This year, local nonprofit Literary Arts (who acquired Portland’s big literature festival Wordstock in 2014) renamed Wordstock with the more homogenous title of Portland Book Festival. Though this made the festival impossible to search for online, the fest itself appears to be retaining the originality, talent draw, and excellent curation of literary voices that made it such a crowded (!) but rewarding event in years past. Looking at the lineup of speakers and panels on deck, the Mercury’s Extremely Literate Strike Force™ has recommendations of authors you cannot miss. In general, forget the big names. Tom Hanks and Abbi Jacobson are actors and actors get way too much attention already. This is a literary festival. Celebrate authors.
In the future, men are no longer feared. They are instead a curiosity. Because there are no more men. Canadian cartoonist Aminder Dhaliwal began serializing her comic Woman World on Instagram in the spring of 2017 to wide acclaim. She’s tapped into a Charlie Brown level of humor and philosophical pondering with her cast of cartoon characters, living in the village of Beyoncé’s Thighs (the town’s name was chosen to “inspire strength,” “evoke empathy,” and “scream endurance”). The women adventure on quests to abandoned malls, try to score with their friends, and occasionally wonder what men were like. The town elder Ulaana is the last surviving person who lived among men. One of the very first jokes Dhaliwal posted was Ulaana’s granddaughter, Emiko, holding up a DVD box of Paul Blart: Mall Cop, asking, “Is this what men were like?” Apply Woman World like a salve to your shredded feminist heart and await the further wonders Dhaliwal is bound to create. SUZETTE SMITH (w/Lidia Yuknavitch, Leni Zumas, Ling Ma, “Survivor: Women at the End of the World,” Sat Nov 10, 3:15 pm, Whitsell Auditorium, 1219 SW Park)
The release of Berlin, a hardcover book that compiles all 22 issues of Jason Lutes’ masterful comic series of the same name into one weighty volume, comes at the best and possibly worst time. This deeply researched and sharply rendered story looks into Germany’s post-World War I years, a period responsible for some incredible advances in art, fashion, and literature, as well as the collapse of the Weimar Republic and the birth of the Nazi Party. I found myself easily wrapped up in the intertwining narratives that Lutes, a former art director for our sister paper the Stranger, brought to life here, especially the fate of Marthe Müller, an art student who experiences a sexual and creative awakening in the city, and Kurt Severing, an idealist journalist trying to stem the rising tide of fascism. But I was never able to shake the frightening parallels that this story had with our current political climate, particularly following the recent killing of 11 worshippers at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Lutes may not have intended Berlin to be a cautionary tale when he embarked on this story in 2000. Nearly two decades later, it feels like a dire warning that we should all heed. ROBERT HAM (w/ Ali Fitzgerald, and Jonathan Hill, “On Im/migration with The Believer,” Sat Nov 10, 4:50 pm, Portland Art Museum, Crumpacker Library, 1119 SW Park)