Northwest Bookfest

Survival instincts

NOW WE ARE SIX, say the organizers of the area's biggest bookish event since the Bookmobile made its rounds (when we were six). This celebration of all things paginated has survived the skeptics, the factory din of Pier 48, and the pressure to provide the local bibliophile with the consummate—and ever-evolving—lit'rary experience, year after year. And, perhaps not coincidentally, this year's offerings hinge on the very idea of survival. Most years the outdoor-adventure books draw the biggest crowds, and this year we will surely fall under the spell of a survival story of another kind—that of Maria Coffey, whose partner died during his 1982 Everest attempt. Her writing epitomizes the very act of survival, as the person left behind. Novelist Alan Lightman's explication of a terrible physical affliction in The Diagnosis deals with the struggle to face one's own deterioration, while a slew of women writers (including Ariel Gore, Traci Vogel, and Anna Johnson) get down, dirty, and somewhat practical with a discussion of their various "survival guides" (touching upon everything from parenting, building the versatile wardrobe, dating, and getting through those dreary Northwest winters).

This weekend's emphasis on books in the face of our electronic age is yet another reason to celebrate. Because, let's face it, reading for sheer pleasure is somewhat like sitting down to dine with slow-foodies: You can't rush, you have to surrender to its bounties, and you must turn each page in order to reach the final sentence. We don't have as much time as we used to, those luxuriously empty afternoons or TV-free evenings, and the constancy of texts in all forms (e-mail messages, flip-thru glossies, stock market updates) only seems to be increasing. A book reminds us of a vacation we'd like to take someday, a calm and quiet and sometimes startling invitation that sits as close as the nearest shelf. And it serves as a reminder that reading, and the skills it requires, should be coveted and passed on. Our very survival depends on it.

EMILY BAILLARGEON RUSSIN

Check out the Weekly's picks for best of the fest.

FEST FACTS

Dates: October 21-22 (Sat-Sun)

Time: 10am-6pm, both days

Location: New (PERMANENT! FINALLY!) home at the Stadium Exhibition Center, next to Safeco Field

Admission: free, with $5 suggested donation to support regional literacy programs

Parking: You're on your own, folks, but we suggest the cheap lot under the I-District's red and yellow fish-tailed columns. Have some dim sum on the way!

Food: See above. Visit the demo cooking stage if you're lucky enough to snag a front-row seat. The requisite concession stands will be on hand, plus popcorn, pretzel, and coffee carts. We even hear that there's a wine bar upstairs at the Seattle Antiquities Show, but you have to pay separately to get in. (Shucks.)

For more info: Call the Bookfest office (378-1883) or check their Web site (www.nwbookfest.org).

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