No, Seattle doesn’t have a giant book festival. Some of our most insecure public figures—the kind of folks who actually lose sleep worrying about what people in New York City think of our quaint little town—consider the lack of a Seattle Book Festival to be a major failing of our literary community.
And while we still need someone to step up and fill the place of the recently deceased APRIL Festival, I wouldn’t think about trading the Short Run Comix & Arts Festival, say, for a giant, corporate event. In fact, instead of some giant publishing cattle call at the Convention Center, I’d rather see our calendar year filled with a wide array of smaller, truly independent festivals that celebrate the people who write and publish actually interesting books.
This Saturday, Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery will present its third annual Hot Off the Press Book Fair as part of the monthly Georgetown Art Attack. It is exactly the kind of event that could happen only in Seattle—an egalitarian celebration of retailers, publishers, creators, and readers. We have so many formally structured readings every day of the week that events like these tend to feel like an after-work party, a place where people can relax and be themselves.
Hot Off the Press welcomes two headliners this year: Fantagraphics superstar Simon Hanselmann, who moved here from Tasmania and is fairly well-known in town, and California brother/sister duo Peter and Maria Hoey, who publish comics under the name Coin-Op Books. Hanselmann is one of the better-known alternative cartoonists in the world right now, which is not quite as much of an oxymoron as it sounds. His watercolor strips, rife with dick jokes and depression and, uh, more dick jokes, trade in a vocabulary of gag strips but hit the reader somewhere in their most vulnerable bits. The Hoeys are not as well-known, but their books deserve a wider audience. Coin-Op comics combine the rigid formalism and ironic nostalgia of Chris Ware with the unsettling dreaminess of Charles Burns. Their comics are gorgeous and sleek, as slickly produced as a Mickey Mouse animated short, but with an underlying tension—a sensation that at any moment everything could turn sour.
The Book Fair also includes a screen-printing demonstration from Fogland Studios. Ballard cooperative Push/Pull will set up shop as well, alongside Short Run exhibitors, avant-garde comics publishers Cold Cube, feminist biographers Hey Lady, several cartoonists from the now-defunct Intruder comics newspaper, and UK comics publisher Breakdown Press. It’s a lineup guaranteed to be hiding a few surprises for everyone. That joy of discovery is exactly what book fairs are for—no corporate sponsorship required.
Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery, 1201 S. Vale St., 658-0110, fantagraphics.com/flog/bookstore. Free. All ages. 5–9 p.m. Sat., July 8. Paul Constant is co-founder of The Seattle Review of Books. Read books coverage at seattlereviewofbooks.com.