Seattle is a beautiful, beautiful place. I mean that in several senses: 1) The climate here is beautiful. I know everyone thinks, “Seattle, oh yeah, the weather is always rain, rain, rain.” But really, it’s more like drizzle, sun, drizzle, sun. Which is quite a pleasant way to spend your winter when you call home and hear the daily details of the polar vortex: 40-below-zero windchill and 5 feet of snow. I’ll take my mist and frostbite-free fingers, thank you. 2) The scenery here is also beautiful. The majestic mountains (the corny alliteration really does fit). The massive trees. The abundant water. Did I mention those mountains? 3) Then there is the part that is actually relevant to this blog: the literary scene here is such a beautiful thing. I think we owe a great deal of this amazing culture to the joint efforts of the Richard Hugo House, The Elliott Bay Book Co., and the Seattle Public Library. This powerhouse team is responsible for a multitude of classes and events. Most notably, they bring in awesome writers to read and speak. A few months ago, I had the pleasure of listening to Karen Russell speak, and just a few nights ago, I had the opportunity to see another MacArthur fellow, Dinaw Mengestu, who read from his new novel, All Our Names.
In sticking with the word of the day, especially since it is utterly true, I must say that I thought All Our Names was a beautiful novel. I read it about a month ago, and you can check out my full review here. Dinaw is also an eloquent and captivating speaker. After he read an excerpt from his novel (in a voice that I feel is best described as simultaneously compelling and soothing), he answered questions from the audience. He offered very intelligent yet also very kind answers to sometimes-frustrating questions about his first language (very much English) and his thoughts on the “immigrant narrative” (a term he had to explain twice he disagrees with), all of which were insightful and admirable. I’ve definitely added his first two novels, The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears and How to Read the Air, to my reading list.