Courtesy Nevertold Casket Co.

Dead Men Tell Plenty of Tales

The Nevertold Casket Co. brings lit to the crypt and opens its doors for readings.

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.

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