BERNSTEIN VS. BURROUGHS
I was pleased to see Steven Jesse Bernstein on the Seattle Weekly cover [Oct. 8]. My hope would be that Jesse's "kindness and generosity," as mentioned in the main article ["Blunt Instrument"], would be remembered as much as his outrageousness. For me, there is a humanity and compassion that shone through his work and presence, whether his subject matter was something sensational or commonplace.
With all due respect to Tim Appelo, who agrees that Jesse's work can be dismissed as "derivative of Burroughs" ["Punctual Madness"], when I saw William Burroughs and Jesse on the famous double bill at the Moore, I was much more moved by Jesse's work. Burroughs seemed to be recycling the same old cynical bleakness that made him famous, whereas Jesse was exploring depths of painful humanness.
I would want Weekly readers to know Jesse as much more than the man whose no-doubt drunken antics included reading a poem with a mouse in his mouth and threatening to cut off a piece of his anatomy at a reading. Instead, check out the simple and insightful humanity of the poems "Reasons You Can Understand," "More Noise Please," and "Come Out Tonight."
GLAMORIZING THE DARK SIDE
Tim Appelo's article on Steven Jesse Bernstein ignores the fact that Bernstein's best work was done over a 10-year period late in his life when he was relatively drug-freeallowing only coffee and cigarettes to carry him ["Punctual Madness," Oct. 8]. Appelo glamorized the dark side of Jesse, but there was much more than that. I found the portrait Appelo painted of him pretty near unrecognizable. Much of Jesse's writing is yet to be unearthed, and it is possible that with future publication, he may turn out to be a juggernaut in terms of his influence on the arts of the region and afield.
SLIMED IN SEATTLE
Gillian G. Gaar's piece on Steven Jesse Bernstein lacks quotes from the work of the subject under appraisal that might allow readers to reach opinions of their own ["Blunt Instrument," Oct. 8]. The conflation in the headline of grunge with Seattle culture as a whole (or a hole) may be the editor's doing, not the author's. However, such mashing contains its slug of truth. What was hard, clean, sharply defined punk in the U.K., on the East Coast, and in L.A. became mashed in Seattlemashed potatoes, ooze, the slime of slugand such is characteristic of a city whose upper-class music scene prefers Sibelius, Carl Orff, and Tchaikovsky over modern fare. It will take a lot of global warming and many more summers like the one that just ended to dry out the sodden, dank soul of the Northwest.
DISTRICTS HELP LITTLE GUYS
I just read Geov Parrish's rant against the initiative aimed at replacing our at-large system with the election of nine City Council members by district ["Drawing the Lines," Oct. 8]. Parrish prefers six elected by district with three elected at large to help block special interests and "power-hungry mayors" that might otherwise dominate the council.
Good grief. It is our current at-large system that virtually guarantees re-election of incumbents who routinely cater to downtown and corporate interests. The mayor is rarely challenged. In the wake of shameless catering to Paul Allen in South Lake Union, developers in Northgate, and the U-Dub's expansionist plans, citizens are fed up. But qualified neighborhood or activist candidates did not even step forward this election, because it's darn near impossible to unseat an incumbent who has downtown money and name familiarity.
Personally, I prefer 13 or 15 seats, all elected by district. Many smaller districts allow greater opportunity for grassroots groups to go door-to-door to reach every voterto combat the power of big money. This is not Chicago, where party and partisan politics rule, but a rich mix of neighborhood and activist groups that believe in democracy and community control. Only they are held in check by a system with at-large seats.
John V. Fox
Coordinator, Seattle Displacement Coalition
Geov Parrish got it almost right in "Drawing the Lines" [Oct. 8]. Unfortunately, he gave districts more validity than they merit, claiming it was a "good idea at a bad time" in 1999. Seattle changed to its current at-large system in 1910. What did it replace? Certainly not a benevolent monarchy! Districts, which date back to the founding of this country or earlier, are still in effect across much of the country and are still plagued with all of the problems that Charter Amendment No. 5 supporters want people to believe they will solve.
If Seattle wants to again become the progressive city it once was, we would elect City Council members "at large- at large" instead of by arbitrary position number or, worse, by district. Imagine what the council would be like if instead of choosing the lesser of two evils by position, we were voting for the best five out of 10 candidates on the general-election ballot! Progress is made by implementing good ideas; districts are a giant leap backward.
I enjoyed Knute Berger's column about the changing world of book sales [Mossback, "Little Bookshop of Horrors," Oct. 8]. I, too, lament the necessary loss of the King County Library System's used-book sales. They were great fun, hard work, and a social event that builds the kind of bonds people form under voluntary duress brought about by mostly good-natured scrabbling for literary gems in a gym full of books. I also miss grade school, my first apartment, and my '84 Honda with 158,000 miles on it. Nostalgia notwithstanding, change happens. Berger did an excellent job of portraying both the ups and downs of the techno evolution for us bibliophiles.
Alas, the library's decision to shift to online sales for used books became both necessary and a wise choice. Instead of being a costly-though-gratifying way to send surplus materials on to bibliophiles, the new system saves money and staff resources and brings in much-needed funds to the KCLS Foundation to support library programs and projects. I hate it when common sense spoils a nice time, but when it comes to prudent use of public assets, I applaud the KCLS decision.
Fortunately, even though the gym-jam ambience is gone, it is still possible to get a preview of the books online, including, in most cases, a photo and always an assessment of the condition. To further ease the pain, more than 30 KCLS community libraries still offer used books for sale at great bargains; you can find them listed on the KCLS Web pages (www.kcls.org/ programs/booksales.cfm).
Public Relations Specialist,
King County Library System
FIX FOR BOOK JUNKIES
Like other used-book junkies, I regret the loss of the King County Library book sales [Mossback, "Little Bookshop of Horrors," Oct. 8]. But Knute Berger shouldn't lose heart; there is an alternative. Less than a month before his article appeared, some 5,000 people crowded into an airplane hangar at Sand Point Magnuson Park for the Friends of the Seattle Public Library's fall book sale. In one weekend, more than 100,000 books, CDs, etc., were purchased, most for $1 or less. Many were library discards, and many others were privately donated. How's that for a library book sale? Their next book sale will be in April.
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