Your Week in Readings: The best literary events from June 25th - July 1st

Monday, June 25: Hiking Washington's Fire Lookouts Reading

Mountaineers Books explains Amber Casali's book this way: "[Washington's] fire lookouts not only have played an important role in forest fire management, but have also been temporary homes for the interesting people who spend summers isolated from civilization to watch over the forests below." Casali's book details 44 such lookouts and describes the hikes. Tonight, she'll talk about her favorite hikes. University Book Store, 4326 University Way N.E., 634-3400, http://www2.bookstore.washington.edu/, 7 pm, free.

Tuesday, June 26: Clarion West Presents: Ken Macleod

The Scottish author of science fiction comes to Seattle as part of sci-fi writing group Clarion West's famous summer reading series. MacLeod writes novels about unions in the future and the ultimate fusion of computer and human consciousness. This ought to be a fascinating evening. University Book Store, 4326 University Way N.E., 634-3400, http://www2.bookstore.washington.edu/, 7 pm, free.

Wednesday, June 27: American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin Reading

Terrance Hayes is one of America's best poets. His latest book collects 70 sonnets written to the assassin who will one day kill Hayes. Hayes will likely also discuss the work he's doing to revive and recontextualize the work of the deceased poet Etheridge Knight. Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute, 104 17th Ave S. https://www.langstonseattle.org/, 7 pm, free.

Thursday, June 28: Side Life Reading

See our Event of the Week column for more details.

Third Place Books Lake Forest Park, 17171 Bothell Way NE, 366-3333, http://thirdplacebooks.com, 7 pm, free.

Friday, June 29: A Storytelling Event

At the time of this writing, the only information that I have about this event is that it's hosted by Jane Wong and it involves poets from Cave Canem, Kundiman, and CantoMundo Poets. That's enough to earn my vote for the best event of the night. CantoMundo is an organization that supports and elevates the work of Latinx poets. Kundiman self-describes as "a national organization dedicated to the creation and cultivation of Asian American creative writing." And Cave Canem is an organization that has long represented and inspired Black poets. Open Books, 2414 N. 45th St, 633-0811, http://openpoetrybooks.com, 7 pm, free.

Saturday, June 30: Shades and Shadows

Tim Long writes novels about zombies and war. Crystal Connor writes books about witchcraft and horror. Tyrell Johnson's "The Wolves of Winter is a post-apocalyptic novel set in a wintry world. University Book Store, 4326 University Way N.E., 634-3400, http://www2.bookstore.washington.edu/, 4 pm, free.*

Sunday, July 1: Yoon Ha Lee

Sci-fi author Yoon Ha Lee, who also creates video games, will appear in conversation with local sci-fi author (and Gar LaSalle Storyteller Award winner) E Lily Yu. Wing Luke Museum, 719 S. King St 623-5124, http//wingluke.org, 2 pm, free.

Literary Event of the Week: Side Life reading at Third Place Books

Recently, I've been thinking about the formula for the only two plots in existence: someone comes to town, someone leaves town. Cory Doctorow has made hay of these two story structures, of course — it's the title of one of his books — but that framework also applies to a hell of a lot more than just fiction.

Take, for instance, the internet. When I first came online — I was a late bloomer, this was 2000 or so — you had to go hunt for stuff online. You were a stranger, wandering the internet, going from site to site. Now, of course, the strangers on the internet come to us in our little enclaves: Facebook, Twitter.

Two recent science fiction books have been swallowing my brain and jockeying for attention recently: Bandwidth by Eliot Peper and Side Life by Seattle author Steve Toutonghi. And I think part of the reason I've been thinking so much about these books is that they address this duality of storytelling. In one novel, everything comes to you. In the other, you reach out to everything else.

Here's Bandwidth's description of the feed, a central conceit of the book:

The feed was your personal lens through which to gaze into the digital abyss, the algorithmic curator that delivered what you needed when you needed it from the surfeit. It was the permeable membrane through which you experienced and participated in culture, the arbiter of what you found when you searched and what you discovered when you dipped into the rolling, throbbing cosmos of global conversation. Any individual voice or channel or vector was necessarily partisan. But the feed itself...The feed was infrastructure. Plumbing didn't know or care about a resident's sexual preferences any more than sidewalks pondered the daydreams of pedestrians. The feed was neutral. It was inviolable. It was sacred.

If this model — the future delivered to you via feed — is sacred, Side Life's technology is decidedly profane. Vin, a tech entrepreneur on the skids, accidentally discovers a new technology that moves him out into the universe in new and unexpected ways.

Vin has no memory between blacking out in the crèche and finding himself here. This must be a lucid dream. It pulls at his awareness, requiring attention the way that driving tired does. He's confused and trying to remember who he is. He says to himself, "My name is Vin Walsh." His dream responds with mysterious certainty: "I am Winston Churchill.

When Vin enters these podlike crèches, he finds himself in someone else's body in another time and another place. At first it feels like virtual reality, a game of some sort. But then he discovers he can alter reality in the worlds he's accessing. He's not passive. He's active.

I'm inclined to want to be the someone leaving town, the person walking out into the world, and maybe for that reason the story of Side Life appeals to me more than the one in Bandwidth. But this seems to be the duality we're facing as we move into the future. Are we going to be passive citizens, receiving the information that some algorithm has picked out for us? Or are we going to move about in the universe (or universes,) breaking things and figuring out our role?

Steve Toutonghi reads this Thursday at Third Place Books Lake Forest Park, 17171 Bothell Way NE, 366-3333, http://thirdplacebooks.com, 7 pm, free.

The Sunday Post for June 24, 2018

Each week, the Sunday Post highlights a few articles we enjoyed this week, good for 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.

Not Caring is a Political Art Form

Rebecca Solnit is going to save our souls by holding up a mirror until we can’t look away. There is nothing the internet does better than provide stories to attract our eyes from the mirror, sometimes such a maze of stories that you can follow it anywhere, land anywhere you want to go. Here, Solnit examines the story of not caring, and where it really leads.

Empathy enlarges us by connecting us to the lives of others, and in that is a terrible vulnerability, one that parents know intimately, terrifyingly. If something happens to someone or something you love, it hurts you too, potentially devastates you forever. The prevention of feeling is an old strategy with many tactics. There are so many ways to really not care, and we’ve seen most of them exercised energetically these last couple of years and really throughout American history. They are narrative strategies and most of them are also fundamentally dishonest.
Dealing With a Book Thief

You know those optical illusions where it flips from a rabbit to an old lady between one blink and the next? This story’s kind of like that: it’s about a man who systematically and comprehensively robbed Little Free Libraries in North Chicago over the course of four months, and depending on where you start, you may end up thinking about how petty and screwed up it is to steal from a library, especially a community-tended Little Free Library. Or you might end up reflecting on how that practice might look rich and indulgent, and thus exploitable, to someone without the resources to imagine painting pretty little boxes and filling them with books.

Still. “Avid reader.” Somebody oughtta clock this guy.

The second time, Richard happened to be home when he saw a van pull up to his Little Free Library book-sharing box. He watched as a man jumped out, took every book out of the Library, and put the books in his car. Richard went out and spoke with him. Richard explained the purpose of a Little Free Library, but the man insisted that he was just an "avid reader," and drove off.
Books Where the Dog Dies, Rewritten So the Dog Doesn't Die

Bonus round! All the stories that made child-you weep uncontrollably (Old Yeller, Where the Red Fern Grows), plus a few that made you weep much later in life, rewritten so the dog lives. Thank you, co-founder Martin McClellan, for knowing our hearts so well.

"Who is this dog?" Odysseus asked at last, smiling through tears

As though he did not know his own pup.

"Who is this good boy?

Who is this good boy?

Who is this good boy?"

Whatcha Reading, Karen Maeda Allman?

Every week we ask an interesting figure what they're digging into. Have ideas who we should reach out to? Let it fly: info@seattlereviewofbooks.com. Want to read more? Check out the archives.

Karen Maeda Allman is the author events co-ordinator at the Elliott Bay Book Company. A former nurse and punk rocker, she has served on numerous jury and awards panels, including the Washington State Book Awards, the DSC Prize, NEA Big Read Book Review Comittee, and the 2018 National Book Award for Translated Literature. Karen was recognized by Seattle Arts and Lectures in 2017 by being named as a Prowda Literary Champion.

What are you reading now?

One of the great pleasures of bookselling is talking about books with customers, sales reps, publicists, and all sorts of people I meet while working on author events out in the community. Recently, I attended Book Expo, which is an annual trade show and publishing event, and during a meeting with one of the publicists from Simon and Schuster, I for a book recommendation. She told me about one of their fall books, a memoir by Sarah Smarsh called Heartland: a Daughter of the Working Class Reconciles an American Divide. I was immediately struck by the fact that this book is set just outside of Wichita. I was actually born in Wichita and I know nothing about the city or about the farming communities that surround it. I didn’t ever think about this place and as I read this book, I began to wonder why.

Sarah Smarsh’s family has farmed for 5 generations, but her family and her community’s relationship with the land is unraveling. The reasons are part economic and part political, but the crushing inequality and unfairness that members of her community face is intensifying. Life was always hard, but not this hard. She also lays out some of the ways in which her political views and alliances have changed. Any notion of a one-size-fits-all rural point of view crumbles pretty quickly.

Our country is clearly polarized and this book is one that can help us understand some people in a part of the our country that urban blue staters might not think twice about or maybe think about with rancor. I’m hoping it’s a conversation starter.

What did you read last?

Like many people, I’ve been captivated by Lauren Groff’s storytelling, both in her novel, Fates and Furies, and now in her short story collection, Florida. Her stories have an element of spookiness rarely seen in the literary novels I’ve read.

I’ve also been enchanted by Anne Youngson’s novel, Meet Me at the Museum (Flatiron), in which an English farm wife begins a conversation through her correspondence with a Danish professor. Initially the letters are about the Tollund Man, the perfectly preserved body of an Iron Age man that is the subject of the professor’s expertise, but the emotional intimacy between the two grows as they begin to share the details of their lives. I’m not always a fan of epistolary novels, but this one pulled me right into their lives. Tollund Man also fascinated Seamus Heaney, who wrote a poem about him, and, having seen a similarly well preserved Iron Age woman elsewhere, I understand his eerie appeal.

What are you reading next?

I have a huge to-be-read pile next to my bed, one by my desk at home, another under a pew in the living room and let’s not even talk about what’s waiting by my desk at work. At the top of my pile is: Nicole Chung’s memoir, All You Can Ever Know (Catapult), the story of a Korean American adoptee’s relationship with her white, adoptive family in Oregon and her search for her birth family. Next, I think it’s Tim Mohr’s Burning Down the Haus: Punk Rock, Revolution and the Fall of the Berlin Wall (Algonquin Books). I’m fascinated by Berlin and want to learn more about the role of punks in the political resistance of the time.

A friend from one of the organizations I’ve worked with for years stopped in yesterday and told me that I must read I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness (Convergent) by Austin Channing Brown. "Read this and then I want to talk about it,” he told me. I’m Still Here, written by a Black, Christian writer, promises to help us analyze our failures at achieving racial justice (and examines the connection she makes between white Evangelicalism and rising racial hostility in our country). Perhaps she is trying to give us some hope as well as some tough love, which I think is much needed. Is it a coincidence that Austin Channing Brown will appear in Seattle on August 2 at 7 pm at Quest Church, 1401 NW Leary Way? Yes, actually.

But that’s not all. On my way out of the store tonight, I checked my mailbox and there was an advance copy of Instruments of the True Measure by Laura Da’ and that went straight into my book bag. She’s one of my favorite poets and I’m sure that’s exactly what I’ll need to read on the bus to Bellingham tomorrow.

The Help Desk: Tips for the masculine romance reader

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. Cienna is on vacation this week; this column was originally published in November of 2015.

Dear Cienna,

In the military I was taught to keep it high and tight — that's my hair, of course, but also a good attitude towards life. Efficient, controlled, prepared, and to the point. But, it turns out, I have a certain softness for rich Victorian fiction that curls in on itself and never leaves any aside unsaid. Middlemarch has stolen my heart. Jane Austen makes me giggle. Cienna, I'm a man's man. I should be reading spy novels and hard stuff. What is it about those books? What the hell is wrong with me?

Burt in Burien

Dear Burt,

No one is asking you to make your own beef jerky out of old cow parts, ejaculate on a pile of fawning virgins, or any other questionable chores ascribed to the elusive “man’s man.” There’s no conflict with loving military precision and efficiency, and enjoying romance novels. In fact, the two are very complementary.

A good romance novel allows you to suspend logic and control for a few hours and be swept up in an emotional story that manages to be dramatic through its inevitable happy ending. We all want happy endings; that’s the allure of the genre. And massage.

In fact, last month, after a particularly bad date that took place at a supermarket cheese counter – where I ingested an hour’s worth of free cubes while chanting, “My God, Cienna, which vindictive crone did you offend to deserve this romantic hellscape?” – I curled up with a Tillamook baby loaf and a feminist romance novel and read until I believed in the concept of romance again (the lurid sex scenes that somehow never include the word “penis” helped).

There is nothing wrong with you. I suspect your military buddies could say that you have shitty taste in books but it would be a pity to deny them that – one of life’s sweetest pleasures is judging other people’s reading lists. Plus, it’s not like you’re carrying around a signed copy of Left Behind.

I suggest you join a book club filled with people (most likely women) who will be thrilled to discuss Victorian bodice rippers with you and very impressed by how poetically you can describe a penis and breasts without ever using the word “penis” and “breasts.” Or, if you’re not quite ready to be out-and-proud about your taste in books, at least consider these feminist historical romance writers: Courtney Milan, Cecelia Grant and Sarah MacLean. I bet you’ll enjoy them.

KISSES,

Cienna

Book News Roundup: Third Place Books to donate 20 percent of all sales tomorrow to RAICES

  • This Saturday, all three Third Place Books locations will be donating 20 percent of all sales "to help reunite families separated at the US-Mexico border." Their charity of choice is the RAICES Family Reunification and Bond Fund, and of course you could donate to the organization directly. But if there are any books you've been meaning to pick up lately, this is a great opportunity to help a good cause while you do so.

  • Amazon employees have circulated a letter to Jeff Bezos demanding that Amazon stop providing facial-recognition software to law enforcement agencies.

Our company should not be in the surveillance business; we should not be in the policing business; we should not be in the business of supporting those who monitor and oppress marginalized populations.
  • Congratulations to SRoB columnist Nisi Shawl! We can't wait to read the sequel to Everfair.
  • Former Seattle poet Eric McHenry is searching newspaper archives for mentions of poets and posting the results on Instagram:

Ballard's Twice Sold Tales needs a new home

Back in January, the MyBallard blog reported that developers had purchased the property housing Ballard's Twice Sold Tales. No timeline was announced, but the shoe has finally dropped: yesterday, owner John MacBeath Watkins announced that he has until March 31, 2019, to find a new home for the store.

The sale is no surprise: The lot's in prime residential territory (a 173-unit apartment building is planned for the space). But it is a shame. The opening of the new Nordic Museum is bringing a flood of foot traffic up Market Street, and Twice Sold Tales fits in with other shops that are making that stretch a great walk from downtown Ballard. Ballardites talk big about preserving the character of the neighborhood; that's not going to happen unless we protect small businesses as well as large.

Watkins is looking for a new place to land and, eventually, hands to help with the move. Sounds look a chance for Seattle's book community to pitch in for one of its own.

Portrait Gallery: Roxane Gay

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

Thursday, June 21: Roxane Gay
Last week, we reviewed a timely reissue of Roxane Gay's debut short story collection. Tonight, Gay is in town with Not That Bad, an anthology of women’s stories in these #MeToo-y times. No matter what book you leave this reading with, you’ll be satisfied. Gay is one of our most important writers.
University Temple United Methodist Church, 1415 NE 43rd St, 634-3400, http://www2.bookstore.washington.edu/, 7 pm, $16.99 - $26.99.

The mediocre white men strike back

So some of the pissed-off white dudes who hated The Last Jedi have started a new Twitter handle. They're claiming to have a "team of producers...offering to cover the budget for a remake of The Last Jedi in order to save Star Wars." They claim, "This isn't a joke, we're ready to have the convo now!" (Note: if you have to launch out of the gate by announcing that you're not a joke, people are probably right to assume you're a joke.)

What does this have to do with the Seattle Review of Books? Gaze upon this tweet, ye mighty, and despair:

Holy Christ this is dumb. This is entitled fan thinking at its worst. I have long been an advocate for editors and the editing process, but I have to say that "the best writing comes from a group of people" is the single wrongest creative thought I've seen in a good long while. Pretty much every novel you've ever read started as "one writer sitting in a room." And while those novels are of course edited and revised, they remain the product of a singular vision.

I really liked The Last Jedi. In fact, it's the first Star Wars film I've really liked since I saw The Return of the Jedi in theaters when I was 7. I loved what writer/director Rian Johnston did to open up the universe of Star Wars: he removed the series's constricting ties to the Skywalker family bloodline, and he added nuance to the battle lines.

In retrospect, those two decisions were bound to anger the middle-aged white men who love Star Wars. Mediocre white men love the plodding and predictable stories in which a white man is destined for greatness. It validates the way they think the world ought to be. And those same men hate nuance; they want easy-to-understand stories of good and evil, because it mirrors their uncomplicated worldview, in which anything they disagree with is needlessly "partisan" and therefore bad.

These people are fools and they don't deserve a real argument. And anyway, the best response to this Twitter handle has already been written, by Last Jedi writer director Rian Johnson:

Thursday Comics Hangover: Very good, Jeeves

Why isn't Roger Langridge one of the most popular cartoonists in the world? His cartoons are so lushly rendered that they demand repeated inspection, his stories are clear and funny and thoughtful. He can draw both a pratfall and an existential crisis — and even more impressively, he can make the pratfall incredibly sad and the existential crisis laugh-out-loud funny.

Langridge's best work, in my estimation, is Fred the Clown, a lovely little collection of short comic strips about a lonely clown, from Fantagraphics Books. It's full of poetry and music and tears and laughter. Everyone who loves comics should own a copy. And somehow, Langridge is still working in relative obscurity.

Last week Langridge published an entire comic book for free on his website. Even better, it's an adaptation of a public domain story titled "Leave It to Jeeves" by P.G. Wodehouse. (The original story is available here.)

"I've always wanted to do a P. G. Wodehouse graphic novel adaptation," Langridge writes in the post, "and the only way I know of of making that happen is to actually do a few pages and see whether I can get anyone interested in publishing some more." We should all lament the fact that we live in a universe in which publishers aren't tossing Langridge money to do whatever he wants to do, but we should be grateful, at least, that we get to read new work by Langridge for free.

And it turns out, obviously, that Wodehouse and Langridge are a delightful combination. The Wooster and Jeeves relationship works remarkably well in comics form, and Langridge gets some great comics history references across in a non-obtrusive way. And the reveal of Corky's painting in the story is a hilarious payoff that perfectly demonstrates why this story deserves to be adapted into a visual medium.

Look, I could go on, but the point is simple: Roger Langridge wants to do comics adaptations of Wodehouse novels. Someone needs to make sure this happens, please.

Inside Amazon's Spheres

After a false start back in the winter, I finally toured the Amazon Spheres over the weekend. From the outside, the balls look enormous. From the inside, they strike you as much smaller — though it must be said that architects successfully built a lot of surprising nooks and crannies into the building's layout.

When you walk into the Spheres, you see an enormous wall of ferns and ivies and other plants, with nozzles spraying mist intermittently around the building. Follow the stairs up and you'll find a number of places for Amazon employees to sit and work: some couches, a crow's nest, a conference room, some café-style seating around a General Porpoise outlet selling doughnuts for just over four bucks a pop. On the very top of the center ball, you'll find a lounge with deck chairs, on which employees can lounge in the sun and peck away on their laptops.

I'm not very conversant in plants, but I know an expensive specimen when I see it. The lush greenery in the Spheres is gorgeous, and you could very well lose a few hours walking around, breathing in the richly oxegynated air and gazing at all the greens and pinks and yellows. These plants are well cared for.

As I walked around the Spheres with the general public on a sunny Saturday afternoon, I just kept thinking about how expensive everything was — how much it must have cost to build the damn things in the first place, how much all the plants cost, and how high the monthly bill must be to maintain them in such an unnatural environment. I thought about how inflated the costs at the employee snack bars were, and what percentage of those high prices floated back to Amazon.

And then I thought about how hard Amazon fought against the employee head tax, which would have raised funds to house Seattle's rapidly growing homeless population. While it's true that Amazon has contributed to Mary's Place, an amazing local charity that does good work in a city wracked with a housing crisis, it's also true that charitable giving alone isn't enough.

A problem like Seattle's housing crisis, with so many moving parts and so many difficult decisions to make, demands solutions that come from outside both the market and charity sectors. Amazon didn't just say no to that tax — it actively fought against it, a remarkable statement from a company that has traditionally refrained from making controversial public statements of almost any kind.

Look around the Spheres and you'll see what Amazon would rather spend its money on. Something beautiful, for sure, but something incredibly exclusive. Something flashy, something that everyone desires. A status symbol. A place in the middle of a booming city, built on some of the most expensive land on the west coast. A large building in which nobody lives.

Love is kicking our asses

Published June 20, 2018, at 12:00pm

Donna Miscolta reviews Ivelisse Rodriguez's Love War Stories.

In Ivelisse Rodriguez's latest, girls growing into women take up arms against their own hearts.

Read this review now

Talking with the creators of Liminal Seattle, a crowdsourced map of Seattle's weirdest places and events

You know how sometimes you lose chunks of your life on the internet in a heartbeat? When I first encountered the website Liminal Seattle, I immediately lost half an hour, just clicking around and reading the crowdsourced stories of weird experiences Seattleites have had in the region. In fact, I defy you to maintain self-control while flicking around Liminal Seattle. The little pinpoints on the map, with their tiny descriptions of bizarre occurrences, are just interesting enough to get you to click through. Consider the ghost canoe in the center of Lake Washington, "apparently with a Lime Bike on deck," or the sad story of Edward Lighthart, a full-grown man who wandered out of Discovery Park with no recollection of his own personal history. The map also demarcates Seattle's very own "Hellmouth" — the lines of which seem to hew very closely to the borders of South Lake Union. I talked with the founders of Liminal Seattle about weirdness and what they're hoping to do with all these stories they've been collecting. (If you have a weird Seattle story, you can contribute to Liminal Seattle here. Also, you can sign up for the new Liminal Seattle newsletter here.)

What do you do when you're not working on Liminal Seattle?

Jeremy Puma: By day I’m a desk jockey at the UW. In my free time I teach and write about urban foraging.

Garrett Kelly: I’m co-founder of Hollow Earth Radio, a non-profit community radio station in the Central District (104.9 FM, KHUH.)

How did the idea for Liminal Seattle come to you?

JP: Garrett and I met during the heyday of blogging, when the internet wasn’t so toxic, and started posting about these topics probably around 2003 or so. We’ve kept in touch, primarily online, since then, and a year or so ago started tracking weirdnesses — dreams and such — on a personal level. One day, we kind of simultaneously had the idea to start putting our experiences on a map, and Garrett suggested we open it up to anyone.

GK: Yeah, for a while now we’ve been keeping track of our dreams, ‘coincidences’, strange encounters, etc. - just among a small group of people. I’ve long wanted to do something that acts sort of like ‘Google Trends’ (which tracks sudden spikes on google search queries) for the collective unconscious. I’ve just been curious about whether there are particular nights when people tend to dream about a similar thing? This map is an extension of that, because we’re trying to see if there are strange places or experiences that are actually quite common but go unnoticed because everyone is afraid to talk about this weird stuff happening to them.

You refer several times to weirdness as though it’s on a measurable scale. Could you give us an example of low weirdness and high weirdness?

JP: I wouldn’t say there’s an actual scale we’d use, but we’re definitely more interested in experiences that are odder than your standard ghost story or UFO sighting. We want those, too, but we’re super intrigued by experiences that are kind of “off of the paranormal charts.” As an example of “high weirdness,” there’s a close encounter story where the guy is visited by aliens, who then proceed to give him pancakes in exchange for water. He takes the pancakes in for analysis, and finds they contain absolutely no salt. Not just “no added salt,” but no salt whatsoever! I’d say this qualifies as “high weirdness.” But, we’re also interested in personal mythologies and stories of unusual or interesting encounters with animals and the landscape.

GK: Yeah, I’m down with Bigfoot and ‘bad vibes’ - but I also like hearing about those encounters that people sometimes have in waking life that actually feel more like dreams. For instance, I just added to the map an old video I had of my friend Jake and I walking around at night in Ballard back in 2005. We were walking in the rain. Jake was talking about how he wanted a ‘fresh start’ in his life and just as he says this, we come across a dead cat getting rained on in a little grassy part of the sidewalk. There was a car parked facing the cat, with its lights on shining straight at the animal. The whole scene felt staged. No one was in the car. No one was around anywhere. There was likely some rational explanation for what was happening, yet it felt so eerie…

How has the response to the site been?

JP: The response has been phenomenal. I think this timeline/reality is so awful right now in so many ways that people are really looking for new mythologies. Social media, in particular, has driven quite a bit of traffic to the site.

Do you think you’ll do something else with this project, besides the crowdsourced map?

JP: If it goes really well, we’d really like to eventually publish a guidebook or something. And it would also be cool to see other people in different locales making their own maps as part of the Society for Liminal Cartography.

GK: Yeah, I’d love to sort of synthesize it all down into a Tolkien-style map of the city with the ‘hotspots’ - maybe something you could roll up into a scroll? I’d also love to take people on late night bike ride ‘mystical journeys,’ visiting the sites and taking pictures and being open to weird encounters along the way…

How did you determine the actual boundaries of the Hellmouth?

GK: I get the impression that you are questioning our cartographic skills? Is there an underlying assumption that we’re somehow “making up” the boundaries of the Hellmouth. Look man, I didn’t create the Hellmouth, I just pulled out the protractor and used my skills as a map-maker to roughly define the border. And I’ll have you know, this is a very conservative estimate - very conservative. There are people saying it’s actually many miles wider, some even saying that it encompasses the entire Seattle Metropolitan area. But I’m going to use my best judgment here and say what has been put on the map has all of the classic indicators of a Hellmouth epicenter.

If you're looking for something to read this afternoon, I recommend this wonderful deep-dive interview with Seattle cartoonist Tatiana Gill.

What big teeth you have, Gramma

Published June 19, 2018, at 11:58am

Paul Constant reviews Stacey Tran's Soap for the Dogs, Jennifer Hayashida's A Machine Wrote This Song, and Emily Sieu Liebowitz's National Park.

This Saturday, small independent publisher Gramma Poetry re-launches with a huge reading, a new literary magazine, and new leadership. But what does it mean to be a Gramma title?

Read this review now

給電腦的情書 (Love Letter to a Computer)

滿以為很瞭解你因為
跟你這樣朝夕相對呼吸相連
已經三年零十個月了
我的姓名、性別、履歷和理想
通通分類存檔並且定期更新
任滑鼠隨時進入或下載
你都給我無限寬容或寬頻
遊歷於上下合縱左右連橫的空間
你輕盈的樂聲總吻合我跳躍的舞步
跳出情感互動的一片藍幕
(藍幕的下角有青草
上角有小花和恐龍)
原以為可以和你白頭到老永結同心
一如酒樓菜牌上紅底金字的承諾
但原來你也有背叛的時刻
偷偷跟旁人搭訕然後搭線而且
還很小心地讓我讀到你們的情話與暗碼
於是我開始猜疑你花亂而閃爍的面容
暴力敲打鍵盤上每個凹凸可疑的指模
或用苦纏的動作拉扯已經鬆脫的電線
期求你不再板起冷漠的凝視
對我輸入的話語不聞不問
或隨意亂碼顧左右而言他
甚至突然自動關機從此不再跟我會面
是的 沒有受過專業訓練的我
並不能熟練地操作戀愛的各種程式
——密碼錯誤,請重新輸入
  (你說過會一輩子待我好
無論我們是什麼但那
    「什麼」到底是什麼?)
——程式偏差,無法存檔
  (我們曾經一起吃飯的
那間茶餐廳因為
  樓宇遷拆而倒閉了)
——網頁無法啟動,請稍候
  (當我打算在你的電子郵箱留下
  口訊時你剛巧致電到我的傳真機
  彼此的網絡因為佔線而阻斷)
——線路繁忙,請按Refresh 按下去突然一屋暗燈
牆壁發出陣陣燒焦的惡臭
當神經線錯接電腦系統時才發現
自己原來是個電腦與愛情白痴
——「懂得愛戀自己的人才得享永生!」
上帝(如果有的話)也禁不住竊笑然後搖頭嘆息
為我這句史無前例的盟誓

translation

I thought I knew you because
all night and day our breath mingles together
for three years and ten months
my name, gender, resumé, and ideas
have been classified as files and updated at the set time
entered or downloaded according to the mouse
you’ve given me unlimited broadmindedness and broadband
to traverse the up/down left/right horizontal/vertical space
your lovely musical voice accompanies my dancing
your blue screen quits out of emotional interactions
(there’s grass in the lower corner of the screen
in the upper corner there are tiny flowers and dinosaurs)
I used to think we would grow old together
like in the promises of a red and gold menu
but you’ve had your moments of betrayal
secretly conversing with others and making contacts
but also carefully letting me read your intimate notes and codes
until I began to suspect your unruly flickering face
pounding the keyboard with all my suspicious fingers
or bitterly pulling on the loose cords
I pray you won’t ever stare blankly at me again
ignoring every word I type
or casually change the subject to code
until you suddenly shut down and refuse to see me
yes, since I have no special training
I can’t just skillfully make various attachments
——Wrong password, please try again
(you said you would wait for me your whole life
no matter what but what does that
“what” really mean?)
——ERROR, your file has not been saved
(we used to eat together
but that café closed
when the building was torn down)
——This page cannot be opened, please try again in a moment
(just as I planned to send you an email
you sent a message to my fax machine
and with the line busy, neither one could go through)
——The line is currently busy, please refresh the page
and when I refresh it things suddenly go dark
the wall lets off an acrid stench of burning
and when I mistakenly connect my nerves to the system I realize
I was an idiot when it came to computers and love
——“Only those who understand love will live forever!”
even God (if there is) has to snicker and sigh
over this unprecedented oath of alliance.

Read a sample from the dark thriller Down the Brink

Big tech, digital surveillance, and the authoritarian threat of an overzealous Border Patrol. Nope, it's not the headlines — it's Down the Brink, the recently published dystopian-tech-legal thriller from sponsor Lisa von Biela. Dark as this story is, you'll be instantly engaged by Zach, Gil, and Aggie, whose lives intersect around an immensely powerful prison system and a seemingly harmless app.

Lisa von Biela is a local author with professional experience in both the law and IT. That gives her writing bite: You can't put her books down, not just because they're great storytelling (and a fabulous summer read, if dark fiction is your jam), but because the thrills are just a little too close to home. Check out this sample from Down the Brink, and you'll see what we mean.

Sponsors like Lisa von Biela not only bring great events and new releases to your attention, they make the Seattle Review of Books possible. Did you know you could sponsor us, as well? If you have a book, event, or opportunity you’d like to get in front of our readers, find out more, or check available dates and reserve a spot.

2017 VIDA Count numbers released

If you're a fan of the literary arts, or if you're a writer, you should be paying close attention to the VIDA Count. Every year, the nonprofit feminist organization VIDA "highlights gender imbalances in publishing by tallying genre, book reviewers, books reviewed, and journalistic bylines to offer an accurate assessment of the publishing world."

This year's VIDA count examines the contributor demographics of outlets including Harper's, Granta, The Paris Review, and many more. They've presented a number of graphs showing representation of gender, race, identity, and disability arranged by outlet. This year, the The New York Review of Books and The Believer both performed abysmally in terms of gender representation. NYRB has "the most pronounced gender disparity of 2017’s VIDA Count, with only 23.3% of published writers who are women" and...

...The Believer performed with the most disappointing figures, publishing a scant 33% women, and no nonbinary individuals. No books authored by women or nonbinary writers were reviewed. 71% of writers given the mic to conduct an interview were men, and 57% of those who were interviewed were also men. It should be noted that in 2015, every single author of a book reviewed, as well as every single reviewer at The Believer were men, as well.

The point of the VIDA Count is not to shame specific outlets, but to let them know that someone is watching, and counting, and keeping track of representation. Often, just knowing that someone is paying attention to numbers like this can be enough to change the choices that a publication makes.

Artist Trust describes their annual fellowships as "an unrestricted grant program that awards $7,500 to practicing professional artists of exceptional talent and ability." Today, they announced 16 winners across disciplines including visual art, music, and performance. I'll let the Seattle Review of Visual Art and the Seattle Review of Music cover the other winners, but here are the literary fellowship winners:

Cathy Linh Che

Laura Da’

Mattilda B. Sycamore

Diana Xin

Cartoonist Tessa Hulls also received a multidisciplinary award. Congratulations to all the winners! You all deserve way more than $7,500 dollars, but you probably agree that $7,500 is a pretty nice start.