I'm a big supporter of Seattle's Museum of History and Industry. MOHAI's ("mo high") almost-year-old digs in the old Armory Building on Seattle's South Lake Union shoreline are still evolving. Their influential neighbor Jeff Bezos serves as their most recognizable and heavily-invested champion. As evidence, there's the newly opened Bezos Center for Innovation - the newest and most curious piece of MOHAI that's not quite fully figured out its point yet, in my humble opinion. But the orbiting constellation of small things at MOHAI stretch far and well.
Case in point, they offer seminars for folks taking a serious interest in Seattle history. I attended one Saturday with the purpose of helping folks like me doing Seattle building(s) and business history projects. Taught by local writer and font of knowledge Rob Ketcherside, this latest DIY research class was nerd candy. Expansively useful. A taste of the whole buffet to follow. I'd already gone through MOHAI's archives and spoken with their staff about my own work. Still this class added to my burgeoning respect for what they do there. Seattle's cup runeth over with organizations worth supporting or simply visiting. Yet seldom do they empower their visitors and members quite so readily. Please check MOHAI out.
Shifting gears, I was recently asked if what I occasionally offer up here is meant to segway into a book/interview blog of some sort. Not really - a few posts do not a dedicated shift in purpose make. Yet given the fact I often attend author readings and seldom post reviews elsewhere, I will make more of a point of doing so here. Whether or not it directly applies to what I'm working on.
Such as...Donna Tartt recently rolled through town. I joined a standing room only crowd in Seattle Central Library's main auditorium to see what sort of game she'd bring. Tartt arrived straight from the airport wearing a gray, 4-button suit, a striped shirt with french cuffs, accented by a purple-patterned tie and contrasting pocket square. She performed a theatrical reading - there's no other way to refer to such a nuanced and practiced reading. Obviously she's lived within so many revisions of her work over the past decade spent writing The Goldfinch that she knows the material like a Shakespeare scholar given the chance to read from the complete works rather than pull from memory. I'm increasingly seeing a Salinger-esque attachment to her first novel The Secret History from her legion of fans. I get it - that book rocks. I fall right in that line, and I'm even still mildly irritated with the friend I leant my copy to back in 1992 for never getting it back. Yet I wanted to find a personal or unscripted hook in Tartt's shtick. I used my mandated few minutes in the signing line to joke with her about her recently confessed love for the defunct publishing house, Loompanics. I also bought a pile of their silly little books on things such as lockpicking. But that's as far as we got. When I finish Tartt's Goldfinch, I will try to remember to return to this and say something of more substance. But merely on the level of style, I found her to be enigmatic and odd. Like a high-strung exotic bird poised to fly away at a moment's notice. But one I'm glad I was in the position to see when she landed on a nearby tree.
On the opposite end of the spectrum of author approachability - but who is ironically not doing a current tour for his new novel - is Dave Eggers. I'm entirely biased given that I got to know him a bit while volunteering for 826 Valencia in San Francisco for a few years in the middle of the Oh-Aughts. Eggers walks the walk of his philanthropic interests far more earnestly than anyone should expect given his widely cast and impressive volume of writerly pursuits. His new novel, The Circle, proves effective enough to have made me rethink my own Facebook and Twitter contributions to the global share-o-sphere. I wolfed down The Circle - it is propulsive, page-turning prose. Plot isn't the strength of this novel. It doesn't need to be. It functions well as satire with a purpose. Shouldn't all satire make us reconsider something we too readily do without considering the consequences? Of course, that's far more easily said than done. Eggers uses the novel's powerful frame to focus upon the way people increasingly communicate in this age of granular and transparent exposure. By doing so, he freaked me out a little bit. Kudos for that.