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I fell in love with Kate Christensen’s fiction for the smart but deeply flawed characters, the vibrant settings, the good old-fashioned plot twists and, of course, the prose, once described by Janelle Brown in the San Francisco Chronicle as “visceral and poetic, like being bludgeoned with an exquisitely painted sledgehammer.” Always in the mix, lusciously omnipresent, was food and booze, flavoring the titles (In The Drink, The Epicure’s Lament) and served generously through the scenes. There was no doubt the author was deeply involved with eating and drinking.
July 01, 2015
Chris Leslie-Hynan is a very busy man these days. With the success of his first novel, Ride Around Shining, he has been touring on and off for well over the last year. I caught up with him somewhere around Las Vegas to discuss his novel and also some of the biases and expectations he had to confront when writing about race, class, and envy.
October 09, 2013
On Oct 2nd, the first LitHopPDX literary pub crawl, organized by Kevin Sampsell, Jeff Alessandrelli and Bryan Coffelt, served as a prelude to PDX Literary Festival Wordstock. LitHopPDX commandeered six venues to host 56 readers on Hawthorne Boulevard in Southeast Portland. It was a literary trick-or-treat for writers and their lovers, and it was all about dreams and selfies with Zachary Schomburg.
A Book Review Masquerading as a Memoir, or Vice-Versa, Depending on One’s Point of View and Opinion of Absurd Clothing, plus Praise to James Bernard Frost for Giving a Voice to Aging Punk Rockers.
If ever you should have an epiphany— and I think you know what I’m talking about— latch onto it, no matter how large or small the epiphany, and try your best to make it happen. You might make a fool of yourself, but better to make fool of yourself than to spend your life jealous of the fools.
Bartholomew Flynn, A Very Minor Prophet
March 01, 2012
A Very Minor Prophet, James Bernard Frost’s second novel, succeeds at many things. It renders a sense of contemporary Portland at a time when the public at large seems genuinely interested in our bike-riding, rain-and-coffee soaked, Voodoo Doughnut milieu. It’s both literary and illustrated, and somehow this offers no contradiction. It’s the first novel I’ve read that takes the reader back to 2004, addressing the political and religious divides of a time when most liberals were choking on their tofu at the thought of four more years of George W. Bush. Most importantly, AVMP is its own thing, which is the first requirement any reader can ask of a writer’s work. I got a chance to chat with Frost about AVMP, and how he feels about bringing Portland to life in such a, well, Portland-y way.
“Come over here, you sexy bitch.”
The bartender’s voice seeped slowly into my awareness as I stood staring hang-jawed at my surroundings: the dark wood sheathing the club from floor to ceiling, the fish tanks embedded into the face of the long bar, and, especially the person sitting on the barstool. Was that the same person featured in the drag show I’d been at a few weeks earlier? Finally, I heard the words.
I turned my head toward the bartender and the space between me and the bar, which had only seconds ago been filled by other customers but was now empty, and realized he was talking to me.
“Oh! I’m the sexy bitch,” I said. “Thanks for that. I was worried that I looked like Xena: Warrior Princess.”
March 08, 2011
As a literary form and commercial endeavor, the modern memoir is overwhelmingly popular. A quick perusal of the non-fiction stacks confirms this. From Donald Rumsfeld to Annie Dillard, the memoir is ubiquitous. Too, as a confirming note, there is the backlash, as there is always a backlash against things trending popular. I site Neil Genzlinger’s recent anti-memoir diatribe in the New York Time’s Book Review of a few weeks ago. It begins: “A moment of silence, please, for the lost art of shutting up.” In his essay Genzlinger reviewed four memoirs, giving just one the nod. He took the others to task for various reasons. One author, for instance, had not earned “the right to draft a memoir, by accomplishing something noteworthy.” Ouch. He argued that if you did not have an extremely unique experience or were deemed to be less than “a brilliant writer,” you were “obliged to keep quiet.” The current plethora of memoirs is, he reasons, a result of “our current age of oversharing.” His essay trespassed to the edge of being mean-spirited and the dust-up caused a flurry of activity in literary circles. (A backlash to the backlash confirming the maturation of a trend, indeed.)
It’s true, and absurd, and there are a thousand other true and absurd stereotypes that fall short of capturing the city.
IFC’s “Portlandia” is an attempt at sketch comedy based on the peculiar nuttiness that emanates from the City of Roses, which is a difficult proposal, because the people who best reflect that nuttiness are offended, and everyone else is annoyed that their particular tribe wasn’t included. Then there are those things that only outsiders find funny. Yes, in Portland 30-something men ride skateboards to take their kids to school. I only notice this as part of the natural landscape, like a resplendent fall Chinook, writhing its way upstream to spawn and die.
I write in a place some might refer to as a “man cave.” I prefer to call it my study. Many labels and tags of today, like man cave, seem crass and fleeting. I seek the world–at least in words–of greater tested substance. But should a person happen in here, he or she would likely think, or speak, “man cave.” Here are rough-hewed beams. I don’t know how old this building is in the Old Port area of Portland, but I suspect the beams were put here by hand for real reasons, and not a later aesthetic to appeal to those sensitive to such things. Strewn about my study is my rock collection: small stones picked up from world travels and labeled accordingly: Stonehenge, Loch Ness, the Great Wall, Hemingway’s garden in Key West, Rio Grande in Terra del Fuego and so forth. On the old chimney brick I have stretched prayer flags from Tibet. My photographs are strewn about, some in plastic sleeves, some matted and framed. A few pieces of photographic equipment, as well as developer chemicals rest against walls and in dark cabinets. Overflow books reside here, mainly books on fly-fishing, map and compass navigation, literary criticism and guide books to hiking trails in New England.
I wonder if going to the woods, Thoreau-style, is still possible? It is sadly troubling that my first response to this not-so-rhetorical question is: Ted Kaczynski. “The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race.” So begins the so-called Unabomber Manifesto, or, as Kaczynski titled it, Industrial Society and its Future. The influence upon Kaczynski by the Transcendentalist from Walden is well documented. Kaczynski even modeled his Montana cabin after Thoreau’s. But of course one of the men was a paranoid schizophrenic.
Some of you may have become familiar with Storm Large when she was a contestant (and finalist) for lead singer on 2006’s Rockstar Supernova, which, according to Wikipedia, was “a reality television-formed supergroup consisting of drummer Tommy Lee (Mötley Crüe), bassist Jason Newsted (Voivod and ex-Metallica), and guitarist Gilby Clarke (ex-Guns N’ Roses).” As many of you know, Storm has continued to build a name for herself as an independent musician, stage performer, and, soon, as a novelist. Storm’s 2009 one-woman show, Crazy Enough, which featured the song “8 Miles Wide,” was a smash hit, with all shows sold out.
On April 30, 2010, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Storm Large and TNB contributor Quenby Moone at a local taco joint here in Portland. Storm, who showed up in a pair of jeans and a well-worn white hoodie, sans makeup, was gorgeous, gregarious, generous of spirit, foul mouthed like a long-haul trucker, well-spoken, and hilarious. Storm gave me over an hour of her time, answering any question I asked with tremendous honesty peppered with frequent F-bombs. We discussed her music, sex, her recovery from a heroin addiction, growing up with a mentally ill mom, her book, the future of the publishing industry, sexism in the music industry, boob jobs, an amazingly simple recipe for pot candy, and so much more.
February 05, 2010
The prize? A feature interview here on TNB.
A young woman named Ellie emerged triumphant. Ellie is from Portland, Oregon. She is an Ivy League educated urban planner and music blogger with a penchant for whiskey and a deep love of cerebral rock stars and screen actor Ryan Gosling.
Ellie was kind enough to make herself available for a wide-ranging, spirited, and often personal conversation, the transcript of which can be found below.
You did it! Welcome to gChat.
As you should.
Hey, thanks. It was hard work.
And then you put it on the Internet. Got it!
I’ll do my best.
(**radio silence as Ellie contemplates**)
I feel like I need to work on my leadership skills.
I constantly feel like I am a character in a Credence Clearwater Revival song, yes.
I do! I try to. I have a blog that is a few months old and I’m trying to do as much writing as possible this year. And go to as many shows as my bank account and liver will tolerate.
Originally, I come from Upstate New York. It’s very cold and snowy there. So I moved to Portland after college because I thought it would have a nicer climate.
Now I hate rain, but less passionately than I hate snow. I hope to keep moving south as I age.
Cornell, which is also in Upstate New York.
Yes. I’m very fancy.
I was, although I learned to do less work each year while maintaining the same grades.
It is nebulous. I like dead old white dudes’ theories on the world. So, it worked out. Not so useful in the real world, however.
I temped and waited tables, then went and got a master’s degree.
Well, I’ve been employed since I graduated, so that’s a plus. Whether it’s my lifelong calling remains to be seen.
Sorta, kinda. I do all types of planning all around Oregon.
I’m proud to say I am not.
That’s a harder question than it seems. The Hold Steady. The Gaslight Anthem. Lucero. The Drive-By Truckers.
I may or may not hate hippies.
I have a crush on Craig Finn’s brain. Big time. I would put it in a different body, though.
Maybe Ryan Gosling. He’s adorable and scruffy enough to be a rock star.
Don’t be ashamed.
Hey, we have that in common!
That’s not asking so much, is it?
Yes. There is a mismatch between my musical tastes and my surroundings.
You imagine correctly.
I feel like I should be lying on a couch when I answer that question.
Am I intimidating you?
I don’t feel that way, generally. Though Portland men are, as a whole, ginormous wimps.
We could talk about that for a while. Male friends of mine who grew up in Portland have confirmed for me that the culture here growing up was so PC that they can’t bring themselves to really hit on women. I think Portland is the epicenter of that. There aren’t as many lumberjack types as one would think/hope. Actually, Williamsburg, Brooklyn is potentially the epicenter of that. But we’re the west coast capital.
I have some friends who encourage this sort of thing. I’m not so sure.
In general, yes. Craig’s List, specifically.
They’re all too shy. I’m not sure I’ve ever really been hit on in Portland. Not in the proper east-coast sense.
Eye contact followed by an introduction, maybe a free drink, some sort of follow-up invitation. Guys in Portland are really good at making eye contact across the room and then going home alone.
I’m overcome with social anxiety at inconvenient times. But, yes, I have tried on occassion. One time I bought a dude a beer at a show ’cause he’d been clutching an empty for thirty minutes. I thought that was cute of me.
He said, “That was sweet.” We exchanged names. He left alone. I left with my friends.
Sing it, sister.
Um…I do now?
I am new. It’s the power of Twitter. I do read a lot when not out at shows drinking whiskey, so I’ll check it out.
Four? It’s not an every night out kind of thing. One has to ration.
I like to drink Bud Light with my whiskey. Don’t judge. It’s delicious.
I think I can legitimately say I’m average.
I have an older brother.
Famously. His wife is great too.
Nope. San Francisco.
Not at all.
I lived in Germany for a year and Scotland for four months. I’ve been to Mexico and Iceland as well.
It’s an island nation north of Europe.
I used to be obsessed with Iceland. I took a three-day layover on my way to Scotland. It was pretty surreal.
The landscape is unlike anything you’ve likely ever seen. And it’s so far north that you can’t really watch the sun set, because it takes a really long time and you get cold and have to go inside.
I stayed outside of Reykjavik because their hostel was full. Took a bus tour of the interior one day, bummed around the city one day and went to the Blue Lagoon one day.
It’s a natural mineral spa in the middle of a lava landscape.
Sort of float around, yes. It’s like a big, shallow outdoor pool.
Not so much. They all speak English quite well though.
I used to. On my flight home, I was mistaken for a German native. That was twelve years ago though. It’s not something you get to practice a lot.
It’s not the softest language, but it has a certain rhythm and it’s really quite logical.
Like a mouthful of R’s.
We’re an ugly people, the Americans.
We have some ugly traits as a people, but I wouldn’t trade in.
I think my friends see me as social and funny, but I think I have a bit of a split personality.
I am either in super social, stay-out-late mode, or else I’m curled up with my cat reading and napping for a few days in a row.
I can be. But sometimes when I’m really happy I like to read and nap, too.
I do. I mean, it’s a work in progress, always, but I’m pretty clear-headed. Getting out of my twenties helped.
Well, I finished college, moved across the country, worked a few dead-end jobs, had several apartments, ended a few relationships, got a degree and a big girl job, and put down roots. I think everything’s a little more dramatic when you’re in your twenties. Now it’s like, well, that sucks, but no one’s dead, so we’re all good.
I’ve usually been the ender, but the ones where I wasn’t were the hardest. I guess that’s obvious, but it’s a painful lesson. I also got hit by a car when I was twenty-five. That was challenging.
I was on my bike. Didn’t see the car coming. I was pretty lucky, all things considered.
I kind of sideswiped it. Landed on my ass in the street. The actual physics of the accident are unclear to me.
Compression fracture in my spine.
I was in bed for about ten days. Never totally immobile though. It’s one of these injuries where they just send you home with pain pills. I wore a very attractive back brace for a few weeks.
I didn’t. I had good insurance, and no one was really at fault.
No! Very proud of that.
Haha. There certainly have been. Not fit to print though. Especially since my mom is getting increasingly Internet savvy.
I have no idea what you are talking about.
I am. I read a lot.
Chuck Klosterman for non-fiction/pop culture. I’m less loyal when it comes to fiction. I read a lot of contemporary fiction. I can tell you what books I really liked lately.
Dear American Airlines, by Jonathan Miles. This Is Where I Leave You, by Jonathan Tropper. A Fortunate Age, by Joanna Rakoff. City of Refuge, by Tom Piazza.
I do. I love me some dark humor.
No. I’m opposed.
I like to cuddle up with books. I love bookstores; I like the library. I don’t really want to get in bed with an electronic device.
I am well aware.
Nope. I have two iPods and and iPhone, so I’m all set.
I do. More than average, I think.
Probably more women, but certainly a good mix. Women don’t trust women who have no woman friends. Cause they’re sketchy as hell.
It’s a red flag in the lady world. Women who say “I don’t have many woman friends” are generally not trustworthy. There’s a reason women don’t like them. We’re better judges of character than y’all.
I one-hundred percent do.
Yes and yes.
I really don’t know. I’m 50/50 on that issue.
So they say.
I like babies. I like them till they’re about three. Then I find them totally annoying.
Well, I get really gooey when I see babies. There is something instinctual about it. But then they cry or I remember that I like to sleep nine hours a night, and I’m all good.
I’m not. I used to skip Sunday school as a kid. I was like, “this sounds hooey,” and I’d go hide for an hour.
I guess technically. It’s not something I think about on the regular.
It’s like taking a nap, forever.
When I was, like, four, one of my brother’s friends fell and got a rusty nail impaled in his knee.
Tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanos erupting. Any and all, really.
Well, I’ve calmed down in recent years. I used to worry a lot about tsunamis.
Nah. I don’t know how to answer that. I’m a bit neurotic, though. I sort of immediately imagine the worst case scenario. Or when people don’t call me back, I wonder if they’re dead.
I like to think I’m a realist. Part of me is jaded as hell, but deep down I’m pretty sure it’s all gonna work out fine.
I am way too ADD for that. I have like nine thoughts at once. If I need to block them out, I go to the gym and listen to music really loudly.
I’m about a third by blood. Not at all, culturally. Well, I like pasta.
I am looking for a Ryan Gosling look-alike who can play the guitar and think like Craig Finn.
A person would have to buy me drinks to get that kind of insight.
Read my blog. Comment. Follow me to shows—in a non-creepy way, of course. Or email me at [email protected].
You got it. Thank you.
Weren’t you just there, asking me?