Food & Culture

What to Read this Fall: Literature

In new memoirs, Seattle writers battle demons— and live to tell the tale

By Brangien Davis and Dana Standish September 10, 2014


This article originally appeared in the September 2014 issue of Seattle Magazine.

My Fluorescent God ($14.95)
Almost Live! alum Joe Guppy recounts the story of his self-described “crazy period” in 1971, when he stayed for a stint in a Seattle mental hospital, haunted by the hellfire of his Catholic faith as well as his dark determination to jump off the Aurora Bridge. Using journals and doctors’ notes from the time—and his unique hindsight as a practicing therapist—Guppy shares a story that’s forthright, funny and fascinating. Hear him read at Elliott Bay Book Company (9/13. 7 p.m. Free. Capitol Hill, 1521 10th Ave.; 206.624.6600;

My Body Is a Book of Rules ($16.95)
Writer and writing teacher Elissa Washuta shares this intimate coming-of-age story, one that is complicated by bipolar disorder, sexual trauma and her struggle to figure out exactly how much of her Native American (Cowlitz) heritage she should embrace. Her tale is made compelling by flights of narrative fancy (fake doctors’ notes; a side-by-side comparison of feminine standards gleaned from Cosmo and Catholicism) and her self-deprecating humor. Washuta reads at the Native Prose Writers event at Richard Hugo House (10/3. 7 p.m. Free.

The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances ($16.99)
Best known for his hugely popular and hilarious web comic series The Oatmeal, Seattle-based Matthew Inman has published a new graphic memoir chronicling his struggles with weight gain, body image and a particularly devilish demon he christened The Blerch. As in The Oatmeal, his observations are both strikingly funny and relatable—so much so that Inman established the inaugural “Beat the Blerch” 10K/half-/full marathon in Carnation (9/20–9/21;, where he’ll be signing books and, of course, running.

Christian Charm Workbook

Seattle poet Rachel Kessler (of poetry performance group Vis-à-Vis Society) is at work on a memoir about her experience growing up as the daughter of Jews turned self-proclaimed Jesus freaks. Sourcing artifacts from her youth, Kessler employs her trademark humor to talk about her upbringing—and how it has played into raising her own two daughters. She’ll give a slideshow/performance/reading of her work-in-progress at Richard Hugo House (10/7. 7 p.m. Free.

Read all of our picks for fall arts, including music, theater, film and more here.

SAL’s literary series begins with James McBride (10/15), winner of the 2013 National Book Award for his novel The Good Lord Bird, which injects humor into the harrowing story of a young slave on the lam with the abolitionist John Brown. Next up, prolific novelist, playwright, essayist, journalist and poet Colm Tóibín (11/3) holds forth on the Irish literary renaissance in the early 20th century. Also reading this season is novelist, short story writer (and Zen Buddhist priest) Ruth Ozeki (11/20), whose A Tale for the Time Being was on the short list for the Man Booker Prize. New this year: the subseries Hinge, which showcases new writers who are also musicians. It kicks off with a reading and conversation with John Darnielle (9/26) of alt-folk band The Mountain Goats; he’s just released his first novel, Wolf in White Van. Times, prices and locations vary.

This year’s Hugo Literary Series commences with novelist Mona Simpson (9/19), author of Anywhere But Here and Casebook. For those interested in honing the writer’s craft, there’s the “Craft Talk” series, with Charles Baxter (9/10) speaking about plot, and former U.S. poet laureate Kay Ryan (10/8) on rhyme. And if you want to see the most entertaining convergence of brains, brawn and bravado this side of Richard Sherman, don your 12th Man jersey and and head to “Monday Night Football” (10/6), which pits the opinionated and always amusing Steve Almond (Candyfreak) against local essayist David Shields and novelist Whitney Otto in a smackdown about football’s place in our culture. Almond’s Against Football comes out just in time for the ’Hawks’ first kickoff. (He’ll need a helmet.) Times and prices vary. 1634 11th Ave.; 206.322.7030;

Don your thinking cap and walking shoes for this annual ambulatory extravaganza. Held at venues across downtown and on Capitol Hill, the packed lineup of short readings by Northwest writers includes poets (Maged Zaher, Elizabeth Austen), novelists (Kim Fu, Jess Walter, Urban Waite) and memoirists (Suzanne Morrison, Domingo Martinez, Claudia Rowe). 10/23. Free. Times and venues vary.


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