SEATTLE ARTS & LECTURES

Benaroya Hall, 621-2230,

series tickets: $40-$105

starts 7:30 p.m. Mon., Oct. 7

There has been some controversy recently at Seattle Arts

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Lit Clique

SEATTLE ARTS & LECTURES

Benaroya Hall, 621-2230,

series tickets: $40-$105

starts 7:30 p.m. Mon., Oct. 7

There has been some controversy recently at Seattle Arts & Lectures, but no one wants to talk about it.

What began as a minor squabble among the five women who work there (the one man in the office is executive director Matthew Brogan) has become a fierce and protracted fight.

When the "issue" comes up again over coffee, Christina Seluzicki, a normally soft-spoken program coordinator and grant writer for the lecture series, says, "I can't hear this argument again."

The argument is over whether the punctuation at the end of a sentence should reflect the type style of the last word in that sentence. If the last word is underlined, should the period be underlined? This is the kind of thing that fires them up. "More than with bolding or italics," Samantha Storey says, "it's really with underlined words that [ignoring the rule] most bothers me."

Sam (as she is called) is referring to the Chicago Manual of Style rule that calls for the period to match the preceding word, a rule she agrees with but that, in one of her co-worker's words, "seems so mortifyingly wrong, and it created a big row here." Christina is, perhaps, worked up the most.

"It seems ridiculous," Christina says, "that the last word dictates the power and essence of the whole sentence."

"We're talking about the Ira Glass postcard," Sam explains to me. The fighting began while they were proofreading the text on the back. "Christina told me to move the period outside the underline."

"It was a huge debate," says Claire Molesworth, the series marketing coordinator, who sides with Christina on the issue.

"Oh, it was so icky," says Erin Guest, director of the Writers in the Schools program.

Sam says, "Christina was about to have a conniption fit." Sam looks at Christina. Christina is done talking about it. Claire, taking a cue, changes the subject.

The conversation moves from the now-infamous postcard—announcing an upcoming benefit performance for the A&L series by This American Life host Ira Glass (Sept. 24); the postcard was mailed out to the public last week (you'll notice that Sam won the argument)—to the subject of Ira Glass himself.

"He's cute," Erin says. Erin is pregnant and, when pressed about what she's currently reading, says that she's reading books about babies and childbirth.

"We all have a crush on Ira," says Sam (who is currently reading Tolstoy).

"We love him," Claire says.

Polly Hunter, the organization's development director, is older than the rest of them and sticks to business. "We announced the Ira event in a spread in the yearly program and also made postcards to remind people about the event."

"And also so that we can paste the postcard on the inside of our lockers," Claire says.

"I personally just got a postcard made," Sam says.

"I got a cardboard stand-up," Erin says.

Someone else says, "He's a lovely guy."

"Those little gray hairs at the temples."

"Those cute lips."

"And he's smart."

"He had a girlfriend last time he was in town."

"I'm going to show up at the airport with flowers."

"OK, enough," Polly says. "We work for a literary organization."

These are the kinds of conversations they have at Zeitgeist, a block from their second-story office above Elliott Bay Book Co. ("which is kind of like alcoholics working as bartenders," says Claire). The quality of the coffee at Zeitgeist is one of the many things they all agree on.

Polly, Sam, Erin, Christina, and Claire are all obsessed with shoes ("Whenever Ped has a sale, we all take turns going up there as soon as the doors open"), and they are all "totally passionate" (Claire's words) about literature and reading. "Although we have widely different tastes in books," she says. Christina is in the middle of Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie; Polly is in the middle of Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser (and the current issue of Us Weekly). "Oh, and we all go to the same hair cutter," Claire adds. Each of their business cards carries a favorite literary quotation. (Sam's is "I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil"—Truman Capote.)

They have all had a say in this year's line-up. Polly is looking forward to David Mamet (April 1, 2003), "because he's such a character." Erin looks forward to the New Generation of Mexican Poets event (Oct. 29), because the guests will participate in A&L's Writers in the Schools program (which Erin runs). "It will be something that the students will remember," she says. "It will be inspiring."

Sam is a self-described "huge fan of George Plimpton [who lectures on Jan. 21, 2003], because I'm a huge fan of Truman Capote, and he wrote the Capote biography."

Christina says that, among this year's lecturers, Nobel Prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney (Oct. 7) is "kind of the most literary to me. He's such a figure in Irish literature. He seems really pure somehow. Pure literary."

cfrizzelle@seattleweekly.com

Other participants in the series this year include Zadie Smith (Nov. 14), Francine Prose (Feb. 18, 2003), and Andrea Barrett (March 11, 2003).

FIVE PICKS FOR FALL

Choke Me Now. Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk's newest novel concerns a lethal poem, an unwitting serial killer, and a frozen baby. Bailey/Coy, 323-8842. Thurs., Sept. 19.

Man With a Perm. The last time Dave Eggers gave a reading at University Bookstore, from A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, he called the day before and told the store's events director to arrange—at the last minute—a slide show presentation on whales: an opening act, of sorts. (She complied, and a nice old man from the aquarium became a minor celebrity that night.) Eggers is a clown of a writer—an inscrutable, shit-eating-grin-wearing showman guided by contrived, seemingly spontaneous impulses—and he's not my favorite writer, and certainly not "the prince of postmodernism" as he has been called, but I'm enamored nonetheless. Maybe it's because I wish I had his hair. University Bookstore, 634-3400. Thurs., Oct. 3.

Now, Voyeurs. Richard Hugo House—which likes to call itself "an interactive laboratory for arts and other events"—is collaborating with some 60 artists to create a multilayered series of experiences designed to make us consider how being looked at affects us all. "Surveillance" is a three-day local literary brat-pack party whose guests will include Jonathan Lethem, author of Motherless in Brooklyn; Chris Abani, a Nigerian novelist and poet living in exile since 1991; and David Shields, the local writer and UW professor who wrote a terrible book called Enough About You which, in these pages, we said terrible things about, but then when we saw him read, we thought: "Aww, he's not so bad. He's a nice guy." Richard Hugo House, 322-7030. Fri., Oct. 4-Sun., Oct. 6.

A Latina with Crossover Appeal. I haven't read Caramelo, Sandra Cisneros' long-awaited follow-up to The House on Mango Street, due out late this month, and even though the back cover describes "a multigenerational story of a Mexican-American family whose myriad voices create a dazzling weave of passion, poignancy, the stuff of life," in spite of all that (the book world needs to put a moratorium on "myriad," and it needs to do so now), The House on Mango Street was a stunning, painful, and largely overlooked masterwork. The New York Times has said Cisneros "is not only a gifted writer, but an absolutely essential one." Seattle Art Museum, 624-6600. Sun., Oct. 27.

A Couple of Losers. Al and Tipper Gore—especially Tipper—suddenly having so much time on their hands, seeing that they lost and all, have collaborated on two new books to be released in November, The Spirit of the Family and Joined at the Heart, which they will be coming here, again, to promote. (They were also in town last week for Tipper's birthday.) Joined at the Heart, though it sounds like another disastrous tale of conjoined twins, is instead a forward-looking exploration of "the myriad ways in which the American family is being redefined." (There it is again—see Cisneros write-up, above.) The Spirit of the Family is a book of photographs of families that look like they should be in those "Isn't life delicious?" Life Savers commercials. Elliott Bay Book Co., 624-6600. Fri., Nov. 22.

 
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