Retired UW professor Charles Johnson is the closest thing to a Seattle legend that our fiction scene has. Johnson has been retired from the teaching business for a decade now, and he's taken that time to publish a ton of books — a writing guide, a book about his Buddhist practice, and his latest collection of short fiction, Night Hawks.
When I spoke to Johnson a couple years ago, he was in an expansive mood, explaining that the title story in Night Hawks was "about my 15-year friendship here in Seattle with [celebrated playwright] August Wilson. We had really great eight-to-ten-hour dinner conversations at the old Broadway Bar and Grill, which is gone now, on Capitol Hill."
Johnson is perhaps best known for incorporating his Buddhist experiences into his fiction. "I’ve always been a very spiritual person," he told me, and he doesn't see any separation between Charles Johnson the writer and Charles Johnson the Buddhist. "It’s all total, together, you know — art is mind, body and spirit, and they all reinforce each other and serve the creative process, I think."
Retirement has been a great boon to Johnson's literary career. He's been busier and more adventurous in his literary life than he was in his many years as a UW professor. It's the freedom of someone who knows who he is, and what he's capable of, and who finally feels free to do it. Go soak in his freedom for a while.
Northwest African-American Museum, 2300 S Massachusetts St, 518-6000, http://www.naamnw.org, 7 pm.