Comix Pix

Literary luminaries fade from the Bumbershoot bill, leaving comic-book artists blinking, unaccustomed to the sunlight.

Maybe Garrison Keillor had vacation plans for Labor Day weekend. Perhaps Andrei Codrescu remains fog-bound on Martha's Vineyard. And Spalding Gray, sadly, is no longer available. So the bottom line is that there aren't a lot of big names among Bumbershoot's literary guests, nobody too familiar from NPR or The New Yorker. But that doesn't mean the festival is devoid of attractions for the pen-and-ink crowd, particularly for those inclined to sketch, not write, in their unruled black notebooks. For whatever reason, perhaps the pull of local publisher Fantagraphics, artists from the world of comic books, comix, and graphic novels—call them what you will—predominate the picks this year, although a few traditional writers will also be in attendance. Chris Abani Acclaimed for his most recent novel, Graceland, the Nigerian dissident and author will participate on a panel titled "Voices in Wartime," a subject with which he has some experience-like imprisonment and torture. Since our country is at war, the forum should have additional importance beyond the writers' personal experiences. Joining Abani will be Iraqi poet Sinan Antoon, an exile who should have a lot to say about Dubya's crusade. Also on the panel are area poet Emily Warn (The Novice Insomniac) and psychiatrist Jonathan Shay, whose 1994 Achilles in Vietnam uses Homer to examine veterans' post-traumatic stress disorder. Perhaps we can also expect a few comments on Kerry, Bush, and the Swift boat controversy. Bagley Wright Theatre. 2:30 p.m. Sat., Sept. 4. Indie Comix Confab Panel Harvey Pekar (see next item) joins four of his comic-book peers—although they'd probably prefer to be called his heirs, so great is his influence on the form—on this panel discussion. Fantagraphics founder Gary Groth will be the moderator. Pekar may be the headliner, but serious Seattle graphic-novel readers will immediately identify fellow panelists Gilbert Hernandez (Love & Rockets), Jessica Abel (La Perdida), Craig Thompson (Blankets), and Peter Bagge (Hate). Expect a freewheeling discussion of that always loaded and constantly redefined notion of "independent." Bagley Wright Theatre. 8 p.m. Sun., Sept. 5. Harvey Pekar You loved him in the movie American Splendor, in which actor Paul Giamatti also gave a spot-on characterization of the curmudgeonly Cleveland comic- book pioneer. The movie, part documentary and part re-enactment, gave the real Pekar the widest audience he's ever enjoyed, quite apart from the merits of his own Splendor series and infamous '80s appearances on David Letterman. He's now retired from his hospital file clerk gig and is being honored with freelance work for Entertainment Weekly (in which he described his experiences at Cannes for the movie's European premiere) and other mainstream mags. But don't let that fool you: Pekar proudly belongs to the fringe, speaking for the outcasts and flyover people that smug coastal America so often overlooks. Bagley Wright Theatre. 1 p.m. Mon., Sept. 6. Jonathan Raban Seattle's favorite whiskey-voiced expat Brit (and occasional SW contributor), the novelist and political commentator may read from his 2003 novel Waxwings (which dealt with the local dot-com crash, among other things). Or he might share from his second installment in a projected Northwest trilogy of works; this one, he told me last year, will address "the split between urban paranoia [about a] terrorist attack and the relative safety of this house in the country. [It] takes place in a Seattle that has become part of a security state, set in a rather indefinite present." If that period sounds an awful lot like the Ashcroftian present, expect some tart words about Dubya and our misguided foreign policy. Starbucks Literary Stage. 4:45 p.m. Mon., Sept. 6.

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