All in all, I liked Master Pennington. He never wronged me, and I never wronged him. This is why it is difficult for me to get to the heart of this short article, which has the distasteful task of speaking unfavorably about him. To the point: Pennington is not a reader--at least of books. This would have been well and good had he not been responsible for composing the weekly readings calendar, a position that he held until August of this year and that required, at the very least, some interest in contemporary literature. I implored him to read more, to become familiar with visiting authors and their fiction or nonfiction, which often cost them years to produce. To this he would reply, "Charles, I hate reading books."
Here is a sample of the incurable disdain he had for writers, who in this particular case are local historians: "As I write this I simply can't stop yawning, and I have to blame authors Ochsner and Anderson [sic]--or rather, their specialized subject matter of bricks and mortar--for my bout of lethargy. Distant Corner is a study of Seattle's late-19th-century architecture." His tone, his indifference--can you imagine the insult that these historians must have felt upon reading this? Their years of hard work reduced to mere dust particles, blown away by the breezy air of a postmodern dandy.
If, by e-mail, I requested that he show respect to a specific author or book event in his write-up, as I did on April 8 ("Mr. Pennington: put this [event] in the calendar and don't make fun of it."), he would turn that serious request into an object of fun by including it in the actual listing: "[Mr. Pennington: put this in the calendar and don't make fun of it. --Charles Mudede, books editor. ] Weheliye discusses the ways in which contemporary black culture savors the synthetic technologies like cell phones and pagers in his lecture entitled Ring, Ring, Ring: Machinic Sensation. " (From the April 10 issue.) Even famous writers did not stimulate him; he was as indifferent to them as he was to self-published authors. This is what he wrote about Paul Theroux in the March 27 issue: "With any trace of his youth behind him, Theroux takes desperately to the dark continent in an attempt to shake off old age with a travel log entitled Dark Star Safari." What the hell is he talking about? "Shake off old age with a travel log"? Theroux has been writing travel books since 1975, when he was in his mid-30s. He is not shaking off anything; he is just doing what he has done successfully for nearly three decades. Even those who are unfamiliar with literature know that Paul Theroux is the real deal and so deserves respect. This is a man who had a professional relationship with Borges! (When I explained this to Zac, he shrugged his shoulders like a boy and said he had never heard of Borges.)
To the local books community, I deeply regret the considerably long mishandling of the readings calendar at the delicate hands of Zac Pennington. But he is no longer with us (indeed, the last time I saw the dandy, he was dead in a cheap coffin--presumably being shipped to Portland), and his replacement has, I believe, a profound appreciation of books and the rich culture that surrounds them.