- Meet the 2007 Geniuses
- Film Genius
- Visual Art Genius
- Theater Genius
- Organization Genius
- Literature Genius
- Bonus! Political Genius
- David Lasky, Matt Ruff, Kimya Dawson, Jennifer Borges Foster
- John Helde, Benjamin Kasulke, Etta Lilienthal, Adam Sekuler
- Zoe Scofield, Amy Fleetwood, Marya Sea Kaminski, Allen Johnson
- Dan Webb, Cris Bruch, Tip Toland, and Deb Baxter
- People's Republic of Komedy, Implied Violence, SIFF, Langston Hughes
- Liz Dunn, Cascade Bicycle Club, Sandeep Kaushik
David Lasky has been the heart of Seattle's comics community since the mid-'90s. He's the one you want on your speed dial when you need an answer to an obscure 1930s comic strip–related question, and he's so good at being supportive of other cartoonists that people often fail to notice that he's a goddamned comic-book genius in his own right.
Lasky's early work was obsessed with interpreting one of the boldest works of literary genius of all time, James Joyce's Ulysses, starting with an eight-page minicomic adaptation that straight-facedly followed Bloom around Dublin without comment. Lasky followed this with a more ambitious account of how Joyce came to write Ulysses in the first place, told entirely in artwork swiped from Jack Kirby's 1960s Marvel Comics. He's since dabbled in autobiography, environmental journalism, historical biography, and genre spoofs, and he's continued his scattershot adaptations of Ulysses, in one case illustrating a short passage about love that's nothing less than sublime. Consciously or not, Lasky's gestating a minimalist magnum opus that will blow us all away. But when will we finally get to read it? PAUL CONSTANT
Seattle's always been very supportive of its literary superstars, which makes the relative lack of excitement about Matt Ruff all the more frustrating. His first novel, Fool on the Hill, has ardent followers who love it as dearly as others love, say, A Confederacy of Dunces or Youth in Revolt, but his second novel, Sewer, Gas & Electric: The Public Works Trilogy, is the real declaration of talent. Amid its Electric Negroes, giant sewer sharks, and Amish submarine pirates, SG&E also serves as a point-by-point refutation of Atlas Shrugged, and a love letter to Edward Abbey's The Monkey Wrench Gang.
Ruff's third novel, Set This House in Order: A Romance of Souls, is less intellectually spastic but dramatically more compelling: It's a Seattle-set love story about two people with multiple personality disorder. It's a great bit of imagination that manages to feel emotionally honest. And Ruff's latest book, Bad Monkeys, is a greased-lightning conspiracy thriller starring the mother of all unreliable narrators.
Is it because Ruff's style changes with every book that Seattle hasn't given him the adoration he so richly deserves? What's wrong with you people? Matt Ruff is one of Seattle's best writers, and it's about friggin' time we started to recognize that. PAUL CONSTANT
The Genius Awards committee has been talking for years about including a songwriter in the writing category, but not until Kimya Dawson landed in the Northwest did we see reason to do it. A Dawson primer: After earning acclaim as one half of New York City's antifolk superstars the Moldy Peaches, Dawson started making records of her own—adamantly lo-fi affairs showcasing her acoustic guitar and sweet, plain, conversational singing. The magic was in the lyrics: Moving past the Moldy Peaches' witty goofs, Dawson dug deep, unearthing a kaleidoscopic torrent of words that jelled into songs that were unlike anything that had come before—simultaneously ridiculous and profound, childish and wise, shockingly personal and laugh-out-loud funny.
Dawson's released five solo records since 2002; some are knockouts, some are negligible, all contain moments of singular brilliance (2004's My Cute Fiend Sweet Princess remains her best approximation of a start-to-finish Great Album). She's also unapologetically precious: love and hugs and silver-pink ponies are recurring motifs. But such diversions are deserved for a writer who so resolutely refuses to gloss over the ugliness of the world, and when she's on her game—when the whimsy and horror are in perfect balance—she gets more accomplished in less space than any songwriter going. Here's the refrain from "Anthrax": "The air is filled with computers and carpets/Skin and bones and telephones and file cabinets/Coke machines, firemen, landing gear, and cement/They say that it's okay but I say don't breathe that shit in."
Obviously, it's about life in NYC following 9/11. In 2005, Dawson relocated from NYC to Seattle; last year, she and her family moved to Olympia. The Northwest is lucky to have her. DAVID SCHMADER
Jennifer Borges Foster
Jennifer Borges Foster's poetry has been published in reputable publications like ZYZZYVA and the Beloit Poetry Journal and has sweet, moony lines like, "On leaving/she lives in a biscuit, peeking through the gnawed-out windows/at the robins who dumbly clutter her roof" and "her letters to you are written in steam." Her poetry is good, but it's her center of gravity that we love best: Good writers circle her like moons.
There's Filter, the hardbound, hand-stitched journal she edits, with writing by people like John Olson, Joshua Marie Wilkinson, and Rebecca Hoogs—the kinds of writers you want to read. Then, in August, Foster organized four weeks of readings at ACT in honor of First Class, a play about Theodore Roethke. The lineup included three Stranger Genius Award winners—John Olson, Rebecca Brown, Matt Briggs—and other good writers like Catherine Wing, Jonathan Crimmins, and Allen Johnson. (Plus there was great music by the French Project, the Half Brothers, and Ken Benshoof, a sometime composer for the Kronos Quartet.)
A good readings series, a good literary journal, and good poetry, all from one person—will wonders never cease? BRENDAN KILEY