The weekend literally began on Friday. Over lunch, a friend who has literally a foot-high pile of hair on his head and always speaks precisely, was bemoaning the superfluous and incorrect intrusion of the world "literally" into everyday speech, and then later that evening, in another crowd entirely, one of my friends said she had to go to an ATM but that it would "literally take two seconds" and another friend said, "Literally?" and the first girl said, "Literally."
Somewhere in between, literally, I found myself at Richard Hugo House, at a reading and party for Seattle Research Institute's Bookmark Series. "I am one of the researchers for the Seattle Research Institute," Megan Purn said, introducing the event, even though she isn't literally a researcher. (The Seattle Research Institute is literally a couple of writers with some aggressive ideas and a robust command of formal rhetoric, but together they indulge in the contrived, slightly twee, and somewhat charming habit of calling themselves "researchers," even though the things they research tend to be, if not literally then at least without exception, the inner guts of their own ideas.)
The Bookmark Series is literally a series of bookmarks--each with a short essay printed inside. Ann Powers wrote one about music and the way it literally helps us remember who we used to be and, not quite as literally, become what we are each becoming. Rebecca Brown wrote one called, quite literally, "Consolation," and Matt Briggs wrote one called "A Declaration of Mindedness." There were 16 bookmarks published in all, and as the prose poet John Olson said at Hugo House before he (along with several other bookmark authors) began reading, they are "wonderfully portable" and "they fit in your pocket like a cigar" (although not literally) and "they work, they actually save your place."
Olson's reading was terrific ("The best way to deal with an abstraction is to further abstract it") and so was Frances McCue's ("I say I'm a flaneur but really I am a woman who tries to wander the city") and so was the first piece Nic Veroli read, about how serial killers are capitalists but not literally ("The problem of the serial killer is that he is a capitalist who has no interest in money, but who remains compulsively attached to gain"). Robert Corbett read from his bookmark, "A Wide Margin," which is funny and pretty good, but his reading of it was so bloated and sloppy it literally made at least one other person wish he would stop already. And, after him, Anne Elizabeth Moore read from her bookmark, "Stop Reading This: An Annotated Manifesto of Radical Literacy," an essay that presents an argument in favor of forgoing reading altogether, which is literally stupid. Also stupid was that she inserted the word "literally" into her reading in a sentence that, in the printed bookmark, does not have a "literally," and shouldn't.
The bookmarks are now on sale everywhere, although not literally.