My new post on WritingtheNorthwest.com, “The Fancydancing Voice of Sherman Alexie,” is a personal reflection on the impact of this important but flawed Northwest writer’s work.
You can read it here.
A new post on WritingtheNorthwest.com looks at a list of 40 books set in the Pacific Northwest, compiled by the staff at Powell’s Books.
If you’re looking for a summer read or just to see a range of writing about the Northwest, check it out:
New on WritingtheNorthwest.com: my review of Tina Ontiveros’s rough house (Oregon State University Press, 2020), a difficult but moving memoir about growing up in the damp forests of the Pacific Northwest and the dry brown land around The Dalles, Oregon.
Here’s an excerpt:
“Contrary to popular belief, you can sometimes tell a lot about a book by its title. In addition to the double meaning of physical fun and difficult circumstances, it’s significant that rough house is printed in lower case. Ontiveros is shining a light on minor characters whose stories, though filled with poverty and violence, are worth telling—and worth reading—for what they reveal about the hardships many Americans face, as well as how those Americans—especially women, like Ontiveros—find a way forward despite the odds.”
Jack Kerouac by Tom Palumbo circa 1956 (image from Wikipedia)
There’s a new post on my WritingtheNorthwest.com site: “Feeling Wild and Lyrical: Jack Kerouac Spends a Night in Seattle.” It’s focused on Kerouac’s still-fresh description of Seattle in the summer of 1956, when he passed through on his way to working as a lookout on Desolation Peak in the N. Cascades.
Kerouac, of course, was a friend of Robert Lax, the subject of my book Pure Act: The Uncommon Life of Robert Lax. You’ll find a post here about a letter from him to Lax in which he laid out his thoughts about Christianity and Buddhism.
There are many pages about Kerouac and his friendship with Lax in Pure Act.
Image from aype.com
Two new posts on my WritingtheNorthwest.com site look at the role of writers in creating the myths that brought the Pacific Northwest attention and population growth in the 19th century.
The first one, called “How Writers Helped Shape the Myth of a New Eden,” explores the mythologizing of the Oregon Trail and the Eden at the other end of it, leading to growing settlements in what was called the Oregon Country.
Image from nps.gov
The second one, called “How One Man Made Seattle by Selling It to the World,” examines the role of a man named Erastus Brainerd in marketing Seattle as the Gateway to the Yukon during the Klondike Gold Rush. His before-their-time efforts led to 70,000 of the approximately 100,000 men who traveled to Yukon passing through Seattle, changing the city overnight.
There’s a new post up on my WritingtheNorthwest.com site. It looks at the history and vitality of Black newspapers in the Northwest and includes links to the actual pages of some of the oldest ones.
Although there were few African Americans in Seattle in the 1890s, that decade produced 7 new Black newspapers, and while there were almost no African Americans in Portland in 1896, an enterprising young man named Adolphus D. Griffin started a weekly called The New Age for the Black community there that year.
You can read more here.
The latest post on WritingtheNorthwest.com focuses on writing about the history and incredible growth of the wine industry in the Pacific Northwest. It offers a wealth of links to sites that give fascinating facts about NW wines, interviews with wine makers, and books that take a deeper dive into the lives of those who make wine in this rich region.
Click here to check it out.
Over the past week I’ve put up two new posts on my recently launched WritingtheNorthwest.com website, one by me and one by a former student of mine, David Naimon, the host of the popular podcast Between the Covers.
My post is on a visit Rudyard Kipling made to Oregon in the 1890s, when he fished for salmon on the Clackamas River and visited a salmon cannery. You’ll find what he had to say about each of them by clicking here.
David Naimon’s post talks about the importance of Ursula K. Le Guin‘s connection to the Pacific Northwest (and especially Portland) to the writing of her science fiction classics. You can read that one here.