The Sunday Post for December 31, 2017

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.

By an accident of timing, the Sunday Post has the last word on 2017 at the Seattle Review of Books.

When I agreed to collate this weekly list, it was just after Donald Trump’s election; the news cycle hadn’t yet shifted into something past lightspeed. Truth was still truth, more or less, and powerful men weren’t monsters, or at least we weren’t yet saying so out loud. We knew that Donald Trump was a racist and that his election represented something ugly embedded in this country. We didn’t understand — those of us who had the privilege not to already live and breathe it — how ugly and how deep.

As happens after a visceral blow, we were numb for a while, huddled under shock blankets and waiting for the pain to hit.

Then it did hit, hard. And writing on the internet became a firestorm of Trump-centered emotion and analysis: grief and fury, resignation and defiance, reflection and contention. Much of that writing is stunning in its depth and force.

And yet, and brilliantly, people still committed millions of words and images to simply celebrating the oddity and beauty of the world.

And yet, and brilliantly, people still committed millions of words and images to simply talking about things like books.

By treating words and ideas and books as if they matter, these writers ensure that words and ideas and books continue to do so.

So: Usually the Post covers writing that happens off the site. But I’m ceding the last word of 2017 (here at SRoB, at least) to the reviewers, poets, artists, and essayists who wrote about books for the Seattle Review of Books this year. Each of them, in their own way, transformed the fire around us — took the heat, and turned it back around.

A year in reviews
A year in verse

The fact that our year in poetry started with battle, with Elisa Chavez’s “Revenge” (“rest assured,/anxious America, you brought your fists to a glitter fight”), and ended in a hot bath, with Sarah Jones’s “When I finally get that claw-footed tub” (“the heat a rising redemption/misty and heaven-bound”), makes me gleeful — they’re the perfect bookends (sorry, couldn’t resist).

This year the site was graced by an incredible range of Poets in Residence: in addition to Chavez and Jones, JT Stewart, Jamaica Baldwin, Joan Swift (posthumously), Oliver de la Paz, Tammy Robacker, Kelli Russell Agodon, Daemond Arrindell, Esther Altshul Helfgott, Kary Wayson, and Emily Bedard. If you haven’t been following the Tuesday poem, top off your cup and catch up now.

A year in columns

Our columnists have a regular platform to talk about what they love — explain why it matters, and show us how the world looks through its lens, even when that world is run, seemingly, by a madman with bad hair.

  • Nisi Shawl’s Future Alternative Past is a masterclass on SFFH. Her knowledge of the genre is comprehensive, and she approaches it with a completely fresh critical lens and a fine eye for relevance. See, for example, her column on fat positivity in science fiction.

  • Olivia Waite’s Kissing Books touches on race and feminism and socioeconomic issues — all the hard, smart ideas that romance novels are supposed to not contain but do. And her takedown of Robert Gottlieb was epically excellent.

  • Daneet Steffens’s Criminal Fiction is a monthly reminder that reading is a pleasure. The joy she takes in what she reads is evident in every capsule review and interview.

  • Whoever your favorite author may be, you’ll love them a bit more after Christine Marie Larsen captures them in a portrait. (For me, it's this one of G. Willow Wilson.) Her talent for conveying the kindness, compassion, and humor of her subjects is very welcome in these angry times.
  • Two new columnists started sharing their pen-and-ink perspective on the world at SRoB this year: Aaron Bagley’s Dream Comics are charming and odd and full of import; this one is about whales. Clare Johnson’s Post-It Note Art is quiet and personal and expressive far beyond the boundaries of a three-by-three square.

  • Nobody addresses humanity’s relationship with the written word, and all the shame and social awkwardness and anxiety it provokes, as regularly and accurately as Cienna Madrid in the Help Desk.

Oh, right. Martin and Paul.