time in those heels. It takes a long time to learn how to use them right. The wig not secure, and feeling like it's listing to one side. One fake tit lower than the other, and, my god, the bra was much to small and starting to bind. And a run in the brand new tights, already, before she was even to the door of a club. There were many people coming out to dance tonight, but this was her debut, goddammit, and she wanted everything to be perfect.

  2. She signed up for the open mic, but the idea of reading her poem aloud was making her heart reside in her throat. The idea of standing on a stage and reading a piece of her own work — especially something this personal and revealing — was so disturbing that she went and got a beer, just to calm herself down. It was just after they called her name, and she was walking to the stage, that she saw in the audience the person she had written the poem about.

  3. When you're on the floor, the DJ booth looks like an amazing oasis, a place set apart from the sweat and beat and mix of writhing humanity. And this night, with the place packed, she looked up to the DJ, headphones on, head bobbing to the beat, but distracted by what was to come next, and she had a vision. She could be there. This dude's transitions were for the birds. He kept breaking the flow. He kept dropping the beat. And if he did it one more time, she was going to risk getting kicked out by going up there and helping him get the floor thumping again.

  4. It was a late, late night, so he came in the next morning to clean the place. Opened the doors to air it out, ran the dishwasher a few times with the straggling glasses, and gathered the bottles into the recycling. He was sweeping up when he found the wallet, just lying there on the floor, so obvious now, but probably desperately missed. He opened it: no license, no credit cards. Just $100 bills. Nearly thirty of them.

  5. She was already cut off, but she stayed at the bar drinking water and coffee, kind of weaving to her own pattern. There weren't places for her any more. Not in this modern Seattle. Weren't many places she felt at home. It was all condos and yuppies, and they used to hate yuppies. Jesus. She turned to the woman next to her, a baby face, all of twenty-one, who was here to dance, had streaked and colored hair. "It used to be junkies and whores all the way down 1st, from the Market to Pioneer Square," she said, and the club girl rolled her eyes and turned away. "It was glorious," she said, taking a sip of hot coffee. "Absolutely glorious."

The library looks gorgeous and the plan for it to be a community center in the South Side of Chicago is wonderful. Something that I'm not happy about: it's going to be the first paperless presidential library. You'd think that a president who loves books as much as Obama would understand the value of the printed word. In a world full of bad news, I don't want to spend too much time or energy complaining about this. But still, it's a little disappointing.

The Help Desk: Name one good thing and one bad thing about Seattle

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,

I’ve never been to Seattle, but I’m a fan of this site and, especially, your column. One day I’d like to visit your beautiful library and find some of the places I’ve read about in Seattle-set novels that I’ve read. So I’m curious about your opinion: Can you tell me what you think is the best thing about literary Seattle? How about the worst?

Diane, Providence

Dear Diane,

I believe Seattle is the best city in the world for readers and writers. The city suffers from an embarrassment of literary riches – nearly every neighborhood has an independent bookstore and the climate is perfect for reading: the right mix of moist and cool that encourages you to curl up next to a window with a book and a row of vitamin-deficient houseplants and soak in the sun's meager rays together. Literary events – from fancy billboard authors to open mics – are hosted almost every night of the week (and advertised on this site). Some of my best friendships were made at those events. One such friend, a burly poet, used to invite me drinking about town once a month. We'd bar hop and talk about books and writing, and drink until my body lost its posture, and then he'd smile and slur, "This used to be Raymond Carver's favorite place to drink in Seattle." And I'd feel special for learning an important secret about a writer I admired. That is until one night, while I was puking off a curb on First Avenue and Virginia Street, my poet friend mumbled, "Did you know this used to be Raymond Carver's favorite spot to drink in all of Seattle..." and it finally occurred to me that Raymond Carver was a drunk. Any spot in Seattle would've been his favorite spot to drink, including my puke curb.

But that poet no longer lives in Seattle and neither do I. Nor do a good number of my other writer and artist friends, all of whom have left a great city they loved and an artistic culture they helped build because it became increasingly unaffordable. That is the worst thing about Seattle – that in its new flush of wealth, not enough work is being done to ensure that people who want lives and careers outside of tech, and who work hard to make it a great arts city worth visiting, can still afford to call Seattle home.

I live in Idaho now – the cheap red state of my youth that frowns on my reproductive rights but fosters my dreams of building a multi-story underground bunker, where I can politely argue with my white nationalist neighbors about how all albinos are technically superior to them. Sure, it's bare in comparison to Seattle – we have only one independent bookstore and one local reading series. But we also have Harvard-grade potatoes and when spring hits and the spiders are in full bloom, I like to think that it could be a spot where Raymond Carver would also enjoy drinking.

Kisses,

Cienna

Book News Roundup: Fantagraphics scores big, Stacey Levine resurfaces, and a case is made against Little Free Libraries

  • Congratulations are due to Seattle's own Fantagraphics Books, which cleaned up in the Eisner Awards nominations this week. (The Eisners are the comics version of the Oscars.) Fnatagraphics picked up more nominations than almost any other publisher. Go help them celebrate tomorrow by visiting their store for Free Comic Book Day.

  • We haven't seen a lot of new work from Seattle author Stacey Levine in a while. Levine, who writes delicately crafted sentences that shine like jewels and howl with the wind of alien planets, hasn't published a book since 2011. But there's hope for a Levine-aissance on the horizon: she just published a new story, "Brown Seaweed Soup," at The Brooklyn Rail. Levine said on Facebook that this story might eventually become the basis for a novel. I hope so; it's been too long since we've seen paragraphs like this:

The dead get vulnerable near their birthdays. They get under the weather. As Bruce’s birthday was enroute, a celebration of his life would soon take place. As I stood in the kitchen’s doorframe, my desire to cook grew more powerful than I had anticipated, nearly an autonomic mechanism. The problem was that I had never cooked any food in my life. I didn’t know how to cook at all. But the mailman told me, laughing, his blue bag gaping, that standing on a kitchen chair and dropping seaweed into a pan of hot water produces good results. About this method I had a few doubts.
  • Twice Sold Tales owner Jamie Lutton published a blog post titled "A brief history of book theft in Seattle." In the post, Lutton theorizes that Seattle has an underground culture of book theft that may be "unique" to the country. "I called a few Denver bookstores, both new and used, and they said that they did not have a problem with systematic theft like we do here," she writes.

  • The Atlantic's Citylab published a post with a very controversial title: "The Case Against Little Free Libraries." Early in the post, a librarian grouses, “As a librarian, my gut reaction to [the name 'Little Free Library'] was, ‘You know what else is a free library? A regular library.’”

  • I don't know if I buy that post's argument, but I do have to say, as someone who visits Little Free Libraries often, it does seem as though Seattle's Little Free Libraries are suffering in quality even as more and more of them pop up in neighborhoods around the city. Often, I'll encounter a Little Free Library that's basically just a home for trash or outdated magazines or books that nobody on earth would ever, ever want. Perhaps if there were fewer Little Free Libraries around the city, the quality of their offerings would improve?

Portrait Gallery: Angela Flournoy

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

Seattle Reads: Angela Flournoy The Turner House

Flournoy is in town from May 8th to 11th to read from The Turner House and to talk with Seattle communities about the book. On the evening of the 8th, she’s reading at the Columbia branch of the library. On the 9th, she’s at the University District branch and the Ballard branch; the 10th brings her to the Southwest branch and the Langston Hughes Performing Institute; and on the 11th she reads at the Central Library downtown. All events are free; all are welcome. Find all the details at http://www.spl.org/audiences/adults/seattle-reads

Why it's hard to talk about The Righteous Mind

It's strange: Most everyone at the Reading Through It Book Club last night agreed that Jonathan Haidt's book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided By Politics and Religion was the most useful book we've read so far in our quest to understand the presidency of Donald Trump. One book club member even said that she felt if she had read The Righteous Mind before the election, she'd probably have been able to predict that Trump would win. Just about everyone loved the book.

But the thing is, The Righteous Mind is an incredibly difficult book to discuss. Haidt digs deep into theories of division and supposition and morality. With remarkable clarity, he explains why we believe what we believe. But when I try to explain what Haidt proves in the book, I'm left repeating bland platitudes: You must find common ground in order to bridge political gaps. Our beliefs aren't constructed solely on logic. We place ourselves in ideological bubbles, and we use confirmation bias to "prove" our beliefs to ourselves.

You see? This is all stuff you've heard before. But the depth of Haidt's arguments is what matters. He's a dense thinker who can convince a reader to reassess even her most closely held beliefs.

Sure, Haidt demonstrates a deft mastery of metaphor. Book club members throughout the night employed some of Haidt's best images as shorthand for real-world phenomena. We referred repeatedly to taste buds of morality, and talked about riding an elephant as a metaphor of what it's like to guide our own worldview through the real world. In the end, though, I felt as though the comments I brought to the discussion never truly lived up to the high quality of the book.

But over the course of the evening, I realized that what we were saying mattered less than how we were saying it. For maybe the first time since our book club first got together, we were sincerely discussing actively reaching out to Trump voters, and understanding them as human beings. Statements didn't carry the same disgust, or outrage, or confusion that it has in months past. The number of conversations relating to how "we" are going to get "them" to think "our" way declined dramatically.

What the book club last night demonstrated was Jonathan Haidt's theory in action. By reading a book about how to have conversations, our conversation changed. It was a remarkable proof of the healing power of books, of the way a very sharp thinker can take a worldview apart and put it back together again, better than before.

One of the book club members last night discussed this TED appearance by Haidt as a great update to the ideas in The Righteous Mind. If you haven't read the book, this video should convince you to check it out:

The next Reading Through It Book Club meets at Third Place Books Seward Park on Wednesday, June 7th at 7 pm. We'll be discussing Masha Gessen's The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin. It's free. I hope you'll join us.

Thursday Comics Hangover: How to get the most out of your Free Comic Book Day

Ordinarily, I use this space to write about the comics that I've read over the past week. But this Saturday is Free Comic Book Day — that nationwide celebration of the belief that there's a comic out there for everyone — and so we're going to look forward for a change. If you've never participated before, you should know that it's pretty simple: walk into the store, get some comics for free. If you have questions, ask the staff.

Where should you go? Well, there's a map of all the participating shops here. But a lot of local stores are throwing special events, too. A partial list:

And what should you pick up? Well, you can find a full list of the Free Comic Book Day books here, and there's something for most everyone's taste. But here are a couple to look out for:

  • Obviously, you should read the Fantagraphics collection World's Greatest Cartoonists, which features a bunch of artists from the Fantagraphics stable including Emil Ferris, Noah Van Sciver, and Simon Hanselmann.

  • If you're unfamiliar with the weird and wonderful collaborations between French cartoonist Moebius and the great director Alejandro Jodorowsky, this sampler of their comic The Incal should definitely be on your list.

  • The Colorful Monsters collection has just about everything a kid could want, including some Moomin comics, monsters, and hot air balloons.

  • Cartoonist Kate Beaton loves the all-ages comic Bad Machinery, and this sampler is a good introduction to the series, about some young crime-solvers. In this caper, they encounter Communists and a very anachronistic person.

Have fun out there! Stay hydrated, get some free comics, maybe buy a comic or two, and follow along with us on Instagram as we travel around to some of our favorite shops.

Your Week in Readings: The best literary events from May 3rd - May 9th

Wednesday May 3rd: Reading Through It: The Righteous Mind

I hope you’ll join us for our book club examining the causes and effects of Donald Trump’s presidency. It’s been a total delight so far, full of brainy, passionate discussion. Tonight, we’ll discuss The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. No purchase necessary; just come ready to talk and listen. Third Place Books Seward Park, 5041 Wilson Ave S, 474-2200, http://thirdplacebooks.com. Free. All ages. 7 p.m.

Alternate Wednesday May 3rd: Priestdaddy Reading

Since the Seattle Review of Books is a co-sponsor of the book club, allow us to suggest another event so you don’t accuse us of favoritism. Poet Patricia Lockwood reads from her delightful memoir Priestdaddy tonight, and it's a big damn deal. As I said in my review, the prose is gorgeous and the story will leave you laughing and crying — sometimes both at the same time. Elliott Bay Book Company, 1521 10th Ave, 624-6600, elliottbaybook.com . Free. All ages. 7 p.m.

Thursday May 4th: Unwarranted Reading

In his new book, Barry Friedman, a law professor at New York University, examines the crisis in modern policing. Why do cops now dress like they’re SEAL Team 6 and drive around in tanks? How did the balance of power between police and the people they’re sworn to protect get so…well…unbalanced? UW Law School, Room 133, 634-3400, http://ubookstore.com . Free. All ages. 7 p.m.

Friday May 5th: Writers on Writers Release Party

The editors behind Seattle’s own PageBoy Magazine debuts their brand-new book, an anthology of writing about writers. Local writers Sarah Koenig, Jeanine Walker, Amber Nelson, and Paul Nelson will read their writer-centric pieces in what should be a fun celebration of the art of putting words on paper in some sort of order.

Vermillion Art Gallery and Bar, 1508 11th Ave., 709-9797, vermillionseattle.com. Free. 21+. 7 p.m.

Saturday May 6th: Free Comic Book Day

Every comic shop in the region will be giving away free comics all day today (while supplies last.) Your friendly neighborhood comics shop will likely be celebrating with sales, appearances by local comics creators, and more. If you haven’t yet been, this is also a great opportunity to visit Fremont’s Outsider Comics & Geek Boutique, Seattle’s newest comic shop. Various locations, https://www.freecomicbookday.com. Free. All ages. 10 a.m.

Sunday May 7th: Lines of Flight Reading

Julie Salverson’s book, subtitled An Atomic Memoir, is about a group of indigenous peoples in Ontario who sent a delegation to Japan to apologize for their complicity in war. Seems the uranium to build the first two American atomic bombs was mined from their land, and they felt honor-bound to go make amends.
Elliott Bay Book Company, 1521 10th Ave, 624-6600, elliottbaybook.com . Free. All ages. 7 p.m.

Monday May 8th: Mozart’s Starling Reading

This is a bizarre story: one day when Mozart was out shopping, he came across a little starling who was singing one of his concertos. He took the bird on as a pet and then kinda collaborated with it for the next three years. Birdwatcher Lyanda Lynn Haupt will discuss her belief that starlings are seriously underrated creatures. Third Place Books Lake Forest Park, 17171 Bothell Way NE, 366-3333, thirdplacebooks.com. Free. All ages. 7 p.m.

Tuesday May 9th: Seattle Reads The Turner House

See our Event of the Week column for more details. Ballard Library, 5614, 22nd Ave NW. 684-4089. spl.org. Free. All ages. 7 p.m.

Spokane-by-way-of-Seattle author Kate Lebo's poem "A Prayer to Cathy McMorris Rodgers for Intercession on My Behalf" at Blood Orange Review is exactly what a political poem should be: it is reasonable, and passionate, and meaningful. The poem is aimed directly at McMorris Rodgers, who is Lebo's Congressional representative, and it's a plea for the congresswoman to remember everyone that she represents in the House. On this week when House Republicans seem to be considering, yet again, the repeal of Obamacare, the poem lands with a special weight. It's a really beautiful and timely piece of art.

Literary Event of the Week: Seattle Reads The Turner House

Every year, the Seattle Public Library chooses one book to headline its “Seattle Reads” program. The idea is to get as many copies of a single title into as many hands as possible, to bring the author to as many of Seattle’s neighborhoods as they can in a single week, and to examine a book thoroughly. It’s a noble idea and it raises some interesting questions about place and readership: does Ballard, say, read a book differently than Rainier Valley? How does a city read?

This year’s Seattle Reads selection seems to be selected to put that question to the test. Angela Flournoy’s debut novel The Turner House was published two years ago, but it addresses issues that this city is wrestling with right now. Set in Detroit during the financial collapse of 2008, The Turner House is about the adult children of a large family — 13 children, though we only really spend time with a handful of them — who must decide what to do with the family home, which is worth so little that burning it down would probably be a profitable decision.

People who complain that literary fiction is out of touch with the concerns of the working class are sleeping on this book. We follow the Turners through the 20th century. As black Americans, they have to fight to enjoy the same American dream enjoyed by the white working class: the police are always watching them, hoping for a misstep; they work harder to earn the same jobs and financial benefits that a white family of the same income bracket would come to expect. When the financial crisis arrives and wipes out that American dream for everyone in the 99 percent, the Turners are a little less surprised than white families, but they’re still hurting.

Like any good novel that is firmly rooted in a specific place and time, The Turner House develops a certain universality. The Seattle of 2017 will very likely see itself in the Detroit of this book. We, too, are seeing the working class being pushed out of a city. We’re witnessing the results of systemic racism in policing and education and economics. We’re living with a mental health system that ignores those most in need. The story that Flournoy tells with this family — a haunted house story, really, of a different kind — is exactly the story we need to read right now, because it’s exactly the story we’re living right now.

Flournoy is in town from May 8th to 11th to read from The Turner House and to talk with Seattle communities about the book. On the evening of the 8th, she’s reading at the Columbia branch of the library. On the 9th, she’s at the University District branch and the Ballard branch; the 10th brings her to the Southwest branch and the Langston Hughes Performing Institute; and on the 11th she reads at the Central Library downtown. All events are free; all are welcome. Find all the details at http://www.spl.org/audiences/adults/seattle-reads

A preview of the Seattle International Film Festival's most bookish offerings

This morning, tickets to the 2017 edition of the Seattle International Film Festival go on sale for SIFF members. This year's SIFF is huge (400 films from 80 countries) and diverse. Highlights include a series spotlighting films from nations on President Trump's travel ban list, an education series for kids, and a heavy focus on Northwest filmmakers, women directors, and films that as of yet have no established North American premiere dates.

Tickets for the general public go on sale starting tomorrow. (If you're not a SIFF member, I recommend it; you get discounted tickets and free popcorn and early access to events like, well, festival screenings.) I attended the SIFF press launch last night and I have some tips on bookish movies that readers of the Seattle Review of Books might want to keep in mind. Here's an overview of some of the literary and literary-adjacent SIFF films:

The Young Karl Marx is the closing-night film of the festival, screening on Sunday, June 11, at Cinerama. It's a biopic from Raoul Peck (director of the excellent I Am Not Your Negro) about the birth of the friendship between Friedrich Engels and a passionate young writer named Karl Marx.

The closing seconds of the trailer for the raunchy Middle Ages nun comedy The Little Hours claims that it's "Based on The Decameron by Boccacio." That's maybe a stretch, but with a cast like this — Alison Brie, Aubrey Plaza, John C. Reilly, Nick Offerman — I'm willing to give it some room for literary license.

Based on the Stephen Fry novel of the same name, The Hippopotamus is about an alcoholic writer who travels to the countryside in order to debunk a reported series of miracles.

It's a big year for fairy tales at SIFF. The French films The Girl Without Hands and Ivan Tsarevitch and the Changing Princess: Four Enchanting Tales adapt fairy tales into animated movies. The Girl Without Hands is a Brothers Grimm deep cut. Revolting Rhymes collects five of Roald Dahl's poetic fairy-tale updates into cute animated shorts.

Lady Macbeth isn't based on Shakespeare; rather, it's adapted from a Russian novella from 1865 by Nikolai Leskov titled Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District. (The novella has also been adapted into an opera by Dmitri Shostakovich.) I've been waiting for this one to land for a while; seems like I first saw the trailer months ago.

Some other quick hits:

  • Based on a memoir titled The Hypocrisy of Disco, the film Lane 1974 is a coming-of-age film about a 13-year-old girl with a decidedly unreliable mother.

  • Austin-based junk-rock orchestra The Invincible Czars will be performing their score for the 1920 silent-film version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde live at The Triple Door on Thursday, June 6.

  • The Truth About Love Is ..., which is making its North American debut at SIFF, is based on a popular Italian memoir by a divorced housewife.

  • The Captain Underpants movie will make its Seattle debut at SIFF, if your kids are into that kind of thing.

  • The festival also features a tribute to Anjelica Huston that features two of her best adaptations — Jim Thompson's creepy con-artist noir The Grifters and Roald Dahl's The Witches.

We'll be running reviews and news from the literary side of SIFF in the days and weeks ahead. For now, go get your tickets.