Almost half a year ago, we told you that Hugo House was preparing to donate the 30,000 or so zines that made up the core library of the Zine Archive and Publishing Project (ZAPP) to the Seattle Public Library (SPL). I also interviewed ZAPP staff about their issues with the move.
There's been a lot of silence over the last few months, but now it's official: in a press release dated August 2nd, SPL announced that the collection has officially changed hands and they're now in possession of the ZAPP collection.
Andrew Harbison, assistant director for Collection & Access Services for The Seattle Public Library, said the Library is excited to acquire the collection and provide a permanent and secure home for it. "We recognize the value and cultural significance of this material, which documents an incredibly diverse range of voices, experiences, subjects and perspectives outside of traditional media channels," he said.
Librarian and former ZAPP volunteer Abby Bass added that the collection will support people who self-publish. "The collection is not only a really valuable documentation of our past, but an inspiration for Seattle writers, artists and self-publishers," she said.
The Library expects to receive the ZAPP collection in August. "Once we have the collection, we can begin an inventory and assessment of all the material," Harbison said. "After that work is done, which will take time, we will be able to determine how to make the collection available to the general public, researchers, self-publishers and others." Harbison anticipates material from the ZAPP collection to be featured in Library programs as early as this fall.
Abby Bass, in particular, serves as a kind of bridge between Hugo House and SPL: before she became an SPL librarian, she volunteered at ZAPP, so she can provide much-needed institutional knowledge for the project. We'll keep you posted on the zine collection status as it becomes incorporated into SPL.
On August 26th at Washington Hall, author J.L. Cheatham II will host his second Seattle Urban Book Expo — a big party to promote Seattle's many authors of color. I sat down with Cheatham last week to talk about how he became a writer and what inspired him to start the Seattle Urban Book Expo. We've divided this interview into two halves: this first part covers how Cheatham came to be an author, and the second half deals directly with the Book Expo.
So to start, you could talk a little bit about how you became an author?
It literally started when I was about five years old and I watched professional wrestling for the first time. Ric Flair was fighting a guy who was being cheered by people and then I realized, "Hey, he's a bad guy, and the other guy's a good guy." And then my dad used to get me comic books: Spider-Man, Batman, and Archies. I was heavy into Archie. I’d read them at dinner — a fork in one hand and the other hand turning pages. It grew from there. I wanted to be a storyteller. The fact that we're able to create a world that's fictional and get anyone to believe it — that's a powerful ability.
In elementary school, I would create comic book stories for homework assignments. As I got older, I was pushed more towards sports. I didn’t find anything that would cultivate my passion for writing. There was a lot of sports in my neighborhood so I would play football, baseball, things like that. When I got to college, I was hurt so badly that I couldn't go to bed. I couldn't sleep because my ribs were throbbing.
Then when I was watching TV, my favorite movie came on: The Lion King. And then I felt that little joy again, the way I did when I was a kid when I'd write stories. Following that, it was some B-rated movie with that guy, Lorenzo Lamas? He was, like, the leader of a vampire-stripper cult.
I literally was talking to my girlfriend at the time like, "I could write this. If this made it to TV, I could do this.” So as soon as I made that decision, I began losing interest in playing sports. I didn't want to play football that much anymore.
Then, I found out I was going to be a father and I decided that when my daughter sees me, she knows that her dad is pursuing his dream of being a writer. At first, I wanted to write movie scripts because after that whole Lorenzo Lamas movie, I thought I could do better. I wrote a couple of movie scripts, but I was having no luck whatsoever.
When my daughter turned four years old, she was into dinosaurs. She wanted a dinosaur book, so I was like, ‘Okay, cool. We'll go to the Barnes and Noble in Tukwila and look for a dinosaur book.’
When I got there and went to the kids section, I was looking around and something grabbed me: All the covers of the children's books, there were no black or brown faces. I looked at my daughter and I was like, "I'll write her a dinosaur book." And that's what my first book came from, The Family Jones and the Eggs of Rex. I literally had to learn how to write a book. I had to research story structure, manuscripts, self-publishing versus publishing.
I was scared to death. I didn't know what kind of world I was getting into. Copy-editors, proof-reading, theory. It took me a while, like five months, and then I wrote the manuscript, found a self-publishing company and found an illustrator.
I didn't know what was going to come. I didn't realize that I actually had to do some work. I thought you just published a book and it just magically flowed into people's homes, or stuff like that.
I was a bit discouraged because sales weren't going the way I wanted to, and I wasn't getting the attention I felt like I deserved. But then I asked myself, "Am I giving this a hundred percent?" Meaning, am I doing everything I can to promote my work? and I answered no. Then I asked myself, "Okay so how can you give this a hundred percent?" And I was like, "I have to go out and travel."
Literally a week later after I made that decision, I was approached by Stacey Robinson, who runs a book expo, in Toronto. And she invited me to come out there to market my book. Not only had I never been a part of an expo, I'd never been to Canada.
What was that like?
When I went out there, man, it blew my mind. Just the energy, the crowd, the music — everything. Literally when I got off the plane back to Seattle, all the energy just washed off me. My shoulders slumped and I was like, "aw man, what happened to all the festival feelings?”
I was like, "I need something like that for my city." Then when I started researching more, if there was a book expo, I couldn't find one. It was baffling to me that there'd never been an expo for black and brown writers. There's a lot of African-American culture in the city, so I was kind of shocked there had never been an actual book expo here.
So then I decided to do something like that.
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.
This essay by soccer player Georgia Cloepfill starts with what I believe is called a “devastating indictment” of the discrepancy in how male and female athletes are treated, financially and otherwise; that section alone is worth your time. And then she offers more, handfuls of short, lyrical-in-a-good-way vignettes about the nature of work, sacrifice, and achievement, through the lens of a woman who’s dedicated a great deal of heart to her sport.
I ask the clock how much time is left. It answers in monotonous pulses: there is still time, there is still time; or: it is nearly over. The amount of time that passes is inseparable from the immensity of my panic — they are one and the same.
With a comfortable lead, ninety minutes have the texture of a single day. Things happen with a calm inevitability. Events are as stable as a sunset, and consequences are modest. There is still time to erase, if necessary; to repeat, if you’ve already done the right thing; to find glory, if glory has thus far proved elusive.
At its worst obscure, self-righteous, and exclusionary, academic language is such an easy target! And yet I can’t help cheering Nathan J. Robinson on as he takes aim and fires at it again. In fairness (to the language), his point is that academic writing isn’t inherently bad, it’s just used that way.
if people are actually trying to communicate with one another their words need to have meaning, and we need to have relatively fixed and identifiable definitions for concepts and actions. That’s always going to be elusive, because the usages of words will change over time and vary among users, so it will be impossible for any definition to stay truly stable and universally agreed. Yet while their boundaries can be fuzzy and contested, words ultimately need to be something more than meaningless mouth-noises.
If we’re going to face off against inflated language (see above), why not go head-to-head with inflated pocketbooks as well? If Spidey has to check his virtue, even more so Batman.
According to many philosophies and faiths, wealth should serve only as a steppingstone to some further good and is always fraught with moral danger. We all used to recognize this; it was a commonplace. And this intuition, shared by various cultures across history, stands on firm empirical ground.
Over the past few years, a pile of studies from the behavioral sciences has appeared, and they all say, more or less, “Being rich is really bad for you.”
Bonus for book nerds! Adrian Tahourdin reports out of London on how to decode the ISBN, and on the sea change its adoption signaled in what we know about the books we read. The article is a bit of an amuse-bouche, so here are a couple of trails to follow, based on Tahourin’s references: Philip Bradley on the ISBN’s history and use, and David Whitaker (“the father of the ISBN”) on the classification system’s birth.
One senior editor at the time would spend half his working hours proof-reading the item; I think he quite enjoyed it. He must have known many of the ISBN prefixes by heart: 0 19 for Oxford, 0 521 for Cambridge, the somehow pleasing 0 224 for Jonathan Cape, and the equally pleasing 0 393 for Norton and 0 674 for Harvard. Another editor at the TLS used to like being tested on ISBN prefixes, but she recalls that particular challenge now with some (understandable) embarrassment. She’s probably not even aware that Cambridge University Press a few years ago changed their prefix from 521 to 107.
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.
We're running a short story contest based on Seattle Writing Prompts, judged by Matt Ruff! Come and join the party, we can't wait to read your stories.
Portals are important. Transition spaces from one place to another: from outside, to inside; from a public space into a private space; from the room where you clean yourself to the one where you dress yourself. Every door, of course, is a transition, and we do love doors in our culture, don't we? We love big modern glass doors, and thick wooden plank doors. We love revolving doors and automatic sliding doors.
Let's say you work in a skyscraper downtown. First, you leave your home. If you live in a condo or apartment, you may pass through two or three doors to do this. Then you, perhaps, walk to the bus stop where you pass through the front doorway onto a bus, tapping your card or paying your fare. You leave the bus, maybe through the back doorway, and enter your office building, walk across the lobby, perhaps through the open doors into the coffee shop. You walk through the elevator doors on one level, and through others on your destination level. Then, finally, through the doors into the office. Anywhere from four to eight transitions every morning, but how often do we think about any of them?
Some cities are better for doors than others. For strange and mostly modern doors, San Francisco never fails to delight. For grand doors, some that take your breath away, London delivers. New York, of course, has millions of doors, and the ones that face the street from the tall buildings are all unique.
But no buildings quite do doors like churches. They are structures that take transitions seriously, because if you are a religious person, moving from the outside world to the inside world means moving from the profane into the sacred.
My father was a minister, and I can still remember the doors on the church I grew up in. Mid-century modern, almost. Very tall and broad, made of blond lacquered wood with small round glass insets and large, straight wooden handles, separated from the bulk of the door by round dowels. Something about building a church or cathedral calls for bespoke doors of great measure. Think about the history you're up against! The Florence Bapistry, say, or when you're already inside, Holy Doors (or Royal Doors). Why, just look at this random Pinterest page of church doors.
So, it seemed to me — someone who spends very little time in churches anymore — that thinking about the kinds of life events that happen when you cross these thresholds might make for some good writing prompts. They certainly encapsulate the whole lifespan of a person.
They considered her a miracle. Premature by nearly a month, almost falling to a lung infection. They carried her, still less than five pounds, through the church doors where they would stand to have her baptized. Sometimes the ritual of showing up was important. Sometimes the ritual of being witnessed by a community was important. Sometimes you don't know if you will be able to make it through until tomorrow.
She was twelve. What she heard from the pulpit was a message against people like her. Against the secret she held, the self she hadn't confessed to any. And she wondered, what would happen when she was confirmed. Would there be some kind of retribution? Would that God they talk about strike her down as she stood there, in her white dress, asking to become part of a group who thought her bound for hell? Would she be struck down for walking through the doors into the church holding the thoughts she had?
She was thirty-five. The church doors were different, a new place. The hand she held walking through them, where lined up she saw all of their friends, and some of their family, cheering, belonged to her wife of all of ten minutes. A new beginning in a new place of acceptance.
She was thirty-eight. Now she carried the newborn, a plump and healthy ten-pound boy, through the doors. She thought of her own parents carrying her, and the stories they told of how they thought she might die but that she struggled, and she held her son closer with a promise that whatever was to come, they would face it openly and with love. What else could they offer him?
He was forty-four. She didn't want a service, really, but her friends refused to let her not have one. Services were for the living. So he carried her, parts of her in an urn, anyway. Back where there could be some stories shared and remembered, and where the last few painful years could be released. Tomorrow he'd fly home, after nearly four months by her side, caring for her. Now both of them were free, and that thought both weighed him down and freed him as he stepped across the portal into her church.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
It's Summertime and that means car trips with the kids! Both my rugrats love reading, and will happily while away the hours (that they're screen-restricted) with their nose in books. They're seven and ten right now. Any good suggestions for things to keep them happy and humming along so I can listen to my podcasts in peace, and have a bit of time to mess around setting up the tent without them whining that they have dirt in their sandals?
Bob, Queen Anne
Fortunately for you, I have a 12-year-old sister and 10-year-old brother (the eggs in my family have a long shelf life). I made a vow when they were younger, and that vow was to buy them books for every major holiday and to never question the origins of their birth, even though – and I'm not being melodramatic here – they might actually be demons.
Look at the evidence: they both shot out of the womb cackling instead of crying, we had to file their teeth down to a congenial size (pity we couldn't do the same for their heads), and last Valentine's Day my brother gave me a homemade card that read: "God has abandoned you. Love Max."
Nevertheless, I do love them. They affectionately call me "Spinster Queen," I affectionately call them human, and I have remained faithful to my vow, except for the Christmas I bought them a trampoline and rape whistles because their parents pissed me off.
Based on my experience, here are a few books your children might like: Wonderstruck, The Book Thief, the Captain Underpants series, and for your older child, anything by the Norwegian cartoonist Jason, whose minimalist stories are especially well suited for road trips (be forewarned: his work is rather dark... I hear my siblings doing spit takes with holy water while reading it).
Last night, a fantastic new kind of bookstore announced itself. X Y Z Gallery, located at 3rd and Washington in Pioneer Square, is a collaboration between art gallery Specialist and local publishers Mount Analogue, Gramma Poetry, and Cold Cube Press. (You can read more about them here.) It was a young, fashionable, and appropriately arty affair, with lots of costumes and glitter and fabulousness. Wait staff dressed in silver wandered the room, offering free Cold Cube zines, beer cozies, and packets of hot sauce to attendees. In the Mount Analogue space, artist Mary Anne Carter presented her new show, Women in the Style of Taco Bell, a collection of gaily colored mannequin hands holding tacos, giant stuffed hot sauce packets, and other pastel-and-geometric delights arranged throughout the large room. It felt appropriately glamorous, a celebration and skewering of femininity.
Publisher and risograph printer Cold Cube displayed copies of their books in a hallway just outside their new print shop space, along with several artist prints. Seen in one place like that, the Cold Cube aesthetic really comes through: every one of their books — each individual copy — is a work of art.
Gramma Poetry's book covers are works of art, literally — they're crafted, carefully, out of photographs. For the launch party, Gramma displayed the original photographs alongside the books, perfectly demonstrating X Y Z Gallery's twin commitments to literature and visual art.
And of course, the space is a working bookstore. Mount Analogue founder Colleen Louise Barry has selected a small assortment of beautiful independent books to display in the space — along with assorted tchotchke including pipes shaped like female body parts. If you fondly recall Pilot Books, the independent bookstore on Capitol Hill that burned brightly and briefly, you'll want to visit X Y Z as soon as possible. There's a new home for independent press in Seattle, and it exploded onto the scene last night.
University Book Store, 4326 University Way N.E., 634-3400, www.bookstore.washington.edu. Free. All ages.
New column! Every month, Olivia Waite pulls back the covers, revealing the very best in new and classic romance. We're extending a hand to you. Won't you take it?
Every first Thursday, this column will showcase four new romance releases and one revered classic or foundational influence from years past. All five books will end with a Happily Ever After, or at least a Happy For Now. (HEA and HFN for short — and now you’re in the know.) Many of these romances will be historicals; many will be LGBTQ; many will have a paranormal or SFF setting. Sometimes we’ll have all those things in one book, because I like all those things and romance is generous and full of gifts. Some books will be sugar-sweet with a single delicate kiss at the end; others will be hot enough that just cracking the cover will set off all the smoke alarms in a three-block radius.
No children will be imperilled, no women assaulted simply for shock value. The dogs will always live.
It’s no exaggeration to say I’ve loved this genre all my life. I stole my first romance novel from my mom’s shelf at the age of five – a kinky space opera romp by Johanna Lindsey. Imagine Jupiter Ascending starring Slave Leia and Conan the Barbarian, and you’ll have the general idea. Mom, appalled, took the book away when I was only halfway through. It took me ten pre-internet years to find another copy and get to that happy ending, but I did it. Romance readers: we’re unstoppable.
And I kept going. I read Julie Garwood in high school, Julia Quinn in college, and Jeannie Lin in grad school. I sold my first romance manuscript a year after graduating, watched my publisher go down in flames five years later, and started self-publishing my backlist in between writing longread analyses of individual books. You know, for fun. I have more romances on my shelves than I can possibly ever read, and more ideas for romance novels than I can ever write.
A mystery is at heart about justice, just as a science fiction story is about envisioning the future and fantasy is about imagining worlds profoundly different than the one we inhabit. Romance is the only genre whose formula is specifically and exclusively about people: the characters are strangers at the beginning and lovers at the end.
Romance novels are important because people are important.
And romance novels are at the center of a lot of people’s lives. Last week, on the farther coast, two thousand romance authors and industry professionals gathered for the Romance Writers of America’s annual national conference. This is not a fan event, but a professional one. Authors bought old friends rounds at the bar and swapped marketing tips with editors and self-publishers. They are mostly women, and along with all the craft and business workshops, they talked about feminism, about race and systemic bias in publishing, about disability and queerness and gender and religion. They have a great deal to say about women’s place in history, in literary culture, in the modern world and in the future.
Romance novels are good fun, and romance novels are big business. It’s a fascinating tangle of passion and money and meaning, and I’m so happy to be here to talk about it.
The Ruin of a Rake by Cat Sebastian (Avon Impulse: m/m historical)
Lord Courtenay is appallingly gorgeous, shockingly lewd, and socially outcast. Julian Medlock is upright, prim, and polished within an inch of his life. Each man openly loathes what the other stands for — so it’s a good thing for the romance that they’re both such frauds. This is a story about peeling back layers, about the walls people put up to defend their too-squishy hearts, about taking risks and making mistakes and trying again. Also the best example of sex-scenes-as-character-twist I’ve seen recently. If you like discovering the nurturing side of a Byronic hero, or watching a priggish accountant-type verbally cut someone to ribbons in his lover’s defense, this is your book.
Julian felt about Courtenay’s looks the way radicals thought about money: that it was deeply unfair and problematic for one person to possess such a disproportionate share.
Rogue Desire anthology by Adriana Anders, Dakota Gray, Amy Jo Cousins, Emma Barry, Stacy Agdern, Jane Lee Blair, Ainsley Booth, and Tamsen Parker (self-published: contemporary, various heat levels).
If you’re looking for escapist fluff you won’t find it here — the tone of this resistance-themed anthology is unsubtle, raw, anxious, and fierce by turns. Future historians and critics of romance fiction will make much of the way a certain orange malevolence lurks unnamed in the subtext. At times this book, so viscerally of-the-moment, poked too hard at wounds that are still raw and tender. At other times, though, the sublime gleams through. High points include Jane Lee Blair’s true-hearted pastor hero who cusses with sailor fluency, and Tamsen Parker’s sharp-sweet final story featuring a Jewish heroine whose working title was, no joke, “Hate-Pegging Conservative Josh Lyman.” Anthologies are always useful for testing out new-to-you authors, whether you like your books heavy on the sizzle (Dakota Gray) or populated by policy nerds (Emma Barry, who provided the advance copy. She knows my weaknesses far too well).
There was no excuse not to hold on with both hands when you found love. They’d work the rest out. First, though, they had to get through the sedition.
Haven by Rebekah Weatherspoon (self-published: erotic contemporary).
Rebekah Weatherspoon writes some of the best sex scenes around (and now has the Lambda Award to prove it). Her latest is the story of a smart-mouthed Manhattan fashion buyer and a surly, bearded tree of a mountain man: bonded by a shocking tragedy, they try to work out their tangled emotions through dark, beautifully nasty sex. It’s a terrible idea and everyone knows it, including our hero and heroine. This is BDSM romance for the advanced set, by an absolute mistress of the genre — the sex is certainly kinky, but the real danger is in the feelings. This couple’s story is like watching an avalanche in slow-motion: grand, strangely beautiful, and terrifying. I have read more extreme scenarios (Tiffany Reisz, anyone?) but never had my heart in my mouth quite this much. Readers in search of what slinks in the shadowy corners of the heart (and associated organs) will find this memorable and satisfying; those in search of less-intense fare should check out the candy-coated Sugar Baby novella trilogy or the juicy, queer-centric, pulpy fun of the Vampire Sorority Sisters series. (Rebekah created WOCinRomance to promote books written by women of color; I am both a Patreon supporter and a member of the monthly book club.)
“Push back turning you on?” she says as she slips on her bra. “A little bit.” “I mean, I can make today a living hell for you, you just say the word, Master Shep.”
Hoodwinked Hearts by Ainslie Paton (Carina Press: contemporary)
Everything in this heist romance is dialed up to eleven. Imagine a thousand Leverage fanfics piled up high, covered in glitter and set on fire. Hero Cleve Jones is a master burglar and lifelong conman. Heroine Aria Harp is the one person he’s never lied to: his mentor’s rebellious daughter, a shaved-headed, scorpion-tattooed identity thief (!) with a mile-high chip on her shoulder. The story is brief and fiery and rough as a striking match. The prose is hyperbolic and luxurious with occasional sharp shocks of electric truth. At one point there is an extended theft-and-fart-joke scene that does for flatulence what Wodehouse does for hangovers. Ainslie Paton may well be allergic to literary restraint, but let’s not offer to cure her until she’s written a few more books.
Cleve didn’t duck. He said the words Aria warned him not to say, “I love you,” then he stood there like a stone monument to men too smart to know better, so she swung at him and connected with his jaw.
Your Scandalous Ways by Loretta Chase
This was the first Loretta Chase I read and it upended all my thoughts on what heroines could be/do in a Regency romance.
Even if she’s embroiled in some light scandal, the typical Regency heroine is virginal, earnest, and morally above reproach. Francesca Bonnard is none of those things. Not since her titled husband broke her heart, ruined her name, and divorced her by act of Parliament. Now Francesca is a notorious courtesan in Venice, seducing the crowned heads of the Continent and wearing spectacular jewelry and low-cut gowns to the opera five nights a week. Her first POV line is a showstopper: “Penises. Everywhere.”
Due to the scandal of divorce, Francesca is an exile, and she pines for the glitter and social whirl of London lost. It’s as though she’s grieving the loss of the romance-novel story of her first marriage — the ballrooms, the aristocratic suitor, the dazzling courtship. Francesca is an ex-heroine as much as she is an ex-wife.
Nevertheless, at the novel’s end, Francesca is once again wedded, wealthy, titled, and planning parties for the height of the Season. She is, after all, still the heroine of this romance novel. The text never punishes her for her sins or forces her into a humiliating repentance: instead, everything that British society holds against her (manipulating callow young royals, seducing the hot jewel thief next door, refusing to let men boss her around) helps her get to this second, better HEA. She may be a fallen women, but she’s neither broken nor weak.
It’s downright inspiring.
Aside from Charles Schulz's Peanuts, American comics aren't great at melancholy. I've read plenty of depressing comics, and many upbeat comics, but the gentle downward slope of melancholy seems too subtle for most American cartoonists to capture.
The 20th issue of Chip Zdarsky and Matt Fraction's series Sex Criminals is about a breakup. Neither party seems to want to break up, but they both understand that they have to do it. They have sex, even though they know they shouldn't. They have trouble articulating the things they know they need to say. They are uncomfortable in the moment, and they both know it.
Meanwhile, in another scene, a middle-aged man and woman have sex. She's a retired sex worker. He's an academic. His reaction to her past is getting in the way. She's seen this before. She's tired of it, but she explains it to him anyway.
Sex Criminals has always been a special comic. It's based on a one-note gimmick of a plot — a man and a woman find that they can stop time with their orgasms, so they go on a fuck-fueled bank-robbery spree — but it has somehow expanded to incorporate a rainbow of sexual interests, personalities, and questions about what it means to be human. It's explored adult romantic relationships with a subtlety that most modern literary novels can't touch. The depiction of depression in an early issue felt truer and more honest than most memoir. For those reasons and more, the series continues to be a miracle of the American comics industry.
But issue number 20 is something else again. It has the feel of a deep-autumn Charlie Brown strip (albeit one with explicit illustrations of adult genitalia) and it perfectly captures the responsibility and difficulty of adult life. New readers will be entirely lost — hell, I can't keep track of who all these characters are, and I've been following the book since the beginning — but those who have read the whole thing will find a remarkable maturation in the book's already-mature themes. If Sex Criminals keeps up like this — and if it, uh, climaxes in a, uh, satisfying way — it could be one of the all-time great serialized comics.
I couldn't talk about Matthew Desmond's book Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City during last night's edition of the Reading Through It book club at Third Place Books Seward Park. Every time I tried to talk, I fumbled over my words, or said something that meant the exact opposite of what I was trying to say. This happens a fair amount when it comes time to talk about housing. Urban housing is such an important topic at the center of a giant Venn diagram of issues — homelessness, addiction, poverty, race — that I don't know where to begin.
Thankfully, everyone else in the group stepped up, and no thanks to me, we had a great hourlong conversation about the book. Evicted is a brilliant piece of reportage. Desmond tells a compelling story about people trying to obtain shelter in Milwaukee, and the narrative is so lively, so immediate, that you barely realize you're learning important facts about the housing crisis as you read about Evicted's protagonists. It's no wonder that the book won the Pulitzer Prize; Desmond's journalism is beyond reproach.
Aside from the refreshing lack of Donald Trump talk, I most enjoyed how the conversation about Evicted was rooted in local current events. We discussed Seattle's checkered history with low-income housing and the city's inadequate response to homelessness and rent spikes. Most of us agreed that the answer was not to simply stick ugly low-income housing off in a corner of the city, but to incorporate housing into all parts of Seattle, to create a city where poor and rich live side-by-side, so they can better understand each other.
But Evicted also inspired conversation about how much work it is to be poor, about why America demonizes the poor, about the predatory systems that exist to take advantage of poor Americans, draining them of every last cent. It's a book that couldn't be more appropriate for this moment if it was published yesterday, and while most of us found the book to be more than a little depressing, we all agreed that it was exquisitely written.
Next month, the Reading Through It book club meets at Third Place Books Seward Park to discuss Naomi Klein's No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump's Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need, a guide to stop resisting and start creating an alternative. Join us on Wednesday, September 6th. From now until then, the book is 20% off at Third Place.
The good folks at Seattle independent online audio-bookseller Libro.fm have collected audio clips of their summer picks. If you're looking to sample a book or two before you head out on vacation, you should give this post a try.
A special message from Jeff Bezos (via The Onion):
As you might imagine, I often get asked by young entrepreneurs for advice on how to start a business. What many seem to want is some sort of trick, some magic set of tools that will allow them to launch a thriving startup from scratch. Well, there’s no magic involved, but the keys to success are quite simple: Value your customers, hire well, find a market that isn’t being served, and realize that someday I will utterly crush you.
The name of Norman Telos’ car was an automatic talk show joke. The Tork rhymed with stork, pork and cork. When the talking heads were done making fun of the Tork they went out and bought one because the Tork was the best two passenger sedan since the model T. Its diesel electric engine was the most efficient one on the market. Acceleration was better than any sports car. With 2 crossing roll beams and a domed roof it was the safest car around. The price was in the midrange of two passenger cars.
Sometimes a high sense of self-regard can be its own downfall, is all I'm saying.
An editor at Marvel Comics posted an innocuous selfie of a post-work milkshake party. That editor then received a deluge of hateful comments from comics-fan trolls. What did the editor do wrong? Well, uh, she's a woman.
She was immediately swarmed by a squadron of fanbabies furious that such “fake geek girls” had made their way into Marvel’s inner sanctum... According to Antos, the private messages she got in response to her tweet were considerably less polite. “[T]he internet is an awful, horrible, and disgusting place,” she wrote, noting that she woke up Sunday, two days after she posted the selfie, "to a slew of more garbage tweets and DMs. For being a woman. In comics. Who posted a selfie of her friends getting milkshakes."
Colleen Louise Barry, the publisher at Seattle small press Mount Analogue, told me back in April that she dreamed of opening up a space somewhere in the city, a venue as nontraditional and artistic as the titles Mount Analogue publishes. She was reticent to discuss the idea — it seemed too crazy, in a city with booming real estate prices, to imagine — but eventually I coaxed it out of her. She talked about a performance space, a gallery, a small bookshop, and a space that functions as a never-ending salon, “a place where everything can coincide and collide into each other.”
It was hard to prize the idea away from all the caveats that Barry piled around it: such a place could never work. Nobody’s really done anything like that before. Artists can’t afford to live in Seattle anymore, let alone open businesses. Maybe one day after the economy collapses it’ll be a viable idea again.
What a difference 120 days makes: This Thursday as part of Pioneer Square’s First Thursday Artwalk, Barry will be co-presenting the grand opening party for X Y Z Gallery, a “collective arts space” that houses four different arts organizations. Alongside Specialist, a contemporary art gallery, you’ll find the headquarters for three young small presses.
Mount Analogue, of course, is one of the publishers in X Y Z. Barry is single-handedly blurring the line between visual art, performance art, and the literary arts. Her books are bizarre and beautiful objects which tend to find poetry in odd places. (My favorite Mount Analogue title so far is Final Rose, a book-length poem by Hailie Theoharides composed entirely out of subtitled screenshots from The Bachelor.) In her space, Barry will present an installation by Mary Anne Carter titled “Women in the Style of Taco Bell” alongside special performances.
Nearby, you’ll find the headquarters for Gramma Poetry, an ambitious young poetry press that has already become one of the most vital publishers in town. Gramma published Sarah Galvin’s latest (and, so far, greatest) poetry collection Ugly Time, and they most recently published Anastacia-Renée’s (v.). They’ll be presenting a collection of art that has served as book covers for Gramma’s releases.
Last, and probably least-known, of the three is local risograph printer Cold Cube Press. Cold Cube is a publisher and for-hire press that is remaking the aesthetic of what we expect books to be. You can identify a Cold Cube book from twenty paces: their risograph printing process isn’t as harsh as the gaudy processes used by most modern publishers. Each book feels hand-processed: if your typical John Grisham paperback is the publishing equivalent of factory farming, Cold Cube books are free-range and organic. They’ll be showing off their new printing studios throughout the evening.
The opening of X Y Z Gallery is a big moment for the Seattle literary scene. It represents three independent presses joining forces and carving a space in the world for themselves. By making a space for artists and lovers of the literary arts, this could represent the dawning of a new Seattle aesthetic: something young and warm and handmade and beautiful. You’ll want to get in on this.
Seattle Mystery Bookshop, the mystery-centric bookstore that has held down a storefront on Cherry Street in Pioneer Square for decades, is for sale as of today. You may recall that Seattle Mystery Bookshop ran a GoFundMe in January of last year. In a note on the store's blog, owner J.B. Dickey says that successful fundraiser "bought us a year – but barely, and that has taken its toll." He says another fundraiser would continue an unsustainable business model.
I visited the store this afternoon and talked with booksellers Fran and Amber about the news. (Dickey was out of town but is due to return tomorrow.) They confirmed that if it doesn't find a buyer, the store will at least be open through the end of August and early September. "Judy [J.A.] Jance is scheduled for a reading in September, and we're not going to miss that," Fran told me.
Why is the store on the market? The booksellers confirm to me that sales are down, but they believe it's because Pioneer Square foot traffic, in general, is on the decline. Without Elliott Bay Book Company to anchor the satellite bookstores, bookish tourists don't visit Pioneer Square anymore. Additionally, the city has failed to support the neighborhood, and the uncertainty surrounding the soon-to-be-demolished Alaskan Way Viaduct looms over local businesses.
Fran and Amber both firmly believe the bookstore would be successful if it moved to a more active, vibrant neighborhood with foot traffic — somewhere like Queen Anne or Fremont. An enthusiastic young owner who loves books would likely do very well by combining the store with a cafe and creating a Seattle Mystery Bookshop for Seattle as it is now — something like a crime-minded version of Ada's Technical Books.
Interested buyers, if they purchase the store, would receive the store's stock, access to a staff with more than a half-century collective bookselling experience, and the goodwill of a tight-knit community of loyal mystery authors. The shop has hosted hundreds, if not thousands, of mystery authors over the years, and some of them travel to Seattle Mystery Bookshop on their own dime to launch their latest books into the world.
You should let prospective buyers know about this incredible deal. And in the meantime, Seattle Mystery Bookshop is throwing a sale for the rest of the month. Visit their site for more details, and stop by to show your support.
PEN America's digital archive is now available online. It's a free and fully searchable guide to recordings of some of the biggest writers in the world from 1960 to today. Some highlights:
Haruki Murakami's "first speaking engagement ever," from way back in 1991.
A 1986 group reading with Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro, Harold Brodkey, Robertson Davies, and Cynthia Ozick.
Buckminster Fuller and Pablo Neruda contributing to a conversation about "The Writer in the Electronic Age."
Diane Ackerman, Barry Lopez, and David Quammen discussing a writer's connection to place.
Feel free to search the archives for your own favorites, and let us know what you find.
Independent booksellers and librarians made Jeannette Walls's 2005 coming-of-age memoir The Glass Castle into a global bestseller. While Castle was obviously well-written and funny and heartbreaking, it's hard to imagine the book breaking through into the mainstream without the passionate support of librarians and booksellers who understood the value of a meaningful coming-of-age story.
The film adaptation of Glass Castle (starring Brie Larson, Woody Harrelson, and Naomi Watts) is coming out on Friday, August 11th, and because the literary community made the book such a huge success, the good folks at film PR firm Allied Integrated Marketing wanted to make sure that bookish folks got to see it first. So we're partnering with them to give away some free VIP ticket prize packs to the Seattle premiere of Glass Castle, which screens next Tuesday evening at Pacific Place.
All you have to do to enter is visit our Twitter feed or our Facebook page and follow the directions there. If you retweet the Glass Castle tweet or comment on the Glass Castle Facebook post by 5 p.m. today (August 1st), you're entered to win. That's it! We'll notify the winners by tomorrow evening.
Said the prayer to the dream
I don't believe you want to hear me
Said the dream to paper
I don't believe you want to hold me
Said the paper to the wind
I don't believe you want to help me
Said the wind to the man
I don't believe you see me
The man felt the wind whisper in his ear and swatted the dream
that sounded like a prayer that was held by the paper
In one breath, the wind became an answer
no one ever asked the question to
In one dream, the wind forgot its voice, in another dream the paper
was torn before it learned how to say its own name
In the first dream, the prayer learned what walking through
blackness feels like — it is the opposite of abandonment
In the last dream, all the names are written on the paper
in the form of a prayer that sounds
like the wind and feels like the breath
of a flower across your cheek
Great news! Seattle's next Civic Poet will be Anastacia-Renée, who until recently was the poet-in-residence at the Hugo House. Appropriately, I just wrote about Anastacia-Renee's ubiquitousness a couple weeks ago, and I wrote about the importance of the Civic Poet program last week. It's like it was meant to be.
From the city's announcement:
“When poetry takes center stage, tension filled spaces become safe literary hubs where community members can gather to share and celebrate the plethora of local, historical, and contemporary voices,” says Anastacia-Reneé. “I’m excited to forge creative new literary paths that lay beyond the standard expectations of poetry.”
Hopefully, we'll be talking with Anastacia-Renée in the next couple of weeks about her plans for the new gig. She has quite a legacy to live up to; the first Civic Poet, Claudia Castro Luna, has done a great deal to represent poetry in the city. We can't wait to see what she has in store.
If you frequent the San Juan Islands, you've likely seen Tom Small's sculptures — shaped in stone, but the opposite of ponderous. This Thursday, sponsor Arundel Books is celebrating the launch of a new book celebrating Small's work, on their Chatwin imprint, and you're invited to attend.
The book's focus is expansive, gracious images highlighting the sculptor's work and process; the launch party doubles as the opening for a new exhibition, so it should be a truly immersive experience. Stop by Arundel Books in Pioneer Square this Thursday night from 6 to 8 p.m. to sample the sculpture, meet the artist, and help launch a beautiful new book into the world.
Sponsors like Arundel Books 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.
Over at The Smart Set, Paula Marantz Cohen wrote a terrific piece about how one negative book review — written by Norman Mailer — changed the course of a friendship and a career.
If the personal is political, as the ’60s activists used to say, the political is, even more, inherently personal. When a smart, highly sensitive man like [Norman] Podhoretz is dramatically misread by most everyone he respects, when his dearest friend makes a laughing stock of him in print, is it surprising that he would be driven to separate himself socially and politically from everything such people stand for?
Can negative book reviews inspire a person, eventually, to become a horrific apologist for one of the dumbest wars in American history? You'll have to read Cohen's piece to find out.