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Monday, September 29, 2008

Reading Tonight

posted by on September 29 at 10:12 AM


An open mic and two readings tonight.

At Elliott Bay Book Company, Kathleen Flinn reads from The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry. It's a memoir about how she went to fancy culinary school and fell in love. Kind of like that "hit" movie No Reservations, starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart.

And at Town Hall, and in our Stranger Suggests, Sean Wilsey and Sleater-Kinney's Carrie Brownstein will read from State by State, which is a terrific new anthology. There are fifty different essays by fifty different writers about each of the states. It's my favorite book of the fall so far. I reviewed the book a couple weeks ago:

Some of the writers are locals: Dave Eggers writes a heartfelt manifesto about why Illinois is the best state ever, in part because it "ranks first in contradictions, in self-delusions, in strange dichotomies." Others, like Ellery Washington, who writes an eerie tribute to New Mexico's atomic industry, are transplants. Others, like David Rakoff, who writes a hilarious anthropology of the institutional racism of Utah's Mormons, are just visiting. A few essays, like Alison Bechdel's Vermont piece, try to be at least vaguely comprehensive about their state's history and geography, but most, like John Hodgman's disinterested paean to Massachusetts's primary dilemma ("How you leave home when you just can't bear to leave home"), only try to capture a certain ethereal feeling of what it means to be in that state.

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

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Reading Today

posted by on September 28 at 10:00 AM


There's an open mic and two readings going on today.

The readings couldn't be more different. Alexander McCall Smith, who wrote the Number One Ladies' Detective Agency, reads in Bellevue. I have tried to read his books—he puts out maybe three or four a year—and I just can't. They feel like outlines for real books to be written at a later date by a competent writer.

And at Elliott Bay Book Company, Arthur Nersesian reads. He wrote a very good novel called The Fuck-Up, about a man in his twenties who is a fuck-up. He has just embarked on a five-part series of novels about a fictional New York that has been significantly changed by an urban designer. The first book was The Swing Voter of Staten Island, and the newest one in the series is The Sacrificial Circumcision of the Bronx. I haven't read this particular series, but it looks fascinating and Nersesian writes about New York in a really interesting way. He'll be joined onstage by Curt Colbert, who is editing the forthcoming Seattle Noir anthology. You should attend the latter and not the former.

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

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Reading Today

posted by on September 27 at 10:00 AM


We have an open mic and three readings today.

First, at Seattle Mystery Bookshop, Ann Littlewood reads from Night Kill, which is about a woman accused of murder by lion. There was never a Murder, She Wrote about that, I bet.

Up at Third Place Books, John Robison reads from Look Me in the Eye. That book is his memoir about growing up with Asperger's. It's also a memoir about growing up as Augusten Burroughs' brother.

And at Elliott Bay Book Company, Emily Warn reads from Shadow Architect, her most recent book of poems. I think that Warn is a beautiful poet. Here is a link to a page that features her reading one of her poems aloud. You should go to this.

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

Friday, September 26, 2008

Reading Tonight

posted by on September 26 at 10:09 AM


We have a children's book and a mystery named Vi Agra Falls and several other events tonight.

At the Library, Robert Fisk reads from Age of the Warrior. Fisk has one of those rare Hendrik Hertzberg talents—he has commented on just about every war on Earth in the last ten years with concise and incisive language. He needs maybe a thousand words less than everybody else to talk about terribly complex subjects, and he should be a pip in person.

And at Jack Straw Productions, local literary magazine The Raven Chronicles is celebrating the release of their fourteenth volume's first issue. They will be joined by a number of authors, including Stranger Genius John Olson and something called "Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade." This would be well worth checking out, too.

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

Thursday, September 25, 2008

"I write modern-day Greek tragedies"

posted by on September 25 at 2:39 PM

The Vulture quotes Nicholas Sparks at the premiere of the film version of his book Nights in Rodanthe. Sayeth the author of The Notebook:

"I write a dramatic epic love story, I write modern-day Greek tragedies, and there’s a big difference between that and romance. You have romance novels, and then you have what I do, more along the lines of love stories like Eric Segal’s Love Story or The Bridges of Madison County, and those are both male writers. But you can even go all the way back. You had Hemingway write A Farewell to Arms, the movies of the forties — Casablanca, From Here to Eternity — Shakespeare, and that’s the genre I work in,”

Sounds like a certain somebody thinks the size of his paycheck is commensurate with the size of his writing talent. It also sounds a bit like he thinks the two major reasons he's not a romance writer is (a) because his characters die and also (b) he has a penis.

Catch 22, Take 2

posted by on September 25 at 1:00 PM

Haaretz has an interesting story about how a brand new translation of Joseph Heller's Catch 22 has climbed to the top of the Hebrew bestseller lists. The book has sold 15,000 copies in 2 weeks.

As an aside, a great Heller book that will probably never climb the Hebrew bestseller lists is God Knows, which is a first-person comic novel about the life of King David. There's sex and puns and lively, pungent commentary about power and politics and sex. If you haven't read a lot of Heller and you don't quite get his allure, I suggest that one—you can probably find it at just about any used book store for a buck and a half.

At the Hideout: Buy Art (for Obama), Vote for Arne (for the Future of Poetry)

posted by on September 25 at 12:33 PM

Greg Lundgren, the guy who invented Vital 5 Productions, who makes gravestones out of glass, and who owns the art bar with an art vending machine and the best Greyhounds in town, the Hideout, does not like politics. But the situation is so dire he's making an exception.

From now until October 30, 40 percent of all the proceeds of any work of art you buy at the Hideout will go to the Obama/Biden campaign. The Hideout walls are covered in modestly priced great stuff by local artists. Or 100 percent of proceeds from sales of The Vital 5 Cookbook (which is serious fun and only 25 bucks) will go to the campaign.

Here's the glorious art vending machine at the Hideout (from here). (I think the Obama deal applies to the art on the walls, but it could include the machine, too—or you could probably talk Greg into it if you're passionate enough.)


And in another election universe, from Greg's mass email this morning:

And while I am writing about elections...

Vital 5 Productions was asked to nominate a Northwest poet for this years Poet Populist Award. It took us about .01 seconds to raise our hand and point to Arne Pihl. For those of you who know Arne, it is an easy choice to make. He is an amazing poet and writer, publishing books like Deck Hand Arm, Girls, Girls, Girls, and Montana, with a very hefty stack of loose leaf paper waiting to be published. If you don't know much about Arne's work, he writes about commercial fishing, professional drinking, a whole lot of women trouble, and some deep thoughts about why men are so screwed up. He is the working man's poet and he deserves a big round of applause. We ask that you check out his work (there is one poem posted on the website and all three of his books are at the Hideout) and VOTE FOR ARNE online at:

Well, okay, but Paul Constant disagrees. He wanted Geologic.

Judging Book Covers

posted by on September 25 at 12:00 PM


Penguin had a contest to design the cover of a new novel, Sam Taylor's The Island at the End of the World. Here's the synopsis:

A chilling novel about the near future, where most of the world has been destroyed by catastrophic floods. As a father and his three children begin to rebuild their lives alone on an island, his youngest son Finn begins to question how they arrived there and why they alone have been spared. Finn's search for understanding takes an unexpected turn when a strange man named Will swims ashore, and he appears to know quite a bit about this family and the circumstances that surrounded the floods. But Finn's father is determined to keep him silent and is willing to do anything to prevent Will from disturbing his family's idyllic life on the island. Sam Taylor's The Island at the End of the World is a riveting post-apocalyptic tale that explores the darkness that lies within the hearts of men.

300 people entered the contest and the 25 finalists are here for your perusal. It's kind of a time-suck, and an interesting look at what book covers can say about a book.

Dead Minx

posted by on September 25 at 11:00 AM


Galleycat informs us that Minx, DC Comics' imprint intended for young female readers, will be shuttered in January. The line put out 12 titles in two years.

Perhaps part of the failure of Minx is that it was intended for girls and all of the protagonists were girls, but only one-third of the books had female writers or artists involved. The others, like Ross Campbell's Water Baby, pictured above, featured breasty, sexy protagonists who didn't act like real girls. here is a typical complaint about the book:

Campbell’s art style has one or two drawbacks, though--the main one being the amped-up sexiness of the characters. Brody seems particularly busty for a thin girl (and the fat she sometimes complains about is not visible on her at all), and she and Louisa usually wear overly skimpy clothing. Sure, it’s supposed to be summer, and girls do often dress provocatively in real life, but the art often seems to linger on their nubile bodies, which probably sends the wrong sort of message to the intended audience of young teenage girls.

Also, shouldn’t Brody, who brags about her slovenly lifestyle and reticence toward bathing, have some hair on her legs or armpits? In fact, her severed leg ends in a smooth, rounded stump; don’t amputees usually have some ugly scarring?

The only three Minx comics worth reading were by the two books by Andi Watson, who is a fairly prolific comics creator in her his (in my defense, dude writes almost exclusively about women) own right, and Good as Lily, by Derek Kirk Kim and Jesse Hamm, which is a story of a teenager who is visited by past and future versions of herself. The rest of it was unexceptional when it wasn't creepy, and the line won't really be missed

Reading Tonight

posted by on September 25 at 10:03 AM


Two open mics, two readings by authors who always read in Seattle—Garth Stein, Jennie Shortridge, and David Guterson—and a whole bunch more tonight.

Up at Third Place Books, Jeffrey Overstreet reads from Cyndere's Midnight, which is another book in the Aurelia's Thread young adult fantasy series. You'll have to Google if you want any more information on this one—young adult fantasy series all sound alike to me.

At the University Book Store, David Arnold explores the relations between salmon and people—not like that, you pervert—in The Fishermen's Frontier: People and Salmon in Southeast Alaska. Since this is Seattle, and since the book has Alaska in the title, I bet at least one Palin-related question will be asked.

At Elliott Bay Book Company, Rinku Sen and Fekkak Mamdouh talk about how shitty it is to be an immigrant in post-9/11 America. They are here in support of their new book, The Accidental American.

And over at Town Hall, Robert J. Shiller reads from The Subprime Solution: How Today's Global Financial Crisis Happened, and What to Do About It. A month ago, this probably seemed like a nice little mid-level-attendance reading. As of last week, this became the reading to attend. Expect a madhouse of panicked Americans. In other words, it should be fun.

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

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Daddy's Roommate Is Moving Into Wasilla

posted by on September 24 at 1:00 PM

Gay-lesbian titles donated to Wasilla Library.

Responding to news reports about then-Wasilla Mayor Sarah Palin asking a librarian how she would feel about banning books, a San Francisco man has donated two children’s books dealing with homosexuality to the Wasilla Library.

Mike Petrelis, a 49-year-old who files Freedom of Information requests for a living, said he was aghast to read reports of Palin’s 1996 inquiry about banning certain books at Wasilla’s library.

The news — old news in the Mat-Su Valley, but new in the Lower 48 — prompted Petrelis to send to Wasilla “Heather Has Two Mommies” and “Daddy’s Roommate,” both children’s books that explain gay lifestyle.

“I said, ‘I’m going to send copies of both books just to make sure they’re on the shelves,’” Petrelis said.

I think we all should fall in love with Mike Petrelis a little bit right now.

(Thanks to Slog tipper Davida.)

Is This Good News?

posted by on September 24 at 12:00 PM


In the books section, Tori Centanni reviews Waiter Rant. The review ends:

...if Dublanica can transcend his "cynical server ranting!" gimmick—which will be difficult, considering publishing's tendency to pigeonhole bloggers—he has the potential to become a talented humorous essayist or novelist.

On his blog, Dublanica announces his next book:

Titled At Your Service, I’ll be going “undercover” to investigate the dynamics of tipping across the service industry. And I won’t just be writing about waiters mind you, but nail technicians, maids, furniture movers, strippers, taxi drivers, bellhops, and everyone who counts on the erratic generosity of the American public to make ends meet.

Whenever possible, I will actually do the work these people perform. (Obviously not the stripper job – unless I get a good personal trainer.) I’ll share their burdens, suffer their indignities, learn their dreams, and describe how they screw with the people who forget to tip them. If you’ve ever worried about how much to tip the concierge at a fancy hotel, your doorman at Christmas, the hair colorist at the salon, or the bathroom attendant at the nightclub - this book will be for you!

I'm kind of excited about this (in part because people—including certain people who occasionally comment on this very blog—need to learn how to fucking tip) but I kind of also feel bad for Dublanica. Is he going to become the Morgan Spurlock of the service industry? How long can he stretch that gimmick out for? Should I stop worrying about how well-compensated authors are going to make their living five to ten years down the line?

It Was Offensive Until We Sold a Buttload of Them

posted by on September 24 at 11:00 AM

T-shirt from Sarah Utter at Buy Olympia.

The Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers' Association introduced their "new" slogan at a recent poorly attended convention held in Colorado Springs. The term should be familiar to anyone who's ever shopped at Urban Outfitters: Reading Is Sexy. Apparently, the words—which are the exact same words that appear on t-shirts and tote bags available for sale everywhere—are accompanied by a silhouette of a 'sexy' woman. No photo accompanies this story, but I hope it's the mudflap girl, since that too would be totally original.

The best part of the story is this passage:

MPIBA president Andy Nettell, co-owner of Arches Book Company in Moab, UT, told PW that he originally objected to the design, which was first printed on stickers. “I initially didn’t think it was appropriate,” he said, “Then we sold 250 stickers in a few months. I saw it was only women who were buying them – mostly librarians – who would pick them up by the stack. That sold me and I stopped worrying about the image.”

Classy, classy mountains and plains booksellers. Always on the cutting edge.

Reading Tonight

posted by on September 24 at 10:09 AM


We have a poetry slam and three readings tonight.

At Elliott Bay Book Company, Irvine Welsh reads from his new book. Irvine Welsh, of course, wrote Trainspotting. And he wrote a book called Ecstasy that I really enjoyed. And then he kept writing books. And writing books. These books generally covered the exact same ground of his earlier books.And then he wrote a sequel to Trainspotting. And he kept tilling the same soil. And then he put out a book called If You Like School, You'll Love Work. And now he's put out a book called Crime. Irvine Welsh is not that interesting anymore, frankly, but he should get points for still putting out book after book and going on tour to promote them. He's been to Seattle like four times in the last six years. That's gumption.

From bad to worse: Mark Richardson reads before Irvine Welsh at Elliott Bay. Richardson wrote a book called Zen and Now: On the Trail of Robert Pirsig and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Man, do I loathe Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The book always struck me as a Lee Hazelwood song without any of the knowing, self-mocking humor that makes Lee Hazelwood songs so appealing. And this book, with its cutesy title and its premise—let's create the same journey of self-discovery that was documented in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance...only with me as the star this time!—makes for a tremendously unappealing book idea.

But don't worry: there's a good reading tonight. Tariq Ali is at Town Hall. Ali is a profoundly intelligent writer on areas of the world that most Americans couldn't even locate on a map. His newest book, The Duel, is about Pakistan. I'm not as fond of Ali's novels—something about them seems a little wooden to me—but his nonfiction, like The Duel, is really something. You should really go to this.

Full readings calendar, including the next week or so, here.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

He Really Is a Menace!

posted by on September 23 at 4:00 PM

The Beat links to this blog, in which a man found a book called Backstage at the Strips. There was a copy of a 1970 Dennis the Menace cartoon in the book:


And also an apology for the strip that ran in the Cleveland Press the next day:

Yesterday's DENNIS THE MENACE cartoon offended a number of Press readers. The Press apologizes for the affront caused by the cartoonist. It assures subscribers that such a thing will not happen again.

Here I thought Family Circus was the racistest comic strip in America.

"I Want This Motherfucking Whale Off This Motherfucking Boat!"

posted by on September 23 at 2:00 PM

Ain't It Cool News points to this article in Variety. The director of Night Watch and Wanted is filming a re-imagination of Moby Dick.

The writers revere Melville’s original text, but their graphic novel-style version will change the structure. Gone is the first-person narration by the young seaman Ishmael...This change will allow them to depict the whale’s decimation of other ships prior to its encounter with Ahab’s Pequod, and Ahab will be depicted more as a charismatic leader than a brooding obsessive..."Our vision isn’t your grandfather’s ‘Moby Dick,’ " Cooper said. "This is an opportunity to...tell what at its core is an action-adventure revenge story."

At first blush, I think this has to be a joke, but then I remember the Demi Moore version of The Scarlet Letter, with its happy ending, and I bet this will actually happen.

Reading Tonight

posted by on September 23 at 10:11 AM


A bunch of readings tonight.

Up at Third Place Books, Michael Greenberg reads from Hurry Down Sunshine, which is a book about raising a child with serious manic depressive disorder. It's a pretty thoughtful book and would definitely be worth your time, particularly if you have anyone in your family with mental problems.

At Town Hall, Frank Wilczek reads from The Lightness of Being, which is about physics and reality. It looks not too What the [BLEEP] Do We Know?, which is to say, there looks to be actual physics in the book. Hopefully, this means the book is not so much with the touchy-feelies.

Up at Wide World Books & Maps in Wallingford, Micha Berman reads from Permanent Passenger: My Life on a Cruise Ship. Berman was "Assistant Cruise Director on one of the largest cruise ships in the world, Carnival Cruise Line’s M.S. Ecstasy." If you're as fascinated by the cruise ship lifestyle as I am, you'll probably find this interesting.

Ashley Wearly, my intern, very much liked Padma Viswanathan's new book, The Toss of a Lemon. Viswanathan is reading in Bellevue tonight. The book is about a family in India in the late 1800's, spanning a few generations in the course of the book.

And Elliott Bay Book Company hosts Daphne Beal, the author of In the Land of No Right Angles. Commenter Aislinn reviewed that book for us just a couple weeks ago. She hated it, with some very good reasons why. Are you going to let Aislinn down by going to this reading? I don't think so.

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

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Endz of an Era

posted by on September 22 at 4:00 PM

Scholastic is not going to allow its Bratz books, which are based on the sexy, sexy children's toys, to be sold at book fairs for children anymore. Apparently, consumer groups complained about the books, which had titles like Catwalk Cuties, Dancin' Divas, and Pukin' to Pretty*, and Scholastic finally pulled the plug. I had forgotten all about Scholastic's involvement in the schools: I really miss book fairs and book orders. Sometimes those were the highlights of my year.

Continue reading "The Endz of an Era" »

His Name Was Remo...

posted by on September 22 at 3:00 PM


...and his Destroyer series of books, which has been published on a semi-regular basis for thirty years, has been cancelled.

right now, everything with the destroyer is basically on hold and i think remo and chiun, series-wise, are going on vacation for a while. tor hasn’t offered us a contract and, frankly, if they did, i don’t think i’d entertain it. they were just not efficient at getting the books out on time and the operative word with a book series is “series.”

Every once in a while, I'll read a Destroyer novel for the hell of it. The novels, which were the basis for the horrible Remo Williams movie, are about a kung-fu assassin and his master, Chiun. The books were often sci-fi and fantasy tinged, and my favorite part of the books is a conceit with the writing. The series was written by Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir, and one author would begin a book, get Remo and Chiun in a bind, and then hand it off to the other author, who would have to finish the book. It made for good action writing, I think, to have a fresh author conclude the adventure.

Things went downhill when Sapir died in the late eighties, and Murphy took over the writing. The characters became highly conservative-minded, and very few Destroyer books have been written since then that did not include a tribute to Ronald Reagan. But if you like cheap and breezy thrillers that can be read in an hour or two, you should pick up a 70's or early 80's Destroyer novel if you come across one in a used bookstore. At its prime, they were wonderful fun. Macmillan recently published a The Best of the Destroyer book that includes three of the best novels of the entire run. It's a pretty great read to take on vacation and demolish in a half day's sitting.

More Free Books for Elitist District Attorneys

posted by on September 22 at 12:20 PM

Vincent Bugliosi, who wrote Helter Skelter, has written a book called The Prosecution of George W. Bush For Murder. Without any advertising budget, the book has been a steady seller on the New York Times Bestseller List.

Now, someone is trying to collect enough money to send a copy of the book to every single District Attorney in the United States. That's 2,700 DA's; the project will probably take $40,000. In less than a week, they've raised almost 6,000 bucks. I guess the thinking is that at least one DA will read the book and decide to prosecute Bush on the merits of the book. Bugliosi has already sent a copy of the book to every single one of the 50 Attorneys General in the United States. You've got to admire that level of W-hatred.

Return of the Book Club of the Damned?

posted by on September 22 at 11:00 AM


Sorry it's taken me so long to find another book worthy of Book Club of the Damned, but I think I've found the next selection. Bookgasm highlights Travis Thrasher's Isolation. Thrasher is a Christian horror novelist.

With its elements of a strained marriage and a family spending a winter in a remote lodge that is not their own, ISOLATION immediately reminds one of Stephen King’s THE SHINING — an association that very well may be on purpose, given Thrasher’s reference to the book in his own, as well as a thank-you note to King on the acknowledgments page for a career influence.

Anyone want to bet I can't read the whole thing?

Reading Tonight

posted by on September 22 at 10:13 AM


There are a lot of readings tonight, including a book about Marco Polo up at Third Place Books and a book at the University Book Store that is described thusly: "New deities fight to join the formal pantheon of the Gods in this new Mazalan book." There is also an open mic.

Chuck Klosterman reads at Elliott Bay Book Company tonight. He's written a novel called Downtown Owl. I gave our copy of Downtown Owl to Eric Grandy to read during his recent trip to New York City. During his flight, he got about sixty pages into the book before being distracted by DirecTV, and then apparently he didn't think about it again until I asked him about it this morning. That might be all you need to know about Downtown Owl.

At the University Book Store, Bernard-Henri Lévy reads from his newest book, Left in Dark Times: A Stand Against the New Barbarism. This morning, I heard Mr. Lévy on NPR talk about the election and how it is imperative to vote for Obama. It occurred to me that if most of the people I went to high school with heard a man with a thick French accent talk on the radio about what was wrong with America and then endorse Obama, they'd probably vote for McCain out of spite. I'm so glad I don't live in Maine anymore.

And at Town Hall, Dexter Filkins reads from The Forever War, which is about Iraq and Afghanistan. To hear the television networks tell it, Iraq has become a non-issue in this election, but you should still go to this reading: Iraq still matters, for reasons both obvious and not obvious. (And, as an aside, it's lovely to see a book about current events with such a beautiful cover. Normally, they just slap a photo up there and call it a day, but you can tell that a designer actually thought about this book cover. Good job, nameless book designer!)

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

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Reading Today

posted by on September 21 at 10:00 AM


Two readings and an open mic today.

At Third Place Books, Steven Erickson reads from Toll the Hounds, which is a fantasy book. The cover to the left is the U.K. edition. I bet you that the U.S. edition will not have as neat a cover. I don't know why that's the way it is, but it is.

And at Elliott Bay Book Company, Twyla Tharp discusses creativity and dance and such. Brendan Kiley calls her the "cranky grande dame of dance," which is a title that is almost enough to get me to show up on its own merits.

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

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Reading Today

posted by on September 20 at 10:00 AM


Three readings and an open mic today.

At Elliott Bay Book Company, Harry Rutstein reads from Marco Polo Odyssey, in which he retraces the steps of Marco Polo, who you may remember as the inventor of the hilarious and fun pool game. The book has a lot of maps, also.

Later at Elliott Bay, Larry Beinhart reads from Salvation Boulevard. I took the book on a Lunch Date last week. As I said yesterday, I eventually abandoned the book due to lack of interest. But Beinhart is a weird guy—he wrote himself into the novel that eventually became Wag the Dog—and the reading could be interesting.

Up at Third Place Books, Christina Pratt reads from An Encyclopedia of Shamanism. All you shamans should get to it. Everybody else, avoid Third Place Books at all costs tonight.

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

Friday, September 19, 2008

Book Review: Lala Pipo

posted by on September 19 at 5:36 PM


There are so many books I'd like to review, and not enough space in The Stranger to print all the reviews I'd like to run, so I'd like to call your attention to this review over on our Books page.

Lala Pipo—the name is a play on the way poor Japanese speakers of English mangle the phrase "lot of people"—is a new paperback original just released by Vertical Press.

This is a novel in six parts, telling the story of six people who are linked in distant ways. None of them are good people, and they're all hung up on their own weird sexual appetites. A man readjusts his entire life so that he can more easily masturbate to his upstairs neighbor's enthusiastic sexual encounters. An older housewife with a disgusting secret buried in the mounds of rotting garbage that fill her house is lured into a lucrative career starring in pornographic films. A stuffy writer can't stop having sex with underage prostitutes.

I liked the book a lot, but it's certainly not for everyone. You should go and check out all the book reviews on the Books page. The economy's collapsing; you should buy yourself a book to celebrate!


posted by on September 19 at 12:00 PM

In the comments section to my story about the Hugo House, Stranger Genius Matt Briggs is having an ongoing discussion with brilliant short story writer Ryan Boudinot about the future of the Hugo House. Briggs wants a smaller, more community-oriented Hugo House—kind of the opposite of what former House Executive Director Lyall Bush is famous for promoting—and Boudinot is in favor of continuing the world-class readings series. Briggs has just challenged Boudinot to a face-off:

It has come down to this. You and me. The future of the Seattle writing community clearly, certainly, depends on us and our ideas about outreach programs at Richard Hugo House.

I concede, too, that perhaps a business minded approach is appropriate considering we are talking about an arts organization with a budget and employees and things.

In this spirit, I suggest we resolve our difference in the time honored traditional of all business minded people: dueling PowerPoint presentations outlining the potential futures of Richard Hugo House. In the yawning vacuum of Lyall Bush's mysterious departure, sense must be made, preferably in three word bullet points.

I suggest we meet in appropriate corporate or edgy marketing attire at a suitable location -- a whiteboard perhaps, an AV projector.

Go ahead present your vision of the future in a succinct, and sizzly deck.

I will also have a nice PowerPoint presentation prepared.

20 minutes each. 20 minutes to blow people's minds.

And then, the people can decide provided they are still awake.

Mr. Boudinot, author of The Littlest Hitler and soon to be released novel Egg and Sperm, I am calling you out. I challenge you to a PowerPoint-off. I demand this, or I demand your immediate concession to my generally sensible and cogent explanations and thoughts about the future of Richard Hugo House.

Name your time. Name you place. Check my Outlook calendar and schedule a rumble.

Thank You,

Matt Briggs

I know this is partially meant in jest, but I think this is a great idea. A PowerPoint-off about the future of the Hugo House. (Briggs suggests the MacLeod Residence as a neutral territory.) The Hugo House is right now figuring out what it's going to be for at least the next five years by choosing its next Executive Director. This would be a fun way for everyone to get their respective opinions heard. I say yes, please.

Joan Didion Seems to Say "Panic!"

posted by on September 19 at 11:08 AM

This blog reports on Joan Didion's recent appearance at the Brooklyn Book Festival. The blog's not particularly well-written—the title is "Joan Didion Discourses at the Brooklyn Book Festival" and includes the phrase "The choir had been preached too"—but anything involving Joan Didion is interesting.

Here's a bit:

...she focused on what has been said by all the pundits and television talking heads about Palin: she has a great “story.” McCain, the war hero, has a great “story.” It is a tactic used, she asserted, to “downplay their capacity for trouble.” Condoleezza Rice had a great “story.” Hearkening back to the 2005 confirmation hearings to install her as secretary of state, she said how at the time everyone noted that Rice had great success as provost of Stanford. “It was as if everyone on the Fox News Terror Alert Team had come off the provost beat.”

In conclusion: Hooray for Joan Didion!

Reading Tonight

posted by on September 19 at 10:02 AM


Two readings tonight.

Up at Third Place Books, Larry Beinhart reads from Salvation Boulevard. I took the book on a Lunch Date last week. I must update the Lunch Date with the fact that I did abandon the book after it didn't really go anywhere for the next hundred pages or so. But I do think this would be an interesting reading: Beinhart seems like the interesting kind of crazy to me.

And at Elliott Bay Book Company, Somaly Mam reads from The Road of Lost Innocence. It's about how she was sold into sexual slavery in her youth, but now works to fight human trafficking with her nonprofit organization. This looks like a very interesting one.

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

Thursday, September 18, 2008

What Would Richard Hugo Do?

posted by on September 18 at 3:18 PM

There's a great argument going on in the comments thread of my story about the personnel changes at the Hugo House. Ryan Boudinot, Matt Briggs, and others are discussing what the future Hugo House should look like.

Should the House be more of a community organization for local writers and literary organizations, or home to a world-class readings series? Or should it be both?

Does “I wonder if the real reason for your post is that you enjoy the sound of your own complaining" actually really mean "Shut up?"

What do you think should happen to the Hugo House, now that they're looking for new leadership?

The argument awaits.

I Have No Hope for This Movie

posted by on September 18 at 3:00 PM

Diane English, who directed The Women, is setting her sights on a film adaptation of Erica Jong's Fear of Flying. This cannot be a good idea. English is going to handle the period-piece 1970s thing in her own, classy way:

English revealed that her version of the film will take place in modern times, with an older character utilized as a framing device to tell a flashback story.

Maybe English will let Diane Keaton star in this one as the older Isadora Wing; it'd almost be worth the price of admission just to hear her talk sentimentally about her 'zipless fuck days.'


posted by on September 18 at 2:00 PM

NASCAR Cancels Remainder Of Season Following David Foster Wallace's Death.

"I'm flooded with feelings of—for lack of a better concept—incongruity," said Jimmie Johnson, the driver of the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet who is known throughout racing for his habit of handing out copies of Wallace's novels to his fans. "David Foster Wallace could comprehend and articulate the sadness in a luxury cruise, a state fair, a presidential campaign, anything. But empathy, humanity, and compassion so strong as to be almost incoherent ran through that same sadness like connective tissue through muscle, affirming the value of the everyday, championing the banal yet true, acknowledging the ironic as it refused to give in to irony."

Heavy Petting and the City

posted by on September 18 at 1:00 PM

HarperCollins is going to publish the teenage diaries of Carrie Bradshaw as a two-book series aimed at teenage girls. The series will be called The Carrie Years, and it will be written by Candace Bushnell, Sex and the City's creator.

Reading Last Night: Richard Russo

posted by on September 18 at 11:01 AM

Last night, Richard Russo gave a lecture titled "The Gravestone and the Commode" as the inaugural event of Seattle Arts and Lectures' 2008-09 season. The lecture was on the nature of humor and comic writing.

(First, though, a note about the SAL format itself: I was pleased to note that the talk wasn't preceded by the SAL video "trailer" that played before every event last year. The trailer was incredibly embarrassing: it was a montage of photos of past SAL authors talking, set to music. The only one I remember is Stephen King, in a faux-humble bow. The trailer was so self-congratulatory and had a "You're at a Great Event" air that it put a too-cultured stank on the events that followed. The one great sad thing about the loss of the trailer is that one of the final images, that of Charles Mudede in a chair, explaining something to students as part of the SAL's Writers in the Schools program, will no longer fly toward the audience like a demon claw in a 3-D movie. I always thought that part was hilarious. But I digress.)

Yes, the lecture. It was pretty good. Russo spoke about an abandoned gravestone in his back yard ("How many reasons can there be for not using a gravestone?") and why you shouldn't put carpets in bathrooms. He talked about sitting in a waffle house in North Carolina and watching his waitress (who was about to have all her bottom teeth removed after her shift) handle a customer's dentures as kind of a test drive. His point was that more people see the serious in life, but that comic writers certainly aren't weaving humor out of thin air.

The best part came at the end, as Russo defended laughing at stutterers and people with speech impediments. It's mean, he said, and there are inappropriate times to do it, but stuttering, in the proper context, is definitely funny. He also talked about cruel jokes and whether it's okay to tell them—sometimes, Russo said, he feels nervous at the way certain men laugh at misogynist jokes, but he believes telling those jokes isn't a wrong or bad thing in and of itself. And then there was the question and answer session, which, to be frank, was not very good at all. The last question was "DId you invent Sarah Palin?" "No," Russo responded, "But I did invent Tina Fey." It was sad that the talk about humor, that was so roundly amusing and had moments of high hilarity, had to end on such a forced, weird note.

Reading Tonight

posted by on September 18 at 10:17 AM


Holy cow, there are a ton of readings tonight.

Three children's book authors will read from their work at two different readings across town from each other, and there's also a book about maximizing your college experience. At Elliott Bay Book Company, too, there's a "a laugh-out-loud...estrogen-fueled dramed[y]."

Up at Third Place Books, Diane Hammond reads from Hannah's Dream, which is an indictment of "our ability to properly care for our elephant friends." And at Seattle Mystery Bookshop and Elliott Bay, Marc Lecard reads from his new mystery Tiny Little Troubles, which seems to be about a nanotechnologist falling in love with a stripper, and a conspiracy.

And! At Seattle Public Library, Paul Auster reads from his new book Man in the Dark. Auster is a big damn deal. And I feel the need to say this because, for a while there, Auster was not a big damn deal. True, he wrote New York Trilogy, which is an amazing book that most people who've read it would agree is a modern classic. But Auster had kind of a decline there for a bit, bottoming out with Timbuktu, which is a book from the point of view of a dog. But Auster's last few books, Travels in the Scriptorium, Oracle Night, and Brooklyn Follies, are among the strongest in his career. He seems to be getting the hang of this novelling thing.

And! If novels aren't your thing, the Richard Hugo House is hosting the first Cheap Wine and Poetry reading of the 2008-2009 season. Wine is a buck a glass all night. Tonight is a special lady-themed reading, with poets like Brangien Davis, Karen Finneyfrock, Jennifer Borges Foster, and Kary Wayson. The nice thing about this reading series is that the readers always know how to read poetry and make it entertaining. (The wine doesn't hurt, either.) Between Paul Auster and Cheap Wine and Poetry, there's something in the reading world for you tonight.

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

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Bitching For Funds

posted by on September 17 at 5:13 PM

Smart Bitches, Trashy Books has put up this video featuring two editors of Bitch magazine nicely asking for money. Apparently, the not-for-profit Bitch is going to go under unless people send some cash their way.

I'm very fond of Bitch and I'd hate to see it go. If you can give anything, you should.

Slog Commenter Book Report 4: Enigma on Punching In

posted by on September 17 at 4:12 PM


As you know by now, I bring a batch of advance reader copies to Slog Happy, with the caveat that the person who reads (or tries to read) the book has to review it for all of us here on Slog.

Today’s reviewer is longtime commenter and exceedingly pleasant human being Enigma. Enigma will be reviewing Punching In: The Unauthorized Adventures of a Front-Line Employee, by Alex Frankel. Anything you don’t like about this review no doubt is due to the editing process and not at all Enigma’s fault and you should blame the editor. I am the editor.

Have you ever held a retail or customer service job? Well, Alex Frankel hasn't! And he wants to see what it's like to serve instead of buy. A former roommate talks about the adventures a UPS delivery driver experiences, so Frankel decides to start there. He becomes a seasonal worker and wants to quit after one week because it's hard and he doesn't really need the job. A friend has to convince him to stay for the integrity of the project.

And that's how it is at every job he decides to take.

He doesn't need the jobs, so after being trained, for maybe 2-3 weeks, at Enterprise, Gap, Starbucks and the Apple Store, he quits. He's having some fun living how the other half lives, practically insulting the people that have to work these jobs. He discovers the best employees at these stores have bought into the corporate culture of that particular company: Starbucks employees love coffee and getting to know the people that come into their stores, Gap employees love clothes, Apple Store employees love computers.

Corporations try to mold their employees into good workers. Employees agree with the corporate culture and stay, or don't and leave. Do you really need to go "undercover" at these stores to discover that? And Frankel makes a big deal of the fact that he is undercover. He's not a real employee of these stores; he makes that very, very clear. He's there to observe and judge.

The only grace I can extend to this book is its brevity. I read it in about 3 days, and I probably would have finished sooner, but a better book grabbed my attention.

Great big thanks to Enigma. Hopefully, the next Slog Commenter Book Reporter will like the book he or she decided to read. I'm starting to feel guilty for making all these people read bad books.

"[He] kept taking Jack up to the end, when the (sic) both blew out on a six year climax"

posted by on September 17 at 1:29 PM

Annie Proulx is very upset to discover that there's Brokeback Mountain fanfic online. The Guardian has some samples. There's the title of this post, of course, and also this:

"Everything about Jack and his jeans disturbed and tormented Ennis that summer of '63 until all he could think of or see was blue"

Proulx says:

"There are countless people out there who think the story is open range to explore their fantasies and to correct what they see as an unbearably disappointing story," she told The Wall Street Journal.

"They constantly send ghastly manuscripts and pornish rewrites of the story to me, expecting me to reply with praise and applause for 'fixing' the story.

Wait'll she discovers blog commenters. She'll never write again.

(Via Maud.)

This Is (Hopefully) the Worst Book News of the Day

posted by on September 17 at 10:35 AM

The Telegraph says:

The best-selling children's author Eoin Colfer is heading into a whole new galaxy.

The Wexford writer has been chosen to write a new book in the hugely popular 'Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' series.

Eight years after the tragically early death of its creator, Douglas Adams, Colfer has been asked by Adams's widow to continue the series of Hitchhiker books that are international bestsellers and have a cult following of millions of readers around the world.

Penguin International will make the announcement of Colfer's appointment in London today.

Can anyone give me one good reason to write this book that is not preceded by a "$"? Fuckin' ay, this sounds terrible. I loved the Hitchhiker's Guide books when I was 12 or 13, and I was very sad when Adams died, prematurely, in 2001. The last book in the series, Mostly Harmless, was terrible—the trilogy really should've ended with the fourth book, So Long and Thanks For All the Fish.


(Thanks—I think—to Slog tipper Tori.)

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.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

My Favorite Slog Comment of the Day...

posted by on September 16 at 6:00 PM from the thread following Aislinn's wonderful book report. Commenter Alicia writes about a book that she once read. Though the whole post is very funny, the best line in her comment is the last sentence, which is a direct quote from the book she's discussing:

This one reminds me of the very first galley I ever read, way back in my college bookstore days. It was about Mormons studying abroad in the Holy Land (!) and the author was clearly obsessed with Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (again, !), and it took me six chapters before I realized that when the author said "racist," he really meant "racial." Which is, you know, kind of a significant suffix change. The kids spent a lot of time awkwardly wrestling across gender lines (and giggling -- oh, the giggling) and exchanging lines of expositional dialogue about soil composition. Reading the book was like giving yourself whiplash while holding still.

One sentence burned itself into my memory:

"'Don't you like charity?' Kirsten asked with seduction."