Published barely a month ago, local writer Janet Buttenwieser's memoir GUTS is perfectly in season. The story of her double loss — a significant hit to her health, the devastating loss of a friend — GUTS is about persistence, resilience, and renewal, a few things we all need right now. It's also about that most Seattle-y sport possible, the triathlon, and using physical endurance to endure emotional challenges. And it's a delight to read: clear, funny, self-reflective.
Hop over to our sponsorship page and check out the prologue, which Janet has generously shared with our readers this week. And join her at Elliott Bay Books on March 31, when she takes the stage with fellow Seattle7Writers Sorting Room Residents. We love when Seattle authors sponsor the site, and we're delighted to offer you a few pages of good reading to make your Monday brighter.
Sponsors like Janet Buttenwieser 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, reserve your dates now.
John Albers puts more than 30 years of Northwest gardening experience to work in his latest book, which will help you make your surroundings more of a genuinely Northwest landscape. Alberts is interested in environmentally sound gardening procedures and keeping gardens regionally appropriate.
Third Place Books Ravenna, 6504 20th Ave NE, 525-2347 http://thirdplacebooks.com, 7 pm, free.
We look to novelists to inspire us, but we also look to them to tweak the ugliest parts of our imaginations, to invent the unimaginable, to speak the unsayable. It's not that humans are inherently bad, exactly. We're just inherently fascinated by bad behavior. That's why the Devil - with a little more than a glorified cameo - became the sleeper favorite character of the Bible. We like to think about terrible things, and then we like to put the book down and resume our ordinary lives.
Tonight, Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park welcomes two local authors. Mystery author Kevin O'Brien, who has written thrillers with titles like Hide Your Fear, You'll Miss Me When I'm Gone, and No One Needs to Know, will be joined by Seattle expert David Williams, author of Seattle Walks and the excellent Seattle geographical survey Too High & Too Steep in an onstage conversation. And you've never seen an onstage conversation quite like this one.
According to Third Place Book's press materials, the two will take part in "a fun and participatory conversation about the best REAL places in and around Seattle to kill someone (fictionally)." Where in town would you be able to kill a person without someone else overhearing? Where would you be able to hide a body? Is there a spot around the Duck Tours route that would be better for murder than any other?
This is a great idea for an event: put two experts together - one Seattle geography expert, one fictional murder expert - and let them riff on the spot where their Venn diagrams mesh. I'd love to see more bizarre literary pairings like this. Why not imagine all the fictional ways you can enjoy Seattle? Why not incorporate sci-fi authors, cookbook authors, historians, and juxtapose them in thrilling ways? I bet people all over Seattle are - forgive me - dying for an event like this.
Third Place Books Lake Forest Park, 17171 Bothell Way NE, 366-3333, http://thirdplacebooks.com, 7 pm, free.
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.
Move past the Bettridge-y headline and dig straight into this essay by Leslie Jamison on the relationship between booze and books — or, more accurately but less pithily, on giving up booze while continuing to write books. She walks briefly with Berryman, Jackson, Wallace, and Johnson, digging into the recovery writing of each while tracing her own journey away from alcohol. If your writing self is built around drinking, how do you find a road to the new writer you’ll have to become when you stop?
Once I got sober, I became more interested in the question of what little, as Berryman put it, could be said for sobriety. If addiction stories ran on the fuel of darkness — the hypnotic spiral of an ongoing, deepening crisis — then recovery often seemed like the narrative slack, the dull terrain of wellness, a tedious addendum to the riveting blaze. I wasn’t immune; I’d always been enthralled by stories of wreckage. But when I got sober, I wanted to know if stories about getting better could ever be as compelling as stories about falling apart. I needed to believe they could.
I’ve been dancing around this one — it’s already been covered by both the inimitable Jason Kottke and the head-spinningly peripatetic Matt Muir — but I’m surrendering: have you looked at Colin Combs’s Instagram feed? The Ohio teen flawlessly captures what a friend who grew up a little bit in Eastern Washington, a little bit in rural Virginia, called “that backwater aimlessness.” Or maybe it’s just the inner landscape of every teen (and a lot of grown-ups), perfectly externalized.
The first camera that Powell offered her pupil was a bulky teal Minolta, which, at the time, matched the shade of his hair dye. Last summer, as always, Combs was wearing a similar model around his neck when an S.U.V. struck him while he was skateboarding, breaking his leg. “I took photos of my foot pretty much right after,” he said, ever ready to render the moment. Combs needed surgery, but his film survived.
As a second take on the ravishing image, here’s the output from a drawing class that brought Iggy Pop in as live model. NSFW, if you work in the wrong sort of place.
In a round up of two recent J. G. Ballard re-releases — Crash and Super-Cannes — Becca Rothfeld points out that Ballard held up a black mirror to the present long before the present arrived. A very uncomfortable look at who we are, or who we might become if we don’t get our eyes back on the road.
Reviewers have often called Ballard’s dystopian visions “prophetic”: He foresaw self-driving cars, Uber-style ridesharing, and the lavish corporate campuses where life and labor blur into one another. But perhaps his canniest forecast was that comfort would prove so lethally uncomfortable.
This is a short read about our city’s richest non-philanthropist, that’s also an interesting poke at the underpinnings of wealth in America, and its ugly divorce from the social good.
Don’t let the title fool you. Jeff Bezos is notoriously reluctant to take a seat at the table with Warren Buffet and Bill Gates. He deserves to be called out for it, and Jacob Silverman capably does so. But Silverman also asks for something more than philanthropy from today’s financial titans: a practical application of their talents (and funds) to rebuild our social fabric.
Unfortunately, that rebuilding would undercut the systems that allow ungainly accumulation of wealth in the first place. But if Bezos ever gets tired of running a vast engine of inequity — while playing at rocketships with the other super-rich kids — maybe he could give it a try?
Today’s moguls are charitable but "results-driven." They speak of leaning in but not, in any meaningful sense, of social justice. Believing existing political institutions to be clumsy and inefficient, they dispense vast sums of money toward “innovative” solutions that invariably devolve public services into private companies (Amazon, for instance, sponsors a homeless shelter in Seattle). What they cannot abide, or simply don’t know, is that many of the answers to our problems were discovered by post-war social democracies seventy-plus years ago.
If you’ve had enough of Amazon.com, try this piece on the impact of bitcoin mining in Eastern Washington and similar areas: spaciously rural, proximate to electricity, environmentally and economically vulnerable. The Cloud isn’t really a cloud — it has to live somewhere. This is what that looks like, both good and bad.
In case you think I don’t like rocketships (I do, so much), here’s an article about them that gave me great joy and will make you happy too. Shannon Stirone embedded with the crew that runs the Deep Space Network, the comms command center that keeps Earth Central in touch with the space stations and satellites that explore the stars for us. Imagine that vast cold vacuum against a satellite’s metal skin, and the tiny voice that connects it always to home — these guys make sure that voice never goes silent.
McClure is nervously tapping a stack of round CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE stickers on a table. “The data is always stored, so it’s fine,” he says, trying to reassure me. “Once it hits the ground it’s stored.” The staff speaks to one another like doctors in an emergency room moments before attempting to jump-start a quiet heart. “Okay, trying to reconnect now.” The data controller grabs the paddles. “Not getting anything. Nothing. Trying again.” The Cassini Mission ACE, the liaison between Earth and the spacecraft, rushes in, his messenger bag slung over his shoulder, and mumbles something to McClure. He hurries to his station, lit up in neon blue, past the barricade with a homemade sign that reads, DO NOT FEED THE ACE — TO THE WOLVES. He plops his bag onto the floor, hunches over his desk, taps the keyboard, and begins trying to talk to Saturn.
Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore is the Seattle-based author of the Lambda Literary Award winning The End of San Francisco, and the upcoming novel Sketchtasy, coming in October from Vancouver's Arsenal Pulp Press. She'll be appearing in conversation with Jennifer Natalya Fink next Friday, March 23rd, at the Elliott Bay Book Company. And, she's promised a preview of Sketchtasy at the event!
What are you reading now?
I’m reading Queer Sex: A Trans and Non-Binary Guide to Intimacy, Pleasure and Relationships by Juno Roche. I’ve only read the intro so far, but what I love about it is that Roche tells us right away that she hasn’t been having sex at all, which immediately flips the expectation of any guidebook, right? In fact, in spite of the subtitle, Roche says this isn’t a guidebook at all, but “a book in which I hope to honestly lay myself bare and share stories and experiences from others and to celebrate the potential of our wonderful bodies and lives.” Sounds exciting to me — I’ll be writing about this book for Bitch, so I’m sure I’ll have more to say soon. Stay tuned!
What did you read last?
Is it weird that I can’t remember what I read last? I mean I know I read M Archive: After the End of the World by Alexis Pauline Gumbs, because I just interviewed her about the book for BOMB, but also I know that I let myself sit for months in the intersections that the book opens up, from “our bodies were like landfills, places where nothing disintegrated but us” to “the task of believing there was some possible relation that wouldn’t mean detonation” and back, before coming up with my questions. And, before that, I read Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl by Andrea Lawlor, where the shape-shifting Paul asks “What was sex but newness?” while shifting body to meet desire, or is it desire to meet body? The book takes place in 1992, when binary gender still reigns supreme in queer worlds (even in the questioning of it), but Paul, due to special powers, manages to inhabit every side, and does this mean freedom or claustrophobia, inclusion or implosion?
What are you reading next?
Honestly I always have trouble deciding.... Just yesterday, the fifth and final issue of the Semiotext(e) journal ANIMAL SHELTER arrived in my mailbox (I have a piece in it called “A Sense of Belonging,” an excerpt from a new book I’ve been working on called The Freezer Door), and the gorgeous colorful cover featuring a drawing of a toucan balanced on a table or a roof or wherever it is it’s beckoning to me, as is the range of brilliant writers and artists inside. And, speaking of brilliant writers and artists, there’s Trap Door: Trans Cultural Production and the Politics of Visibility, an instigation disguised as an art book, edited by Reina Gossett, Eric A. Stanley, and Johanna Burton — I open right to a photo of a banner that reads “CAPITALISM IS FUCKING THE QUEER OUT OF US,” hanging from the scaffolding of a building along the pride parade route in San Francisco in 2012, and then browse through decades of images of trans and queer resistance. And then there’s Porochista Khakpour’s Sick, which I’ve been craving for a long time, since I, like Khakpour, have struggled for years with debilitating chronic health problems, and I know that Khakpour’s memoir about Lyme disease will challenge simplistic media narratives about conquering illness that offer false hope and disempower those of us who are really always struggling, right, we are struggling! And don’t let me forget CAConrad’s While Standing in Line for Death, which starts with “Yes poetry can handle this.” Yes!
Every Friday, Cienna Madrid offers solutions to life’s most vexing literary problems. Do you need a book recommendation to send your worst cousin on her birthday? Is it okay to read erotica on public transit? Cienna can help. Send your questions to email@example.com.
I'm vibrating with anger and upset over school shootings. I'm totally optimistic about the response of teenagers who have more moral character than any politician I know.
I want to help my NRA-loving family see another side to this issue, without challenging their gun lust directly. Can you recommend some books that might make them feel good about their manly choices while also subtly undermining them for the goal of socialist liberalist pacifism?
I understand your motivation but what you are proposing has a slim chance of working, and here's why: it is an overbearing – and yet delightfully passive aggressive! – attempt to trick someone into self help. True gifts are given with the receiver's wants and tastes in mind, not the giver's.
How would you react if one of your relatives bought you More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws as a gift? My bet is you would be more resentful than appreciative. It would probably not make the top of your bedside reading stack.
If you want to make an honest attempt at helping your NRA-loving family see another side of this issue, you have to be open to seeing their side. You could suggest a short-lived family book club, where they choose a book that represents their perspective, followed by a book you feel represents yours. Or you could simply ask for a book recommendation from them and in turn recommend a book. Gun Guys: A Road Trip, might be a good read for all of you – it's a memoir about a Democrat and former New York Times writer who loves guns, driving around America (with his gun) and cataloguing his own and other people's thoughts on guns. If you're looking to recommend fiction that drills into the emotional trauma of gun violence, I have heard good things about Before You Know Kindness, which is about an accidental shooting in a family, and Only Child, which is a first-person narrative from the perspective of a child who survives a school shooting.
Both methods would be a more honest avenue at opening a dialogue than giving the gift of a book that is neither asked for nor wanted.
First, let's begin with a correction. In this week's Event of the Week column, I credited the Dock Street Salon solely to Dock Street Press publisher Dane Bahr. In fact, Bahr co-hosts the salon with Seattle author and publisher Heather Jacobs. And this week's edition of the Salon was entirely curated and coordinated by Jacobs, not Bahr. I sincerely apologize to Jacobs for getting that wrong, and I've amended the listing to give her proper credit.
Here's a last-minute event you ought to know about: The Bell & Battery Cabaret is a variety show that's happening at the Rendezvous at 8 pm tonight, and twice on both Saturday and Sunday. Performers include Markeith Wiley and Ade, and the show also features Seattle poet Shin Yu Pai, who says she will "read a commissioned poem about nightclub singer Pat Suzuki and also sing a song." You've got five chances to see this one, so get to it.
Did you see the Pew poll about American reading habits? Turns out one in five Americans regularly listen to audio books, almost 75 percent of Americans read a book last year, and print books aren't going anywhere:
Some 39% of Americans say they read only print books, while 29% read in these digital formats and also read print books. Just 7% of Americans say they only read books in digital formats and have not read any print books in the past 12 months.
A portrait in honor of Women's History Month: Historian and law professor Annette Gordon-Reed brought to life the story of Sally Hemings and her descendents in her Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family. Gordon-Reed made history herself as the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize in History.
Gordon-Reed will join Hedgebrook for a literary star-studded brunch benefit featuring talks from playwrights Sarah Ruhl, Danai Gurira, and other Hedgebrook alumna.
*Herban Feast, 4136 1st Avenue, http://www.hedgebrook.org/equivox/, 11 am, $150.
I came late to cartoonist Rich Tommaso's work - the first comic of his that I read was the funny-animal Tintin pastiche Spy Seal - but I think I'm falling in love. His art is so clean, his storytelling so economical, that it seems like it's just a matter of time before one of the mainstream publishers shows up on his front lawn with a dump truck of money and forces him to start drawing Batman for a living. Tommaso is an artist who is so unique that the comics industry is bound to try to crush him into something they can more easily manipulate.
Yesterday, I picked up the first issue of Tommaso's latest series, Dry County. It's a sunny Miami noir story about a guy who meets a woman and falls into really deep shit really quickly. (Sidebar: does any noir ever take place in a dark and rainy city anymore? Seems like every noir nowadays is located in Florida or California, and is always described with the word "sunbaked.") Tommaso is using a different style here than the slick European look of Spy Seal: Dry County looks almost as though it's drawn by Dan Clowes. Every face is a little bit…off…with too-small eyes or a crooked nose or a smile that twists the wrong way across someone's cheek.
The narrator, a cartoonist named Lou Rossi, is a misanthrope. He lurks around Miami, sweating too much and trying to drink himself to some sense of peace. Then, he runs into someone in a laundry room. Her. "A blonde goddess," Rossi calls her. Of course, there's trouble. She's in an unhappy relationship, and it's been a long time since Rossi's been in a relationship, and things start to go bad quick.
There's nothing too original in the plot, but every page of Dry County brings a new delight with it. Rossi has a friend named Robert, for instance, who seems to have wandered in from a pornographic Popeye cartoon a few books over. The opening splash page of Rossi wandering around a rave is practically the dictionary definition of what it feels like to be alone in a crowd. And a gorgeous two-panel sequence of Rossi day-drinking on a porch as he stares out onto a pastel-colored Miami street will leave you drooling.
I don't know where Dry County is going, but Tommaso has proven to be such a phenomenal talent that I expect the book to keep up this delight-on-every-page spirit until the bitter - and no doubt sunbaked - end.
At Yes Magazine, Jacqueline Keeler has written an excellent story that offers some background and some wider context into the allegations surrounding Sherman Alexie. The piece is titled "Why Reading Sherman Alexie Was Never Enough: As the #MeToo spotlight moves to Indian Country, epidemic violence against Native women meets tokenism in publishing," and it's absolutely worth your time.
If, like me, you had never heard of Seattle-area sci-fi writer E Lily Yu before she was named the winner of this year's Gar LaSalle Storyteller Award, you might want to read her latest story at Clarkesworld magazine. She's definitely one of our most interesting up-and-coming talents.
All that autumn and winter she tended the flower. After the petals faded and fell, slender leaves speared up, glowing with life and green throughout the cold winter. She fed the flower her secrets, burying them one by one, and watered it with drops of her blood, red as the flower had been, because there was no death in the garden, and the flower, her grandmother had said, needed death to live.
You might have nightmares if you watch this video of a Trump supporter who threatened to burn down a Berkeley bookstore. Those are two people who just want to destroy everything beautiful in their path. It's like staring into a vacuum.
And if that story didn't give you nightmares, this report about a fully automated bookstore in Beijing just might do the trick.
The automated store even features a robot who is touted as a key feature of the store. Although she didn't find the store's prices to be competitive, customer Mrs. Zhang commended its automated worker, saying that "the interaction with the store's robot is something worth experiencing, especially for the children."
Published March 14, 2018, at 12:00pm
Art tells us who we are, sometimes more than we want to know. The catalog from a recent exhibition at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery turns a mirror on American attitudes toward work, race, and gender.
Alan LaMont, the owner of Ballard's The Grumpy Old Man's Comics, Art, and Collectibles doesn't come across as a grumpy old man. He's downright chipper, in fact, and he's got the youthful vigor and charm of someone who's finally living a life he's been dreaming about for decades.
After years "working in corporate America" in Rochester New York and dreaming of the Pacific Northwest, LaMont finally moved to Seattle on Labor Day of 2017. He brought his enormous, high-quality comics collection - about 200 boxes - along with him, and he set about fulfilling another longtime dream: opening a comic shop/art gallery. LaMont has some experience working in a gallery, and he's attended comics conventions his whole life, but he'd never owned a space before. "I didn't want to work for a company anymore," LaMont says, "so I thought I'd combine the two things that I love." The store officially opened on the day after Thanksgiving.
LaMont is an artist. He paints as a hobby, but he has primarily worked in linocut art since he was 12. (A whole wall at Grumpy Old Man's Comics displays his work for sale.) He likes the way linocut changes his thought process: in order to create good prints "you have to think mirrored and positive-to-negative." It took him a long time to get into the mindset of a linocut artist, but now "I have a clear thought process."
That explains the gallery part, but why a comic book store? "I learned how to read on comics," LaMont explains. His grandmother was a teacher, and when she noticed his love of superhero cartoons, she bought him a batch of comics and helped him work through them. "She had me reading at four years of age," LaMont says. He's been reading comics ever since.
Grumpy Old Man's Comics is located right off Market Street. The shop is split into three distinct rooms. When you walk in, you're standing in the middle of the room with new and recent comics. To your left is a room of classic and collectible comics, ranging all the way back to the 1960s. And to the right is the gallery, with affordable prints and a rotating display of artists. The shop is an eager participant in both Ballard Art Walk, on the second Saturday of the month, and Ballard Night Out every third Thursday.
LaMont is thrilled with the response the comics side of the business has seen since he opened. When he started the shop, LaMont says, "I was thinking that probably the artwork side of it would be the easier sell of the two, and that it would take a while to get my comic book business built up. It's proven to be the opposite," he says. "The comics are already on the verge of carrying the business."
Grumpy Old Man's offers discounts of up to 30 percent for subscribers, and LaMont is developing a regular clientele. Some of the new subscribers are likely orphans of Seattle comics-shop attrition: Ballard hasn't had a comics shop since Arcane Comics moved to Shoreline a couple years ago, and downtown's Zanadu Comics closed last month.
LaMont wants curious Seattleites to know that Grumpy Old Man's is "a rather eclectic mix of things, not a typical comics store and not a typical art gallery." To draw in more new customers, the store is having a sizable back issue sale on Saturday, March 31st from 10 am to 6 pm. There's something for everyone in the shop: LaMont is creating a space where different styles of art - disparate styles that fifty years ago would have been dismissed as "low" and lauded as "high" - can live under the same roof.
This week you have two chances to see our Poet in Residence, Julene Tripp Weaver, read her poetry aloud.
On Thursday, March 15th, Julene is reading at Soul Food Coffehouse in Redmond at 7 pm. She'll be sharing the stage with other poets including Anita K. Boyle, Nancy Canyon, Thom Schramm, Heidi Seaborn, and Michael Dylan Welch to celebrate an ice cream-related poetry anthology, titled Ice Cream Poems: Reflections on Life with Ice Cream. And of course there will be ice cream served at this reading. You can let them know you're coming on the Facebook Event page.
And then the next day — Friday, March 16th — Julene will be reading from her latest book, truth be bold — Serenading Life & Death in the Age of AIDS, at 7 pm at Open Books. This is a big reading for her because it's the first event celebrating truth be bold since it was announced as a finalist in the Bisexual Nonfiction category of the Lambda Literary Awards, up against esteemed competition including Roxane Gay's Hunger. Julene will be sharing the stage with Seattle poetry legend Tara Hardy. This is billed as a scent-free event, so please leave the perfumes and such at home.
Both events are free. Go out and show your support for a longtime Seattle poet whose work is finally getting some of the recognition it deserves. We couldn't be prouder to celebrate Julene's work on our site in this, a momentous month in her career as a Seattle poet.
- after Gregory Pardlo
It was leap year, on a Thursday, I was born
upstate New York, Borsch Belt small town.
To a family of farmers, where covered bridges crossed
creeks. Twenty miles to the racetrack in
Monticello, our nearest city, where father worked
for an air conditioning installation firm.
The Evergreens of the Catskills.
A mother off seeking four-leaf clovers.
Born to arrowheads and quartz, to blueberry
bushes in back fields. I ran to frogs
and salamanders across stone fences
through wild woods, no eyes followed me.
It was during the cold war red scare, but I,
a wild barn child was unaware. Daddy’s little girl
I wore patent leather shoes at Easter and
blue velvet at Christmas. The cameo necklace,
Mother gave me, fell into a stream. I was a wild thing
from go, feeling the velocity of wind. The night
I came a fierce push. I was born clear white,
pastel perfect skin, with spit-on Irish blood
and German ancestry I was told to never
acknowledge by a direct line uncle. The year
I came, there was a storm brewing in the guts
of women to have climaxes they’d never reached.
There was a surge to land on the moon. The
Atom bomb was introduced from Britain. Born
in the year of the Dragon, I knew it would be rocky
not a song in the rain, nor the cotton candy
fun world where mother resided.
Wondering what to read with your late lunch this Monday afternoon? Try a chapter from sponsor Joe Ponepinto's Mr. Neutron — a political, science-fictional satire starring a down-and-out political flunky and a cadaverous (in the best way) mayoral candidate in small-town Grand River.
Ponepinto is known to many of you as the founding publisher and fiction editor of the Tahoma Literary Review. We're honored to have him as a sponsor and delighted to suggest his lastest to you.
Sponsors like Joe Ponepinto 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, reserve your dates now.
Third Place Books Lake Forest Park, 17171 Bothell Way NE, 366-3333, http://thirdplacebooks.com, 7 pm, free.