Bumbershoot Preview: Scribes Sounding Off Picks

by Chris Estey

One of the glories of Bumbershoot is exposure to authors you haven’t heard of or haven’t gotten to yet. You get to hear them read their works, which can be as vital to the senses as hearing a great new or favorite band; and even the literary disasters are sort of marvelous in the middle of the festival’s ebullient atmosphere.

In the past, it’s included a lot of rock writers, new ones and veterans, and unfortunately that isn’t happening this year. Tragically, I somehow missed the 33 1/3 stage last year, as I was covering a live music show instead. Which is strange, considering how many great new music books are out. I wish Soft Skull, Continuum, or a comics company had a stage this year, but there are other book hawkers with showcases and some writers I’d like to plug.

McSweeney’s New Fiction: The tasteful, tenacious, friendly, and high quality McSweeney’s publishing empire, headed by excellent novelist/essayist/screenwriter Dave Eggers and funding the national 826 literacy program, is represented by a 5:15 PM presentation at the Literary Arts Stage on Saturday, September 5. Eggers won’t be here, but the panelists will be new fiction writers Jessica Anthony (The Convalescent), Bill Cotter (Fever Chart), and there is presence from the imprint’s monthly literary magazine The Believer as well.

The last one is my first recommendation: Ross Simonini is an editor and writer who has quietly but awesomely had a wonderful influence on multi-media literary. His work gets around, as in an excellent new interview with ex-comics, now fine artist Jim Woodring in the latest issue of YETI (#7). Simonini did great work at Seattle’s own Resonance magazine for years, flowing art, music, fashion, and literature together in an elegant but substantial way that he’s been bringing to The Believer.

The July/August issue of The Believer (the music issue, and highly recommended) has his violent history lesson “The Clash of Jamaican Deejays,” which exposes the tense milieu’s actual physical conflict and manifestations of dread in the acts of music creation and promotion. Simonini interviews Thom Yorke in that issue as well, and certain quotes from it have been inspiring much controversy on the Internet (Yorke opened up about Radiohead not wanting to release more records, for example). In the past, articles on The Wave Books Poetry Bus Tour, Maile Meloy, and Gary Lutz have all been some of the best works the magazine has published. I’m looking forward to see what Simonini’s views on new fiction will be like in a spontaneous, conversational setting. Mac Barnett, James Hannham, and Starlee Kline will also be on the McSweeney’s panel.

Manic D Press was founded for personal expression by Jennifer Joseph in 1984 and has become an award-winning literary press based in San Francisco. They will be honored on Monday the 7th at 1:45 PM at the Literary Arts Stage for their publishing of fiction, poetry, art, comics, cultural studies, and alternative travel books. “We represent a diverse group of unique writers and artists, with emphasis on those who have been shunned by the traditional publishing establishment for lacking commercial viability, regardless of their talent or future promise,” their My Space page states. Authors from Manic D have been at Bumbershoot before, including children’s author Francesca Lia Block. Other noteworthy writers they’ve published include punk scribe Pleasant Gehman and Victorian-inspired underground cartoonist Richard Sala. Should be quite a party. Amber Tamblyn, Jon Longhi, and Lynn Breedlove will be the panelists.

Lastly, again at the Literary Arts Stage, we’re going to get to see perhaps the most exciting reading at this year’s Bumbershoot: The razor-sharp and racuous Spencer Moody from Murder City Devils and Triumph of Lethargy is fronting something called “The Enablers Have Spoken And You Are Fine” at 1:45 PM on Sunday. Moody helms a collective of comrades “bringing poetry to the people,” including the gifted Andrea Zollo (Pretty Girls Make Graves, Triumph of Lethargy, LoveLand) and Cave Singer’s Pete Quirk. Get there early!

In spite of my disappointment at the lack of rock scribes this time out, there is still plenty more pop culture-influenced literature to check out: Comedian David Cross has a book out (I Drink For A Reason) and will probably be referring to it at his 8:15 PM performance at the Performing Arts Stage on Sunday night as well. I haven’t read Zak Smith’s anthology We Did Porn but intend to discover the stories there (I love those kind of firsthand accounts of unusual experiences). Seattle Noir, a bevy of food writers, and the creative team of LOST are present as well, and almost everything sounds fantastic, including “Vampires Vs. Robots” for the twee ones.

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