November 08, 2012
Keith Scribner has never been one to shy away from trouble. His first novel, The GoodLife, fictionalized the 1992 real-life account of an Exxon executive’s kidnapping, and his third novel, The Oregon Experiment (hardcover, 2011, Knopf; re-released as a paperback in summer 2012 by Vintage Contemporaries), plunges the reader deep into the heart of the wily Pacific Northwest, home of the WTO protests and an actual secession in the 1940s (involving parts of southern Oregon and Northern California). In The Oregon Experiment, now in paperback, a young couple, Scanlon (a professor), and his pregnant wife, Naomi, have recently moved to Douglas, a small town in Oregon, so Scanlon can collect material for a scholarly book on mass movements that he hopes will catapult him onto the cushy tenure tract back east. Naomi, a perfume designer who has suddenly lost her sense of smell, must make sense of a strange environment in both the lush Northwest and her now-foreign, lactating body. For Scanlon, meeting Clay, a local anarchist, and Sequoia, the leader of a local secessionist movement, is a dream come true. The book, he thinks, will write itself. Unfortunately, it does not contain the ending he envisioned.
I had the good fortune of speaking with Keith about The Oregon Experiment, the heart of conflict, the best way to search for Molotov cocktails on the Internet, and um, breasts.