The Nevertold Casket Co. looks kind of like the cursed junk shop from Gremlins—a store that proudly carries “haunted” merchandise which could add a conversation piece to your living room or rain down eternal torment on your household in the form of a vicious spirit of vengeance from feudal Japan. It is a shop, in other words, full of stories. The wax dummy of a baby covered in syphilis sores has to have an explanation, right? And why the hell would someone mummify a baboon? Well, thereby hangs a tale, and that tale is part of what you’re buying at Nevertold.
Founded by casket-maker Jackson Andrew Bennett, Nevertold is the sort of shop you run into once while wandering the twistiest cobblestone streets in Boston or the most ancient-looking neighborhoods in Manhattan, and then can never find again. That it exists on Capitol Hill’s relatively mundane 13th Avenue is itself some kind of a modern Seattle miracle. With its artful jewelry and antique taxidermy, it’s a store full of appreciation for aesthetics long since past, stuck in the middle of a part of town that is currently suffering from aesthetic amnesia.
And now Bennett, himself an author working on a book about grave-robbing, is launching what looks to be the first in a series of readings at the Nevertold Casket Co. It’s a pairing that makes sense—what’s an ancient curse, after all, without a few books and incantations around to add an eldritch air?
For a store that wraps itself so thoroughly in the past, the first Nevertold reading is a surprisingly current affair. Readers include Jenny Zhang, the Brooklyn-based poet and short-story author who headlined the most recent APRIL Festival; local poetry dynamo Sarah Galvin; monologist and weed-culture expert David Schmader; Sonya Vatomsky, whose debut poetry collection is titled Salt Is for Curing; and James Gendron, whose book title Sexual Boat (Sex Boats) tells you just about everything you need to know.
This is a strong lineup of local and local-friendly writing talent (seriously, if Zhang reads here one more time this year, we’re going to get to claim her as a part-time Seattle author) that should suitably christen a new reading venue in the Seattle firmament. With all due respect to the many bookstores and libraries that host readings all the time, occasionally pulling events into a nontraditional reading venue keeps the format fresh and surprising. If all that isn’t enough to attract your attention, event organizers also promise a cask of “haunted beer” from Outlander Brewery to keep things nice and spiritual.
Halloween, by any calendar’s reckoning, is at least two page-turns away. And it’s highly unlikely that all the readers at this event are going to thematically obsess on the macabre. But the unhinged hilarity of a Galvin reading can’t help but take on a new meaning when contextualized by sterling silver crow’s-feet charms and funeral chairs from the 1900s. What’s a celebration of life without a little death mixed in at the fringes to keep things interesting?
Nevertold Casket Company, 509 13th Ave., nevertoldcasket.com. Free. 21 and over. 8 p.m. Sat., Aug. 27.
Paul Constant is the co-founder of The Seattle Review of Books. Read daily books coverage like this at seattlereviewofbooks.com.