On Saturday night, I attended Elliott Bay Book Company’s 40th Anniversary reading.
Seattle authors Jim Lynch, Ryan Boudinot, and Maria Semple read from their latest novels, all published within the past year. Bookstore staff sliced cake and passed plates. They poured glasses of wine. And everyone sang the praises of Seattle and its literary culture.
But Boudinot outdid them all.
He said Seattle reminds him of Paris in the 1920s, in terms of its artistic vibrance and literary culture.
I glanced at Maria Semple, who just moments earlier had read a passage from Where’d You Go, Bernadette? about how full of itself this city is. She didn’t bat an eyelash. Her lips pruned up a little, like she’d tasted something sour or had a thing or two to say. But nothing else.
Jim Lynch laughed good-naturedly. “So you’re an evangelist for the city, too.”
Lynch called it, I thought.
I’ve met musicians, dancers, writers, filmmakers who all feel that Seattle nurtures them. They feel that Seattle offers possibility–a future that’s wide open. We can make whatever art we want here, they all say.
And I can’t help but wonder if–when we’re talking creativity–believing something can make it so.
If we believe this piece of art we’re shaping is worthwhile, does that help it become so?
If we believe our literary circle fosters us and is relevant, does that make it true?
Because art-making is itself an act of faith. And the faith those writers had in Elliott Bay, as an independent bookstore, and in the work of literature echoed a similarly ambitious faith that the city founders had in Seattle over 150 years ago.
And if faith and ambition can spawn a city, well then. Maybe Boudinot has a point.
After all the discussion, the staff held a raffle, and my friend Nancy-Lou and I waited to see if our numbers came up.
Mine did. I went home with a shelf taken from one of the store’s bookcases, four autographed books, and a little bit of optimism.
Maybe creativity and relevance really do start out as matters of belief.
Maybe every city needs its evangelists.
2 thoughts on “A Matter of Belief”
Hey, MC, thanks for the kind words. I appreciate the blog love. Seattle is indeed a special city full of opportunity for artists. I often imagine going back in time and telling writers that one day there will be a city with huge bookstores carrying lots of books in translation, a library designed by a world-renowned architect, a huge literary arts center, tons of cafes, good food, tolerant and indeed celebratory attitudes towards people who are different, and by the way, legal marijuana, and I can’t imagine those writers of the past thinking of Seattle as anything but artistic heaven.
Stay tuned about the Seattle City of Literature project…
Thanks, Ryan. Looking forward to being here as Seattle’s future happens. I’m definitely onboard your City of Literature campaign.
Happy writing in Seattle~