I just posted a new piece on WritingtheNorthwest.com. It’s about a 1917 profile of Portland, Oregon, in the national magazine Collier’s Weekly. Called “Portland the Spinster,” the article suggests the city is run by a handful of conservative FFPs (First Families of Portland) who lord it over the later arrivals.
I love reading other people’s views of places I love, and I had some fun writing about this one. You’ll find my post here.
The latest post on WritingtheNorthwest.com, my new website dedicated to writing about the Pacific Northwest, is my review of a strange new novel from the always-interesting Portland author Peter Rock. Here’s a part of the review:
In his last two novels—2019’s The Night Swimmers and this year’s Passersthrough (both published by Soho Press)—Rock has used a spare, allusive style to focus closely on a small number of characters in a limited situation while suggesting that there is more going on around them than they or the reader can know, some of it possibly supernatural.
This approach can create a feeling of disorientation, a sense that you’re not understanding something important to the story. But if you release your mind from the need to be certain of everything at every moment, the mood and mystery can take over, allowing you to immerse yourself in Rock’s precise and often beautiful evocations of places, experiences, and sensations.
New on WritingtheNorthwest.com: my review of the 2022 memoir RED PAINT: THE ANCESTRAL AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A COAST SALISH PUNK by Sasha taqʷšəblu LaPointe, a prime example of a welcome surge in new Indigenous writing.
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.”
My latest post on WritingtheNorthwest.com celebrates a unique and wonderful book about the history, customs and daily life of Native American tribes along the Columbia River. Click here to read: “When the River Ran Wild!–Excavating the Memories, Customs and Ways of the Mid-Columbia Tribes.”
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.