The Help Desk: Make room for a woman on that pedestal, buddy

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

Dear Cienna,

I am bestowing upon you the power to remove any one man from the literary canon. At the same time, I’m granting you the power to add any woman to the literary canon. Whom do you choose?

Francine, Whittier Heights

Dear Francine,

I would remove: Tom Hanks. (Please just stop.)

And replace him with: Seattle writer Stacey Levine.

Calling a writer's prose "unexpected" is trite but Levine's prose is exact and strange and provokes thoughts in my head that I would be unable to produce on my own. She is underrated and I think it's a shame.

Tom Hanks will make a great Mr. Rogers but his short stories are a snooze fest – only by the grace of slavering sycophancy did one of them end up in the New Yorker. I'd rather tweeze hairs from strangers' chins for tips than read another Tom Hanks short story. I'd rather watch a rat gnaw the mole off my left breast. I'd rather listen to the late Mr. Rogers read 50 Shades Freed fanfic.

In fact, I think everyone who paid $75 to see him at Seattle's McCaw Hall (or anywhere else in the country) should now be forced to pay their favorite local literary nonprofit $75 to listen to Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers read 50 Shades Freed fanfic – that would be a worthy crossover event that would tap Hanks's actual talents for a great cause. And it would likely make for a more interesting evening than watching Hanks read about young youths and old typewriters.