MY PICKS FOR THIS FALL's big author events are all political in nature, and for good reason: Were entering an election cycle; were at war;


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Is our local books culture just a liberal echo chamber?

MY PICKS FOR THIS FALL's big author events are all political in nature, and for good reason: Were entering an election cycle; were at war; politics are in the air; and while fictions fine and poetrys dandy, nothing gets an audience of polite Seattle book lovers more keyed upand I recognize thats an oxymoronthan a visiting liberal bigwig. Just last week, tired lefty pundit Jim Hightower filled a church in Ballard and sold tons of books, according to Rick Simonson of event sponsor Elliott Bay Book Co. Howard Deans yet-untitled political memoir will be published by Simon & Schuster this November, and I cant wait for the pademonium at that reading/signing/ fund-raising/consciousness-raising event. Of course, there are plenty of best- selling authors on the rightfigures like Michael Savage (The Savage Nation), Bill OReilly (Whos Looking Out for You?), Ann Coulter (Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism), Bernard Goldberg (Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News)but no one brings them to Seattle, and even local conservatives of stature like Michael Medved are nearly invisible in their hometown. Theyve got talk radio and the Fox News Channel, so perhaps theres no need to stoop to quaint little bookshops. Yet the conversationlike the act of reading itselfis supposed to run both ways. Are Seattle readers really so uninterested in dissenting opinions? The problem with the local reading circuitmaybe the problem with Seattle in generalis that were becoming an out-of-touch liberal monoculture that doesnt want to hear or read what the red-states majority of America (to use the famous 2000 Bush-Gore electoral-map color scheme) has to say. Theres a danger of walling ourselves into a smug, insular, wealthy enclave of blue surrounded by a nation thats poorer, angrier, and firmly behind Bush. Its not that they, or Rush, are right; its that were deaf. Theres a kind of political illiteracy that comes from lining up for your signed copy of a book that doesnt challenge any of your views. Nothing epitomizes this homogenizing, self-marginalizing trend like the American Voices series that Seattles Foolproof Performing Arts is launching this fall. The series promises a forum for ideas, people, and viewpoints that are underrepresented or excluded from the national political and media mainstream. And who are these marginalized, unheard, orthodoxy-challenging voices? Garry Trudeau, Molly Ivins, Tony Kushner, Janeane Garofalo, crank investigative journalist Greg Palast, and other heroes of the self-congratulatory left. What exactly is Anna Quindlen going to say to challenge our Gore-Tex orthodoxies? Meantime, Bill Maher is also slated (McCaw Hall, Nov. 15) to come out again for legalizing drugs and prostitution. Im shocked, shocked! Like Howard Dean in Westlake Park, these speakers will be preaching to the Seattle pews. Meanwhile, the talk-radio demo continues to dominate American political discoursebecause its discourse. When right-wingers get riled up, they call in, they complain, they yell into the streets. Liberals readmeekly, quietly, decorously. And thats why theyre being outvoted, out-voiced, out-funded, and outfoxed at every turn in our American political chicaneryHmmm. What about foreign oil dependency and the war in Iraq? I know: Ill read Robert Baers Sleeping With the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude and Keith Bradshers High and Mighty: SUVsThe Worlds Most Dangerous Vehicles and How They Got That Way. Thatll show em! In this way, a little knowledge proves to be a terrible thing. Yes, theres the benefit of understanding complex issues more fully. Traditionally, thats been the liberals curse: earnestly debating and considering all sides of an issue, while conservatives doggedly pursue their side, the only side, the one side, the winning side. But the reality today is that Seattles bastion of blue is becoming nearly as one-sided and lazy. And being indifferent to the necessary back-and-forth of real debate isnt just bad for literature and politics, it hurts our citys intellectual life in general. Because if you only want to hear from authors who agree with you, whats the point of picking up a book? Brian Millers Fall Favorites

The Dubya Doppelg䮧er With the Dems and the left in complete disarray, with liberal Washington state voters likely to embrace Dr. Howard Dean (the Ralph Nader piss-away-your-vote candidate of 2004), political satirist Al Franken has his future assured. He and Dubya might as well be married, so well does the Harvard grad (Franken) complement our Yalie president. Its brain versus jock, Jew versus WASP, sarcasm versus smirklike some intercollegiate rivalry thatll end with swirlies and mashed potato fights. Franken will appear with Texas humorist Molly Ivins (Shrub), although theyd both do better to debate a cardboard cutout of Bushwhich would probably prove more eloquent than the genuine article. The following night Franken flies solo, promoting his new, Fox-TV-enraging tome, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right (Dutton, $24.95). Marion O. McCaw Hall, 206-684-7200. Sept. 21. UW Kane Hall, 206-634-3400. Sept. 22. More Lying Liars Somewhere, amid The New York Times troubles this year, I had to chuckle that curmudgeonly op-ed writer Paul Krugman had been admonished not to call Bush a liar in every consecutive column. Take a break, his bosses told him; you sound shrill. As I recall, the moratorium lasted less than a month. Krugs collection of Times op-ed pieces, The Great Unraveling: Losing Our Way in the New Century (W.W. Norton, $25.95), is due this month, and in his appearance among the faithful at Town Hall, hell likely elaborate on his thesis that America is being run like a debt-laden banana republicthe generalissimo and a few cronies make out like bandits on top, while we peasants keep getting poorer on the bottom. Town Hall, 206-652-4255. Oct. 9. Is Capitalism Damned? Not according to William Greiders The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy (Simon & Schuster, $28), out this month, in which he argues that we should unman the barricades andgasp!shake hands with corporate interests. Writing in the August issue of The Nation about how McDonalds recently signaled a shift away from hormone- and drug-laden meats, he put it thusly: In an era when politics is paralyzed, unable, or unwilling to advance government regulation of food and agriculture, some Americans have figured out how to achieve the next best thingconsumer power that changes industry behavior, not by one purchase at a time but on a grand scale by targeting large brands in the middleman position. Well see a lot more of this consumer jujitsu, because it works. Elliott Bay Book Co., 206-624-6600. Oct. 23. Oscar the Grouch Who cares if a few stars booed him when he picked up his Academy Award for Bowling for Columbine? With that movie and his 2002 best seller, Stupid White Men, Michael Moore has become the Master of All Liberal Media. Hes like a low-budget, leftist Rupert Murdochequally comfortable manipulating movie cameras, camcorders, and word processors to advance his populist cause. October sees the publication of Dude, Wheres My Country? (Warner Books, $24.95), which continues Moores torrid, outraged relationship with the president. OK, the guy is prone to fits of sweaty polemic and apoplectic reasoning (somehow the style suits his XXXL frame and shambling demeanor), but how else are you going to counter the Republican attack machine? By being fair and reasonable? By being Al Gore? Paramount Theatre, 206- 682-1414. Oct. 25. Long Live the WTO Though once part of the Clinton economic cabal, MIT professor Lester C. Thurow hasnt been part of the Bush-bashing gang on the left. Could that be because hes secretly a rightist? Here he delivers a talk carrying the same title as his new book coming in October: Fortune Favors the Bold: What We Must Do to Build a New and Lasting Global Prosperity (Harper, $26.95). The author of the widely read anti-Reaganite 1980 pop-econ text The Zero-Sum Society is riffing on Virgil, whose daring seafarer hero, Aeneas, ventured across the Mediterranean before founding prosperous Rome, center of the mercantile world. Thurows likely proposals? More free trade, fewer trade barriers, fewer subsidies for favored domestic industriestake note, you farmers, apple growers, airplane manufacturers, and SUV makersand more high-tech outsourcing to Madras, Taiwan, and Guangzhou. Yikeswhat Democratic candidate do you suppose would dare hire the guy to write position papers now? University Book Store, 206-634-3400. Oct. 31.

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