My primary emotion upon reading Susanna Ryan’s book version of her wildly popular Instagram feed, Seattle Walk Report, other than excitement, was of recognition. As in, someone else also gets excited about these sorts of things besides me?
Check out page 77, where differing tops of fences are appreciated, or page 94, where contrasting construction cones are replicated with just as much loving attention. I really knew I had found a kindred spirit, though, as early as page 19, where she draws a dumpster beneath big block letters reading, “CAPITOL HILL TRASH TIME!” A subtitle states, “Capitol Hill has the best sidewalk trash in Seattle, and no one can tell me otherwise!” The dumpster image (complete with adorable raccoon) details her finds: “On this walk I saw four buttons, a pile of Christmas lights, a hanger, a dinosaur-shaped fruit snack, a broken plate, a coupon for 20% off a noninvasive face-lift, a stamp pad, and a bag of rhinestones.”
How could you not immediately have to buy this book?
I was reminded of two things: Don Delillo’s rhapsodic two-page section in Underworld (the best book written after WWII), where he articulates how trash is the actualization of all human activity, how it contains all narratives and all evidence of existence; and my own fascination with garbage, from photographing it as a discipline (as in, if you can make this look affecting, you’re good!) to appreciating the different reasons why things end up on the ground, as explored in this deep cut of a blog post, a conversation I had in the bullpen at work with a few other operators. Less seriously, I was also reminded of my own enthusiasm at capturing the details of life and the massively wide spectrum through which it flows, which I imagine is why I’m drawn to snap at various objects left behind on my buses as in here, here, and here.
It’s all about how we choose to see things. That’s what our two books have in common. I often pitch my book to newcomers as focusing on the positive things that happen on my bus, but that’s not strictly true. Homelessness, violence, prejudice and grief are not positive things. But the perspective through which I try to wrestle with those themes is positive in a way I hope is restorative.
All of which is to say, it’s gonna be one positive night this Friday evening at the Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park. We’re pulling out all the stops for this one. It’s a rare double-header author event, and it’s free.
I try to organize what I present at each of my talks so the overlap is minimal; if you’ve been to previous talks of mine (such as last year’s epic Elliott Bay bash), rest assured that nearly everything presented this time around will be new.
December 6, 6pm.
Third Place Books
17171 Bothell Way NE, #A101
Lake Forest Park WA 98155
Parking is free and easy; bus service is great (from downtown: 312/522. From UW: 372)!
Details, directions and more here.
More on Susanna Ryan:
The Stranger.Seattle Isn’t Dying, and My Proof Is Seattle Walk Report.
Crosscut. Seattle Walk Report draws inspiration from city sidewalks.
Creative Mornings.Susanna Ryan: Finding Inspiration in Your Own Backyard (lecture).