Talk about the weather

Published December 04, 2018, at 11:49am

Paul Constant reviews Marian Blue's Interpretative Guide to Western-Northwest Weather Forecasts.

Weather in Seattle is almost always the same deal, day in day out. A new book proposes to teach you how to discern between our three hundred (or so) distinct varieties of rain.

Read this review now



tomorrow, I’ll be
farther than ever before from your hands & feet.
when I lay me down to sleep

I pray for us.

I made a fuss
over time & frivolity, really.

sometimes, I really,
really, really miss you.

there’s a tv show I’m into
& the main character is you, pretty much.
it’s amazing how little we touch
now compared to before when it was all the time.

I forgot to write you into the last line,
but I swear that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten anything.
there's an ampersand in everything
about you & me & you & me.

Don't miss our Monday read, from Adrianne Harun's "Catch, Release"

We're thrilled to welcome Adrianne Harun as sponsor this week. Essayist, author, and reviewer, Harun's essays and stories are widely anthologized and admired. Her new collection, Catch, Release, was praised by Tim O'Brien as "Brilliant. Masterly brilliant. Tour de force brilliant" and by Joyce Carol Oates as "Riveting. Vividly imagined, like fever dreams ..."

But don't take it from them! Take it from us: Harun's writing is mesmerizing. In the excerpt she shares this week, a plane carries a new arrival into London, an alien land he approaches with the refined dread of a nightmare-haunted childhood. Her sentences are direct, disarmingly so; she leads her readers into paragraphs where they wake, with some unease, to find they're no longer where they thought. Here's the opening to "A New Arrival":

Dawn breaks outside the oval windows and blinds them all. They are flying through the break of day, the actual point that separates the unstoppable day from cleaving night. Below them lies a heavy band of stratocumulus, like a line on a map separating one country from another. The country below us may be under siege, he thinks, but we will fly on unhindered. It has nothing to do with us.

Read more on our sponsor feature page, then buy the book at Elliot Bay or the independent bookstore of your choice.

Sponsors like Adrianne Harun make the Seattle Review of Books possible. Did you know you can sponsor us, too? We only have three slots left in the first quarter of the year (and we haven't even gone public yet!). Reserve your week of choice before it's too late: Just send us a note at

Your Week in Readings: The best literary events from December 3rd - 9th

Monday, December 3: Bob Peterson Reading

The Seattle photographer is famous for iconic shots he took for Life, Sports Illustrated, and more. He'll be celebrating the launch of a new book collecting his photos, with the help of Seattle artist and sculptor Tony Angell.

University Book Store, 4326 University Way N.E., 634-3400,, 7 pm, free.

Tuesday, December 4: Three Debuts

Mohamed Asem is the author of Stranger in the Pen, which is the account of his detainment by British authorities. Ashley Toliver's Spectra is a poetry collection about corporeality. Lisa Wells ist he author of The Fix, which is a very sensual poetry collection. Hugo House, 1634 11th Avenue, 322-7030,, 7 pm, free.

Wednesday, December 5: Shout Your Abortion Bash

This is a big party to celebrate the publication of the Shout Your Abortion anthology, which launched last month. This party features a band, a DJ, and readings from Lindy West, Angela Garbes, El Sanchez, and Alana Edmondson. Neptune Theater, 1303 NE 45th St, 8 pm, $12.

Thursday, December 6: Poetry for the Public

Kim Stafford, Oregon's State Poet Laureate, teams up with Washington State's Poet Laureate, Claudia Castro Luna to talk about regional poetry, what it means to be a laureate, and the civic duties of artists. Hugo House, 1634 11th Avenue, 322-7030,, 7 pm, free.

Friday, December 7: Unpresidented Reading

See our event of the week column for more details.

University Book Store, 4326 University Way N.E., 634-3400,, 7 pm, free.

Saturday, December 8: Surreal Storytelling with Strange Women

This is the third installment of a surrealistic fiction showcase (inspired in part by the work of author Aimee Bender) hosted by local dynamo Kate Berwanger. Readers include Shelley Minden, Symone La Luz, G.G. Silverman, and Kait Heacock. Ghost Gallery, 1111 E Pike St, Suite B,, 7 pm, $7-13.

Sunday, December 9: Lantern Reading

Nancy Dickeman's new chapbook discusses the Hanford nuclear site. This afternoon, she's celebrating its publication with local writers including Chelsea Bolan, Kathleen Flenniken, and JM Miller.

Elliott Bay Book Company, 1521 10th Ave, 624-6600,, 3 pm, free.

Gramma Press is closing down

We received a press release this morning from Gramma Press publishers Colleen Louise Barry and Aidan Fitzgerald announcing the end of the Seattle poetry press on the last day of this year. Gramma was funded by a grant from the Bill and Ruth True Foundation, which is dissolving.

Less interesting than the details behind the press's dissolution are the details about its future:

It is our intention that our titles will continue living out there in the wide world beyond Gramma. To this end, we are currently working hard to find a home for our books and authors at a press here in the Pacific Northwest. We are poets and artists ourselves, and it is of the utmost importance to us that the work by our authors persists in book stores and galleries around the country.

Gramma's editors will continue to support the work being done by poets, writers, artists, publishers, and DIY space-holders in every way we can, both as individual participants in these important dialogues and in our roles as Directors of.

Honestly, Gramma seemed like a lot of work to me: it involved the editing and publication of high-quality volumes of poetry, a monthly dispatch, and a weekly newsletter. That's a hell of a lot to manage! I'm glad to hear that Barry and Fitzgerald are focusing on their own presses, and I hope the Gramma library finds a new home locally. If you're looking to start a poetry press, you could do worse than pick up the publication of these books — including Sarah Galvin's Ugly Time, which is my favorite of Galvin's books to date — to give your press some immediate legitimacy. (I reviewed other Gramma titles right here.)

In the meantime, be sure to give Cold Cube Press and Mount Analogue some love this holiday season. Their books make beautiful gifts, and they're not the kind of thing you can just airdrop off of Amazon, which gives them an air of uniqueness — like a handwritten letter.

Literary Event of the Week: Unpresidented reading at University Book Store

Though he seems like a being who lives entirely, eternally in the present, it's actually very important to understand Donald Trump's past — the crimes of his parents, the crimes of his early career, and the shameful way he's behaved personally. A man who'll lie to you two contradictory ways in one sentence doesn't have much faith in the importance of memory, but he's also likely to be a man who is consumed by his own past.

Seattle author Martha Brockenbrough's Unpresidented is a biography of Donald Trump. (She'll be debuting the book this Friday at University Book Store.) Brockenbrough has experience writing for younger audiences, and Unpresidented is a biography with the YA crowd in mind. That doesn't mean the book is dumbed-down; in fact, it means Brockenbrough has to use sharper, clearer language than your traditional both-sides journalism. In fact, the book somehow feels even more damning than most accounts of Trump's life that you've likely read on a news site.

Brockenbrough begins Unpresidented with a history of Donald Trump's tendency to lie about crowd size. She plainly lays out the facts of his life and the lies feel obscene when contradicted in such clear, straightforward English: " his ghostwritten book Trump: The Art of the Deal, Trump claims his ancestry is Swedish. This is not true."

I know it seems like a lot to ask someone to read more about Donald Trump in the year 2018, but this one is a very important book if you want to get into the head of the (tragically) most important human being in the world right now, and to comprehend just how often he spreads easily disproven lies, when simply telling the truth would be easier.

University Book Store, 4326 University Way N.E., 634-3400,, 7 pm, free.

The Sunday Post for December 2, 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.

Every Woman Keeps a Flame Against the Wind

For Kristen Millares Young, the examination of anger is an art. Her essays are relentless teachers, building arguments through experience and image; consent to the first, and you’ve already, unwittingly, agreed to the last. Here she unpacks the commodity of womanhood: who defines it, who owns it, and what it means to be defiant.

What I value has long made me vulnerable, in ways I did not foresee. I spent much of my life accrediting my brain so that I would be allowed to rise from this body and be seen for my mind. And yet, as a writer, I’ve learned there is no greater wisdom than that of my womanhood. To think I almost turned my back on my own lived experience in favor of a third person I’ve never met, an omniscience I don’t believe in. Our brushes with annihilation are constant and varied and mostly unsung.
If Only We’d Fucking Listen to Helen DeWitt

Helen DeWitt is brilliant, and delightfully odd. And what’s especially delightful is that she’s so rationally odd that when you read her, you realize it’s the rest of us who are off-kilter. Unfortunately Helen DeWitt is also vastly underfunded to do the work she needs to. Here’s Kris Bartkus on the blinding originality of DeWitt’s work and the cost of not attending to it.

One can simply imagine a world such that when one of our best writers says she has projects that will change literature immured in her hard drive, we do better than plugging our ears, waiting until she’s dead, and giving our descendants the joy of opening her laptop and asking how we let this happen. If DeWitt wants to give our descendants a hint, she can set her login password to a line of Proust: “So it is that a well-read man will at once begin to yawn with boredom when anyone speaks to him of a new ‘good book,’ because he imagines a sort of composite of all the good books that he has read and knows already …”
How Should We Write in a Time of Unmitigated Disaster?

Ashleigh Synnott dissects the ethics of writing fiction about the devastation of other lives — how to tell stories that should be told, without appropriating or exploiting their violence. Perhaps, she suggests, the way out of the labyrinth is to find a common thread.

At this point, I came across the concept of precarity, a concept that seemed to offer a way not out of my ethical anxieties, but through them. By exploring how this term could be applied to questions of ethics and literature, I began to shift the lens through which I was viewing the problem, as opposed to trying to solve the problem itself. Perhaps, I wondered, the concept of precarity could hold within its scope the disparate ideas, concerns and interests with which I was thinking about. Rather than seeing my writing as being about an issue, such as asylum seekers or the experience of exile, I wondered if I could explore the imaginative and structural possibilities of writing about this increasingly shared condition.
My Four Months as a Prison Guard

One of the New York Times’ “100 Notable Books of 2018” is Shane Bauer’s exposé of the prison industry, American Prison, based on his experience as a guard at a private prison in Louisiana. The world he describes in this five-part Mother Jones series, where financial incentives underscore the power politics of incarceration, is relentlessly vicious and corrupt.

Bacle says he wishes an investigative reporter would come and look into this place. He complains about how, in other prisons, inmates get new charges for stabbing someone. Here, they are put in seg, but they rarely get shipped to another prison with tighter security. “CCA wants that fucking dollar!” Bacle says through clenched teeth. “That’s the reason why we play hell on getting a damn raise, because all they want is that dollar in their pocket.”

Whatcha Reading, Amelia Bonow?

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

Amelia Bonow is the co-founder of Shout Your Abortion. They just released their book, and they're having a book release party this Wednesday, December 5th, at the Neptune Theater. Join Amelia, Lindy West, Angela Garbes, El Sanchez, Alana Edmonson, DJs Stas & Moni, and the star-studded SYA house band for an amazing evening of "Reading, Shouting, and Performance," from a group of women who used the power of their true experiences to radically change the public conversation on abortion.

What are you reading now?

Heavy by Kiese Laymon. It’s a memoir about the author growing up in Mississippi, in the form of a letter to his mother, who was a brilliant black academic. His voice is singular and enormous; the title of the book feels like the only title it could have possibly had. It’s gorgeous and absolutely devastating in a way that feels acutely American.

What did you read last?

I read a book called Blacking Out: Remembering the things I drank to forgot by Sarah Hepola. It’s a memoir in which the author eventually gets sober. I really appreciated it because it wasn’t like “now I’m sober and everything is fine,” it was more like “now I’m sober and everything is weird in a different way that is probably slightly better”. It feels like everyone I know is currently trying to figure out how to manage their relationship to drugs and alcohol now that we are getting old and everything is hell.

What are you reading next?

I cannot wait to read Like a Mother by Angela Garbes and I’m not just saying that because she’s a contributor to Shout Your Abortion! Angela’s writing is breathtaking. I read a draft of the first chapter of Like a Mother about a year ago and am still thinking about it.

What book should people buy for a gift this holiday?

It is probably not a surprise that my Christmas wish has to do with everyone talking to their families about abortion, which is why I recommend Dr. Willie Parker’s Life’s Work: a Moral Argument for Choice. Dr. Parker is a black Christian abortion care provider who works in the deep south and he lays out his reasons for providing abortion in a clear, accessible, unimpeachable way. When SJW’s tell you to “go get your folks,” we are basically asking you to buy Dr. Parker’s book for members of your family who may have anti-choice leanings and then talk to them about how it made them feel.

The Help Desk: What's your sign? My sign says "stop reading horoscopes"

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,

When you ignore all the day-to-day noise of politics, my Twitter feed was manageable until those writing astrology accounts started taking off. Now every writer I know is gabbing about how Mercury is in retrograde and how nobody understands Sagittariuses and they're all getting their charts done. It's bullshit. It's all bullshit.

But now this horoscope talk is becoming so widespread that I can't block everyone doing it. Some writers I really admire have started blabbing about the healing power of crystals, for fuck's sake! Is this just a passing fad, or am I going to have to move to the wilderness to get away from this insipid shit?

Leo, Capitol Hill

Dear Leo,

I feel your frustration but unpucker your buttocks for a minute and consider this: in times of fear and uncertainty, people often turn to religion and divine intervention – or for the nonreligious, stars and crystals – to inject a sense of structure and stability in their world. And as your Twitter newsfeed or the entire state of California or really anyone with a mouth will tell you, these are damn uncertain times.

Sure, astrology is annoying – or rather, people who proudly make important life decisions based on astrology are annoying. But I'd advise you to take a page out of Facebook star Sheryl Sandburg's playbook and instead of fighting the astrology/crystal fad, Lean In. Launch your own crystal-harnessing, planet-divining Twitter feed – only instead of talking about crystals, nature's kidney stones, sell actual kidney stones. In fact, you can Lean In even further and claim to harness the power of George Soros's kidney stones. Imagine how powerful and vindictive (and expensive) those are!

As for astrology, stars are only worthy of your passing contempt and most planets are unimpressive (what has Venus ever done for society?). The only planet worthy of attention is Mars. Named after the Roman god of war and agriculture, Mars is a severe and judgy planet, a planet whose approval starry-eyed crystal gazers will crave. And NASA's InSight Mission makes Mars' opinions especially topical right now. By harnessing the power of Soros' kidney stones and offering only Mars-based astrological readings, you will fill an important Twitter niche for the insecure and directionless. For example: "A coworker smells weakness on you. Your greatest professional fear will be realized in the coming weeks unless you take aggressive action. Mars advises you to buy two Soros kidney stones and practice sharpening everyday objects at work. Eat two servings of spinach daily for strength and vitality."



Portrait Gallery: Writers in the Schools

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

Sunday, December 2: Writers in the Schools Celebration

Writers in the Schools is a program from Seattle Arts and Lectures that encourages Seattle schoolchildren to enjoy writing as an artform. This is party to celebrate this year's students, as well as the crowning of the city's brand-new Youth Poet Laureate. If you've been feeling cynical about the literary world lately, you'll want to come to this reading to charge up your batteries. Elliott Bay Book Company, 1521 10th Ave, 624-6600,, 3 pm, free.

John Maher writes at Publishers Weekly:

Just two days after Mystery Writers of America announced that it would honor author Linda Fairstein as one of two of its Grand Masters for 2019, the organization withdrew the award following a public outcry over the bestselling crime novelist's role overseeing the prosecution of the Central Park Five, which ultimately led to wrongful conviction.

The board released a statement claiming they were "unaware of Ms. Fairstein's role in the controversy." (I'd argue that the Central Park Five case was a travesty and not a controversy, but whatever.) This marks the second literary controversy to reach a sensible conclusion in less than a week. I'm sure somewhere, someone is firing up their laptop to write an "actually, internet mobs are still bad" thinkpiece; I look forward to not reading that awful piece.

Thursday Comics Hangover: The heart of a poet

In her poem "Origin Story," Eve L Ewing writes "love is like a comic book. it’s fragile/and the best we can do is protect it." Ewing is a restless genius: depending on how you came to her work, you might know her first as a poet or a visual artist or an activist or an academic.

But if you've follow Ewing on Twitter for any amount of time, you likely know that she's an unabashed nerd. And her poem about comic books, it turns out, was a premonition of another title for her yard-long resume: Riri Williams: Ironheart, Ewing's first project as a comic writer, was published by Marvel Comics yesterday.

If you don't know anything about the character, Ewing catches you up in the first few pages of Ironheart. Riri Williams is a brilliant Chicago teen who, after tragedy strikes, reverse-engineers a suit of Iron Man's armor and decides to become a superhero.

Riri is a classic Marvel hero: impossibly smart, good-hearted, socially awkward, and a little bit of a self-defeatist. Ironheart #1 has pretty much everything you need in a superhero's first issue: character development, the introduction of a cast of characters, a villain with an ambitious plan, a big fight, and a soap-operatic last page twist.

The art by Kevin Libranda and Luciano Vecchio plays the range well — not every figure looks like a musclebound brute, the facial expressions are all clear and believable, and the action is imaginative. The coloring, by Matt Milla, is especially great. (You can see the light of Riri's phone on the underside of her nose when she gets a video call from a friend, and other nifty lighting tricks are handled subtly but intelligently.)

But for me, the real thrill of the issue is coming across Ewing's poetic flourishes in the dialogue. Riri takes a moment in a battle royale to appreciate her own accidental alliteration. The bad guy explains his plan, as is tradition, and then adds with a flourish, "You know, sometimes you just have to take a moment to revel in your own gifts." Indeed.

And Riri's personal motto — "those who move with courage make the path for those who live in fear" — isn't quite as catchy as Spider-Man's "with great power comes great responsibility," but it provides a complicated thesis for Ewing and company to explore over the rest of the series.

Ewing displays a natural talent for writing comics, and Riri is an interesting character who has enough provocative weaknesses to keep the story interesting for years to come. Ironheart is quite possibly the best first issue of a Marvel character since G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona's Ms. Marvel. This comic is anything but fragile.

Book News Roundup: This is how you respond to an internet uproar

As proud, long-time Capitol Hill residents, the Hultons were passionate about keeping the exterior of the store looking the same as it has for years, choosing to build around and include existing elements of the house in the storefront. Before Ada’s, the space was Horizon Books, another bookstore and a longstanding staple of the 15th Ave community. To Danielle, Ada’s is a space for the newer tech community to gather, for café-goers to stumble upon, and for everyone to explore. “Someone might come in and be looking for a cup of coffee but then start playing with the puzzles on the shelf… and if that piques their interest, then that’s a win.” Danielle says.
  • Last week, people on the internet protested a newly announced children's book titled A Suicide Bomber Sits in the Library written by Jack Gantos and drawn by Dave McKean for its offensive plot. The book is about "a young boy enter[ing] a library wearing an explosive vest hidden underneath his lovely new red jacket." An online petition protesting the book was almost immediately created, and on Saturday Abrams, the book's publisher, announced that the book would not be published. This quote from McKean is just about a textbook perfect response to the protest:
“A few factors changed from the initiation of the project until now, and I’m sure we all have our own thoughts to take away from all this. I already had my doubts that a story like this should come from outside the community involved, and the arguments on Twitter convinced me that it shouldn’t,” he said. “I’ve listened and learned a hard but valuable lesson.”
[Editor] Shena [Wolf] called me and was like, “Do you want to try out for ‘Nancy’?” And I was like, “Hahahaha, no way.” Not that I wouldn’t want it — it just seemed fake. And then I’m drawing the comics to submit for the test to be like, “Here’s a couple weeks.” And as I’m doing it, I’m like, “Hahahaha, no way, no way.” In a very Nancy move, it wasn’t like I was like, “No way they would pick me.” I was just like, “Obviously they would pick me, if they have any taste at all, because these jokes are so great.” But it didn’t really even feel real as I was signing the contract. I was like, “Hahaha, what a funny joke this is.”

Invented writing systems: Levert Banks and journaling the unfiltered mind

Sometimes the arrangement of coincidence changes a life. Imagine this scene: the flight is in the air, carrying hundreds of souls. In first class, Count Basie, his band is flying coach behind him. He rings the call bell to summon the flight attendant.

The attendant assigned to him, and who was sitting in the galley, was a young man named Levert Banks. He was writing in his journal when the light came on and he was called to work. Banks had been a daily journaler since being inspired to capture his feelings after the Dallas Cowboys trounced the Broncos in the 1977 season Super Bowl about a decade earlier. It was an epic rivalry, where Roger Staubach demolished former teammate and rival Cowboys' quarterback Craig Morton.

Since then? Banks told me: "I write every day. I don't write well every day, but I write every day. A day doesn't go by when something just erupts."

So he was writing in the back of the plane — on long transcontinental or international flights there was always some downtime to journal — and the buzzer went off. He tucked his book away on a shelf and got up to attend to Basie.

Job handled, Basie sated, Banks was walking back down the aisle when he sees Basie's composer. He had sheet music out and he was composing, right there on the plane, right there on his tray table.

This abstract calligraphy that, for one who knew the method, could make music from marks on paper. What a wonder! "Still, to this day, I've never seen anything as beautiful as someone writing music," Banks said.

Continuing his way through the plane, Banks stopped to chat with another passenger on this flight: Attallah Shabazz, Malcolm X's eldest daughter. She was writing in Arabic, and Banks was taken with the elegance and beauty of the calligraphy. Just the form of the text was gorgeous, like the sheet music. But more than that, it had great meaning to her. "She told me that her father had spoken Arabic and this is the way that she feels connected to him."

"So there's a very personal thing that comes with being able to express what's in your musical head, or your heart of longing, and to do it in a way that a person passing by, like me, just sees it as beautiful and can't really know what it is but knows that it's special."

With those two encounters foremost in his head, Banks returns to the galley at the back of the plane to find his journal being read by his crew. They were reading his most personal thoughts, stories of encounters and people, feelings about his job and his life. It was like they suddenly gained the ability to look into his mind and read him.

"Privacy equals don't let anyone find it. You end up not really writing the way you genuinely feel when you've shielded yourself from incrimination, or whatever else.

"It always frustrated me that being able to write what I really felt, which is the whole point of journaling in my opinion, was restricted by this security issue. So I had spent a lot of effort not letting people find it. You do put it under lock and key, hiding under your mattress."

Diaries have locks for a good reason, after all. Parents, or spouses, read other's journals for good reason, after all, however deceptive the practice — there is no faster way to learn the complex interior of someone else then if they are honest with the page, and you can access it. You either find a way to hide or lock your words up — or, perhaps, you think of a more novel way to disguise your writing.

Because you have to choose: be transparent in the journal and risk being found, or hide yourself from yourself for fear of being found. Banks knew which he would choose:

"The point [of journaling] is that it opens a space in a person as a writer that is so personal. It informs my external world. I seek out relationships where I can have honesty, like can we really just talk here, you and I? I don't know that very many people get to experience that."

So Banks made the choice to start writing in a way that could obscure his words. If Shabazz could do it through Arabic, and Basie's composer could do it through music, maybe Banks could to it, as well. Maybe he could develop a system.

Starting that day, Banks began writing in code.

"It began as a one-to-one connection between random symbols and letters of the alphabet, and then, eventually, I saw vowel groupings, common consonant groupings, articles of speech, conjunctions, prefixes and so forth represented by single unified symbols.

"I wrote all the letters of the alphabet and I erased portions of it. I had to come back and make some refinements because of the physical structure of the way letters are written. I had to make some modifications and different treatments to make sure every character was unique.

"You're going to get tired of writing '-th', or '-ing', or 'the'. Pretty quickly it starts morphing, and a different kind of elegant form comes through. You're like 'okay, maybe I could improve that design a little bit.'

"Now you're back in second grade and it transitions to what is a 't'? What is an 'h'? What is an 'a'? I'm just putting it down because I have an idea. It happens really fast.

"And then when you get to the layer of obfuscation. I tested it with people who said, 'Okay, well, that was something, and this looks like a whatever and that looks like the word blank.

"I go back, machine it a little more and I'm like, “Thank you for that.” I never came back to that same person. I always went to the next person, and over time that's the obfuscation.

"Then, how did I treat double letters? How do I treat numbers? What am I gonna do about punctuation and contractions? Well, I've gotten rid of 99% of all punctuation, you'll never see a question mark."

"Then it said it's finished; like art work, there's a point where the canvas pushes back at the brush and says, 'I'm good.'"

Since that day in 1988, Banks has been writing in, and over the years developing, his created language. He calls it Colan (Koh-lahn), an abbreviation of "coded language". He's taught his grown sons to read it, so that they can have access to his life when he's gone. "Well, I mean, one of my favorite movies of all time is probably Bridges of Madison County," he says.

He's also been going through the thirty years of Colan journals, and the ten that came before that in plain English, and has been working on a memoir.

I asked if he's taught anybody besides his sons to write in his language, and he tells me, no, but he's taught two people how to create their own. I say that my problem with the codes and ciphers I played with as a kid was that I could never remember them.

"Yes, but if you created it, I think, it would have worked. If you have to learn Colan, it might be difficult because you have to learn my rationale or my justification for this or that. But if I taught you how to do it yourself...?"

Colan is a reflection of Levert himself, it has a style and panache that came from his own curious, seeking mind. And it freed him to write his clearest thoughts unfiltered, which allowed him to keep an unexpurgated story of his life. He may not have published, but Banks has written more than most professional published writers.

All because of a chance encounter with Count Basie, his composer, Attallah Shabazz, and some very nosy coworkers, all lined up and flying across the country that one day back in the 80s.

Lit Twitter and its slightly more polite subset, Canadian Lit Twitter, are both suffering from palpitations this morning over a new announcement from Margaret Atwood:

Many people are delighted at this news. I have my own opinions about sequels — I miss definitive endings — but I just can't side with the people who are outraged over this. Consider Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockinbird sequel, which just came out a few years ago and has already basically dissolved into nothingness. The original stories are still there and nobody's making you read the sequel. It will be okay, I promise.

I happened to stumble across the Consulate General of Denmark's interview with Katrine Øgaard Jensen about translating Danish into English. If you're interested in the different ways that language can convey ideas, this interview is for you.

This duality is possible in the original language because Danish grammar allows for multiple ideas — separated by many, many commas — to (e)merge within a single sentence. To accommodate this duality in translation, I replaced some commas with line breaks, to entertain the possibility of connections between certain words or lines. In other cases, when a line break would cause more confusion than clarification, I inserted a colon or a period instead.

The man show

Published November 27, 2018, at 11:56am

Paul Constant reviews Amber Nelson's The Sexiest Man Alive.

Can a book of poems based on People Magazine's Sexiest Man Alive issue offer any new thoughts into what it means to be a man?

Read this review now

Timber Scribe

Between the membrane of fur
and muscle, blades fevered by appetite

dimpled the prairie with denuded bison.
The pick’s sharp interruption

of the ground’s moss and prairie grass union
uncoupled Kansas soil.

A timber scribe,
small enough to hide

in the curve of the palm;
portable instrument

of the Great Reconnaissance,
subtle gouge for the lonely mind.