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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Reading Tonight

posted by on September 17 at 10:25 AM


When it rains, it pours. Besides a poetry slam, there are two great readings going on tonight, all at the same time.

At the Seattle Mystery Bookshop, there is a book about murder and the high seas and booze, but it’s curiously not a novelization of The Love Boat. Up at the University Book Store, Benjamin Mee reads from We Bought a Zoo, which is a memoir about his family buying a zoo. At Elliott Bay Book Company, Helene Cooper reads from The House at Sugar Beach, which is a family memoir about slavery and freedom and revolution. And at Town Hall, Rick Shenkman reads from Just How Stupid Are We? Facing the Truth About the American Voter. Way to elevate the political discourse with your book title, buddy. Up at Third Place Books, Brian Herbert and his accomplice, Kevin J. Anderson, read from their newest Dune book that further strip-mines the work of Herbert’s father.

And—now we’re into the very good readings—Vanessa Place, Stacey Levine, Kreg Hasegawa, Doug Nufer read at the Rendezvous. Levine and Nufer and Hasegawa are very talented local authors, and you should attend for just that, but the real special thing about tonight is California author Vanessa Place, who has written an incredible new novel called La Medusa. Unfortunately, I hadn’t read the whole book in time to write about it this week—it’s really very dense—but La Medusa is phenomenal. It’s an experimental novel about the city of Los Angeles told from the point of view of an ice cream vendor, a recently expired corpse, a mythological being, and many others. If you read House of Leaves because you were excited about the structure of it, but were promptly disappointed by its lack of depth, La Medusa is for you. The text is all over the page—in tiny boxes, in different fonts, in screenplay format—and it ties together into one of the most exciting experimental novels I’ve read in a long time. If you like thinking about your fiction, this is for you. Here is much more information about the book.

Which is not to say that Richard Russo, reading at Benaroya Hall, is not for the thinking reader; his work is just much more traditional. I wrote about him in this week’s Constant Reader:

Straight Man, Russo’s funniest book, was published 10 years ago. “Straight Man was the gift,” Russo says by phone. “Writing it was just a gas. I may as well have been taking dictation.” But he points out that even that book has its dark places: “A lot of people think it’s a novel about academia, but it’s really about a middle-aged man having a meltdown.” It’s just a very funny meltdown, involving duck-related terrorism and some ill-advised peach-pit stains.

He writes lovely, funny, touching books about hard-working small town Americans, and he does it better than just about everyone else. A commenter complained about my complaining about Garrison Keillor the other day: Richard Russo is in every respect the author that Garrison Keillor should be. Even people that don’t read—like, for instance, half the state of Maine—love his books, and for very good reasons. I hear tell there are lots of tickets left for tonight, and you have a hard choice to make. Good luck to you.

The full readings calendar, including the next week or so, here.

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Shenkman may not be very tactful with his book title, but he's got a point: why isn't Obama leading by something like 67% - 31%? Apparently something like 46% of American "likely voters" are dipshits.

Posted by Greg | September 17, 2008 2:54 PM

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