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Monday, July 28, 2014

Afternoon Reading: A Preview of Haruki Murakami's New Novel

Posted by Erik Henriksen on Mon, Jul 28, 2014 at 12:59 PM

Haruki Murakami's long-awaited latest, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, doesn't come out in America until August 12. Luckily, Slate's got an excerpt, of which this is an early part of:

“I have a kind of weird story related to death. Something my father told me. He said it was an actual experience he had when he was in his early twenties. Just the age I am now. I’ve heard the story so many times I can remember every detail. It’s a really strange story—it’s hard even now for me to believe it actually happened— but my father isn’t the type to lie about something like that. Or the type who would concoct such a story. I’m sure you know this, but when you make up a story the details change each time you retell it. You tend to embellish things, and forget what you said before. ... But my father’s story, from start to finish, was always exactly the same, each time he told it. So I think it must be something he actually experienced. I’m his son, and I know him really well, so the only thing I can do is believe what he said. But you don’t know my father, Tsukuru, so feel free to believe it or not. Just understand that this is what he told me. You can take it as folklore, or a tale of the supernatural, I don’t mind. It’s a long story, and it’s already late, but do you mind if I tell it?”

Sure, Tsukuru said, that would be fine. I’m not sleepy yet. (Via.)

That's as far as I'm reading; I'd rather save the rest until August 12. The less patient among you: Have at.

Friday, July 25, 2014

In His Final Book, Harvey Pekar Explains Israel to You

Posted by Paul Constant on Fri, Jul 25, 2014 at 9:44 AM

When Harvey Pekar died in 2010, he left behind a book-length collaboration with illustrator JT Waldman called Not the Israel My Parents Promised Me. Israel, which was in process at the time of Pekar's death, is a rarity in Pekar's body of work, which is mostly interested in anecdotes and the quotidian details of his life as a file clerk in Cleveland. Instead, it's a book-length exploration of a global topic that starts with autobiography and expands out to one of the most important issues of our time: The history and ethics of Israel as a global force. The book was recently released in paperback, and with current events being what they are, it's even more important than it was at the time of its publication.

Pekar begins with the personal: He's an atheist Jew, and he recalls his parents' elated response when Israel was founded. Like most children, he takes his parents' word as law. And like most people, he wrestles with their judgment as he becomes an adult. The kind of adult Pekar becomes, too, is an important part of the book: He's against nationalism, pacifistic, and intellectual. He's not anti-Israel by any means, but he does have some pretty strong words for some of Israel's actions.

Israel is an excellent book for people looking for a resource about the history of the region. He and Waldman intersperse the commentary with the history of the Jewish people. Waldman's artwork is beautiful and stylistically diverse: The passages telling the earliest story of the Jewish people is illustrated in crude tile, as though it was found on the wall of an ancient temple. As the history becomes clearer and more sophisticated, so does the artwork, adopting the art style of the time Pekar is describing. Parts of the history are drawn like they're tapestries, and as the modern day approaches things get more and more photorealistic. As a final work, Israel stands as an excellent example of Pekar's mastery of comics, and possibly his most fully-realized narrative.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The First Trailer for Erotic Twilight Fanfic: The Movie

Posted by Erik Henriksen on Thu, Jul 24, 2014 at 12:39 PM

We now live in a world where Twilight fanfic is repurposed as a bestselling book series and then repurposed again into a movie series. A movie series that now features a Beyoncé song (C'MON BEYONCÉ, YOU DESERVE BETTER THAN THIS), and that looks exactly as silly and self-serious as you'd expect. First obvious prediction: This movie and its sequels (of which, if the drawn-out movie versions of Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and Twilight are any indication, there will be at least three of) will make a horrifying amount of money. Second obvious prediction: There's no way that Universal Pictures isn't already planning a a line of tie-in merchandise.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Tin House Summer Readings

Posted by Alison Hallett on Thu, Jul 17, 2014 at 12:44 PM

If you haven't yet been out to one of the summer readings Tin House holds at Reed College every year, as part of their Summer Writer's Workshop, I really recommend it: It's hard to find a more pleasant place to see a reading than Reed College's outdoor amphitheatre—plus, the lineups they put together are always well-worth the $5 admission. (Presumably you read our great article previewing the readings, so you know all this.) There are three readings left:

Thursday, July 17th 2014
Reading and signing with Kelly Link, Mary Ruefle, Antonya Nelson

Friday, July 18th 2014
Reading and signing with Dana Spiotta, D.A. Powell, Nick Flynn

Saturday, July 19th 2014
Reading and signing with Wells Tower, Matthew Zapruder, Joy Williams

More details here!


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Press Club to Close July 20

Posted by Alison Hallett on Wed, Jul 16, 2014 at 9:01 AM

Clinton Street café/venue/crepe joint Press Club is closing next week, per an update on their Facebook page:

I am sorry to say that the finance director of the Press Club has decided to close the doors on July 20th. It is in the hopes of assessing the fiscal aspects of the business and restructure the organization to achieve a viable business model for the future. We have enjoyed hosting events and hope you enjoyed the space, atmosphere and services we have provided. Thank you again for all of the fun and music we've shared.

Kind of a bummer—I liked that spot. And they booked interesting stuff: In addition to regular music, the Press Club housed reading series Tell It Slant and the Mountain Writers Series, and the monthly comedy showcase Too Wet to Burn. Hopefully they all find nice new homes, but it's rough out there—Portland could use about about six more Press Club-esque spaces (midsized, serving booze and food, arts and performance friendly).

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Lena Dunham's Coming to Portland

Posted by Alison Hallett on Tue, Jul 15, 2014 at 10:44 AM


Don't pretend you don't like her. SHE'S GREAT.

Dunham is touring with her new essay collection Not That Kind of Girl, and she'll be at the Newmark in October in conversation with Carrie Brownstein. Unfortunately for everyone, tickets are $38 PLUS a whopping $10.50 in "service fees" (what the actual fuck?), thus pricing the target audience for this right out. Too bad. Enjoy all the girl talk, rich people!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Emily Kendal Frey and Patricia Lockwood at Powell's Tonight

Posted by Alison Hallett on Fri, Jul 11, 2014 at 11:44 AM

If you're a fan of contemporary poetry, you can't do better than tonight's reading: Emily Kendal Frey and Patricia Lockwood are at the downtown Powell's, reading from their new collections:

A FEW YEARS BACK, two debut poetry collections made Portland noteworthy to the minds of the nation's literati, though for different reasons. Portland poet Emily Kendal Frey's The Grief Performance won the Norma Farber First Book Award. Then, in 2012, Octopus Books released Balloon Pop Outlaw Black, the first book of poetry by Patricia Lockwood, who has since been named the "Poet Laureate of Twitter" by HTML Giant and become one of the most widely read poets of her generation.

Read our full article about Frey and Lockwood—and don't forget to check out our interview with Lockwood. The last time she was in town, the New York Times wrote about it!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

WHAT?!?! Now Wild Has a TRAILER?!?!

Posted by Erik Henriksen on Thu, Jul 10, 2014 at 11:59 AM

THE BATSHIT CRAZY PUBLICITY BLITZ FOR WILD CONTINUES! Just one goddamn day after the poster blew our eyes out of our goddamn skulls, here comes the trailer, featuring two mind-melting, fiercely introspective minutes of in-your-face inspiration!

My hyperbolic screechings aside, I really liked Cheryl Strayed's book—I'm just less than certain it'll work as a movie. At least if the trailer's any indication, director Jean-Marc Vallée—who really pushed the Oscar-baity elements of Dallas Buyers Club—seems to be pushing pretty hard again, which should be interesting, given that so many of the best parts of Strayed's books were the subtler moments. But who knows! It's just a trailer, and I'm even more obnoxiously nitpicky than usual when it comes to film adaptations of books I like. Super curious to see how people will react to this, though.

"I Guess This Is What We Call Poetry Now": The Patricia Lockwood Interview

Posted by Thomas Ross on Thu, Jul 10, 2014 at 9:59 AM

[In the books section this week, Thomas Ross wrote about new poetry collections from Emily Kendal Frey and Patricia Lockwood, who will be reading together at Powell's on Friday July 11. Frey is a Portland poet; Lockwood lives in Kansas, and is probably the most well-known young poet in the country right now, thanks in part to her poem "Rape Joke," which she published on the Awl last year. She's also ridiculous on Twitter—a recent, random selection:

Thomas interviewed Lockwood via email.—eds]

Mercury: Where are you right now? Physically, I mean. Or, like emotionally, I guess.

Lockwood: Emotionally I am sitting on the bed-desk in my living room, surrounded by stacks of books that I brought close to me out of necessity, hunched up like a great gold intellectualizing fetus. Something of the feeling of swimming surrounds me. I am wearing cutoffs because they allow my legs to think. Physically, I don't have much of a body yet— I've only had two cups of coffee.

It sometimes seems like a lot of authors love their first book tours, then grow jaded by all the travel and reading. Where do you fall on that spectrum right now? How do you keep making it fun?

I'm at the point now where I've been reading from the new book for a long time—I debuted one of the pieces in the book at my first reading in Portland two years ago! "The Father and Mother of American Tit-Pics." So my feeling now is that I want to be reading new stuff, because new stuff keeps you on your toes, you haven't sunk into regular rhythms with it yet, it's still capable of surprising you as you read. But that sense of restlessness is good, it's an impetus, it keeps you working when you might otherwise fall into a fallow period of Airplane Poetry Automaton. What I'm planning to read this time around is about an equal mix of pieces from the book and new work

In Portland, you'll be reading with one of our great local poets, Emily Kendal Frey. Does that make reading easier? What are some of the rewards of sharing the stage with local writers?

I love to read with other people. You know, before I had ever done any poetry readings, I just assumed that I would naturally take to them, because I did theatre for a long time and I like to perform. But what I missed was being able to bounce my performance off other people, to feed off other energy up there on the stage, to rest and rise, to become part of a body. With a poetry reading, you're just standing up there alone, listening to the sound of your own voice. It can feel propagandistic, like you're a small ineffectual Mussolini of literature standing up there in a weird uniform, shaking your medals at the crowd and shouting. So when other people are involved, I always like that better.

Have you spent enough time in Portland to have any favorite haunts?

No, I've only been there around 24 hours total! I never got to haunt anything at all, practically! I was there for the first time in the fall and it felt a bit as if I were pleasantly trapped under a large, mulching autumn leaf, very damp and wet with nature. I thought if I stayed there too long I might be composted back into the earth from whence I came. I went to exactly one coffeeshop and one pornographic comics store, and then of course to Powell's, and then I was happy.

Continue reading »


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Wild Has a Poster

Posted by Erik Henriksen on Wed, Jul 9, 2014 at 12:43 PM

It's not often I'll do a post just to be like, "Hey, look at this poster," but hey, look at this poster. Wild is huge in Portland—which follows, given that author Cheryl Strayed lives here and her Oprah-approved memoir about her time on the Pacific Crest Trail seems to have a permanent place on Powell's bestseller shelf. And now there's a poster for the movie, which is inexplicably produced by and stars Reese Witherspoon.


Last I heard, Wild—which was shot in Oregon—was set for a December release, but the poster says "fall," so maybe we'll get some of that sweet, grueling hiking action earlier than expected. As for how they've managed to turn Strayed's story into a movie, your guess is as good as mine. Don't get me wrong—Wild's story is great. It also seems so at home in book form that I can't imagine how it'll translate to film. If the poster's any indication, though, they've totally nailed all the parts where she walks.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Boy Who Lived Is Now 33 Years Old

Posted by Erik Henriksen on Tue, Jul 8, 2014 at 10:14 AM

I signed up for Pottermore a year or two ago, then promptly un-signed up for Pottermore, shortly after getting sorted, because... well, Pottermore just isn't that great, I don't think? I don't know—something about it just never quite clicked for me*. But nobody told me there'd be stories like this popping up on there: Between her current projects of (A) Robert Galbraith novels and (B) being the richest human being in the galaxy, J.K. Rowling's found the time to write a new Harry Potter short story—this one taking place long after the Battle of Hogwarts, when Harry is a 33-year-old Auror visiting the Quidditch World Cup Finals. Even better? The story takes the form of a Daily Prophet gossip column written by the magnificent Rita Skeeter.

About to turn 34, there are a couple of threads of silver in the famous Auror’s black hair, but he continues to wear the distinctive round glasses that some might say are better suited to a style-deficient twelve-year-old. The famous lightning scar has company: Potter is sporting a nasty cut over his right cheekbone. Requests for information as to its provenance merely produced the usual response from the Ministry of Magic: ‘We do not comment on the top secret work of the Auror department, as we have told you no less than 514 times, Ms. Skeeter.’ So what are they hiding? Is the Chosen One embroiled in fresh mysteries that will one day explode upon us all, plunging us into a new age of terror and mayhem? (Via.)

Read the whole thing here; it's great. If Rowling keeps doling out more stories like this, it'll almost be enough to take away the sting of Alfonso Cuarón deciding not to direct Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Almost.


Friday, June 20, 2014

This Week's Impressive Debut from a Portland Author: Polly Dugan's So Much a Part of You

Posted by Alison Hallett on Fri, Jun 20, 2014 at 11:29 AM

I wrote a bit of a love letter to Polly Dugan's new collection So Much a Part of You in the paper this week; it's a really good book, and it's always gratifying to discover talented new Portland writers. (Last week's was Smith Henderson, if you missed it.)

Dugan's ship didn't come in overnight; as she told Steve Almond in a recent Rumpus interview, she started writing in earnest in 2006, after a long post-college hiatus from writing, and she attended the Tin House writers workshop four years in a row, before signing a two book deal with Little, Brown in 2013.

In my review, I wrote:

So Much a Part of You marries the scope of a novel with the graceful economy of a good short story. The linked stories in the collection are individually modest, almost unobtrusive. Set against one another, though, they reveal surprising connections—reflecting perspective and insight back onto themselves.

And so on.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Cory Doctorow's Coming to Washington County Libraries

Posted by Alison Hallett on Wed, Jun 18, 2014 at 12:31 PM

Earlier this month, Cory Doctorow's book Little Brother was pulled from a school-wide summer reading program at Booker T Washington High in Pensacola, Florida—for "questioning authority" and "lauding 'hacker culture,'" according to Doctorow. In response, the novelist and Boing Boing editor arranged for 200 copies of the book to be sent to students.

That sort of story is like catnip to librarians and booksellers, so I have to imagine Washington County librarians are pretty excited right now: Next month, Doctorow is headlining Washington County's Adult Summer Reading program ("recommended for adults and teens"). He'll be discussing technology and politics at three area libraries:

• Beaverton City Library, July 8th at 7:00 pm
• Tigard Public Library, July 9th at 7:00 pm
• Hillsboro Public Library, July 10th at 7:00 pm

Sounds like a trip to the suburbs is in order! I don't think I've ever been to the Hillsboro library, but both the Beaverton and the new (to me) Tigard libraries are terrific. Go Beaverton if you're hungry for Korean food, Tigard if you feel like doing some thrifting.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Local Zinester Explains How to Have Those Tough Conversations (With Your Cat)

Posted by Alison Hallett on Thu, Jun 12, 2014 at 1:29 PM


Tonight at LitHop PDX, Zach Auburn will debut his new zine "How to Talk to Your Cat About Evolution." It's the followup to "How to Talk to Your Cat About Gun Safety" read more about that one here.

I just thought you should know.

Zach'll have copies of the zine at his reading at Ampersand Books at 7 pm. (I'm sure you'll be able to pick up copies at Floating World soon, if you can't make it tonight.) For more on LitHop, which takes over NE Alberta tonight, check out my picks.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Plan Your LitHop: A Quick Guide to Portland's Literary Pub Crawl

Posted by Alison Hallett on Wed, Jun 11, 2014 at 5:19 PM


LitHop PDX is Portland's own literary pub crawl, putting a local spin on the national LitCrawl model. The series debuted at last year's Wordstock; it was a "qualified success," I wrote at the time, featuring tons of great performers and a few logistical issues that came with trying to cram readings into places readings don't usually go.

This time around, LitHop has moved to to a new quadrant: The entirely free event runs from 7-10 pm tomorrow (Thurs June 12) on NE Alberta, with an afterparty at Radio Room. The night promises 54 authors at six locations, each location curated by a different literary organization or publisher. (There are even a couple of all-ages venues; hooray for that.)

I've picked out two or three readers at each location to spotlight here, but there are tons of worthy people who aren't on this list. For a complete lineup of participating authors, check out the website. Or just get drunk and wander the streets; I think that might be the idea.

Alice Blue
Branch Whiskey & Bella Faccia Back Patio (2934 NE Alberta)
The Seattle-based small press brings down a crop of out-of-towners. I'm not familiar with most of them, but I'll warrant they're all worth your time, because... Seattle's literary scene is better than ours, guys. We've got 'em beat on comedy and comic books, but for bookstores, readings, and highly engaged audiences? They win.

8 pm: Tara Atkinson is co-founder of Seattle's terrific sounding APRIL (Authors, Publishers and Readers of Independent Literature) lit festival—in our sister paper The Stranger, Paul Constant makes a strong argument for hitting I-5 next time the fest rolls around.

8:30 pm: Stacey Levine won the 2009 Stranger Genius Award for literature; once again we turn to Paul Constant, who observed that her sentences "sound like something new, the alien cadences of someone who doesn't accept the received wisdom of how language is supposed to sound."

9:30 pm: Zhang Er is a poet and a professor at the Evergreen State College (where my geoducks at).

Eraserhead Press
Bunk Bar & Via Chicago's back patio, 2017 NE Alberta (all ages)
Eraserhead Press specializes in "bizarro fiction"; this stage is where they put all the weirdos.

7 pm: Mykle Hansen is celebrating the release of his new book I, Slutbot, a pulpy novel about a robotic porn star presiding over the ruins of Las Vegas; it's narrated by her loyal typewriter.

8 pm: Cameron Pierce is the editor of Lazy Fascist Press, an imprint of Eraserhead; he once took up residence in Voodoo Doughnut to write the book Die You Doughnut Bastards.

9:30 pm: Jeff Burk's book Shatnerquake was described by Erik Henriksen in these very pages as "surreal and weird and funny, and it's also super violent, in the same food-coloring-plus-corn-syrup-equals-fake-blood sort of way as Evil Dead 2 or Bad Taste."

Hawthorne Books
Cruzroom, 2338 NE Alberta (outside patio)
Hawthorne Books is a top-notch literary publisher; it's really no shock that they've put together an enticingly flashy lineup that even includes one of my personal literary heroes.

7 pm: Tom Spanbauer, aforementioned hero, presumably reading from his latest novel I Loved You More.

8:15 pm: Monica Drake's last novel, The Stud Book, didn't get the attention it deserved—or at least, not enough of my friends have read it. Why not? It's such a good Portland novel.

9 pm: Jay Ponteri recently picked up an Oregon Book Award for Wedlocked, his memoir about being infatuated with a woman who wasn't his wife.

Independent Publishing Resource Center
Ampersand Gallery & Fine Books, 2916 NE Alberta (all ages)
First off, I love that the IPRC's booked in an all-ages venue. Second, this lineup is absolutely aces.

7 pm: Zach Auburn was outed on LitHop's Facebook page as the pseudonymous author of the absolutely excellent self-published memoir Love Is Not Constantly Wondering if You're Making the Biggest Mistake of Your Life, so I guess it's okay for me to repeat that info here. Team Mercury are big, big fans of Zach's work.

8 pm: Justin Hocking is the director of the IPRC; we were really proud to run an excerpt from his memoir The Great Floodgates of the Wonderworld earlier this year.

8:30 pm: Michael Heald is the publisher of Perfect Day Publishing and a terrific writer in his own right; he's also very good at reading out loud.

9:30 pm: Emily Kendal Frey is one of Portland's most popular poets; a friend of mine spotted her at brunch the other day and got really excited but didn't say hello, which I believe is the urban dictionary definition of "Portland Famous."

Unchaste Readers
The Knock Back Bar, 2315 NE Alberta
Unchaste Readers is a local series dedicated to showcasing women writers. All broads on this bill, including a couple out-of-towners.

8 pm: Cari Luna's excellent first novel The Revolution of Every Day was released by Tin House lat year; we reviewed it here.

9:15 pm: Johanna Stein is an LA-based writer who wrote this funny and quite disgusting New York Times essay about trying to get her daughter to stop screaming on an airplane.

9:30 pm: New York-based Paula Bomer is the author of the well-received story collection Inside Madeleine and the novel Nine Months; a recent profile in Adult described her writing as "dark and sometimes gruesome in its description of the exhausting task of being alive."

Publication Studio
Anna Bannana's, 2403 NE Alberta (all ages)
I'm mostly unfamiliar with the writers in Publication Studio's lineup, which is actually pretty great: If an even t like this doesn't expose you to new writers, it's doing something wrong.

7 pm: Michael Harper edits the poetry journal Lexicon Polaroid, which we covered here. Readers include

8:15 pm: Rob Schlegel is an award-winning poet who's been published in fancy places like Boston Review, The Iowa Review, andNew American Writing.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Powell's Tonight: Memoir vs. Memoir

Posted by Alison Hallett on Mon, Jun 9, 2014 at 10:14 AM

Over at the main Powell's location, it's Molly Wizenberg of the popular blog Orangette, one of those pretty yet down-to-earth lifestyle blogs full of accessible recipes, pictures of cute children, and introspective, relatable anecdotes. She's just like you, but better! And she's signing copies of her new memoir Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage, about opening a pizza joint in Ballard that's by all accounts very good. She's also at Jim Dixon's Real Good Food olive oil emporium this afternoon from 3-4 pm. Powell's City of Books, 7:30 pm

And then at the Hawthorne store, Nathan Deuel discusses his memoir Friday Was the Bomb, which describes the five years he spent living in the Middle East and raising a daughter with his wife, NPR foreign correspondent Kelly McEvers. I caught part of an interview with Deuel on NPR the other day; he talked about how parenting norms are so different in parts of the Middle East that when people saw him running errands with his baby daughter, they assumed his wife must be dead. Deuel's in conversation tonight with the IPRC's Justin Hocking; I think it'll be a good one. Powell's on Hawthorne, 7 pm

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Sherman Alexie and Colbert on Amazon vs. Hachette: "You Root for the Authors."

Posted by Erik Henriksen on Thu, Jun 5, 2014 at 12:14 PM

The battle between Amazon and Hachette heated up even more yesterday, when two great things happened: Paul Constant published a strong piece in our sister paper The Stranger, "It's Time to Turn Your Back on Amazon," that not only summed up the Amazon/Hachette fight but laid out, in pretty fucking stark terms, "why the online giant's fight with a publisher signals the end of guilt-free Amazon purchases." Read the whole thing, but the short version: Anyone paying even the slightest bit of attention over the past few weeks now finds it all but impossible to overlook how sketchy Amazon is.

Then, last night on The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert (who's published by Hachette, natch) switched gears, going from making promotional videos for Amazon to declaring himself "not just mad at Amazon" but "mad prime." Then he brought out Sherman Alexie, and the two of them encouraged Colbert viewers to buy Edan Lepucki's new (Hachette) novel California—not from Amazon, but from Powell's. And to let everybody know about it. Then this happened.

I'll be the first to admit that—like most people I know—I'm in pretty deep with Amazon by now, as far as media consumption goes: When I read ebooks, I read them on a Kindle; when I read digital comics, it's via the Amazon-owned Comixology; I keep track of what I'm reading and have read via the Amazon-owned Goodreads; I've been watching Louie and Cosmos on Amazon Instant Video; when I buy Blu-rays, I do so through Amazon. For me at least, one of the things that's made it hard to break away from Amazon is the seamlessness of its various delivery systems—and the fact that the alternatives to Amazon (Apple for video, Kobo or Apple for ebooks) aren't exactly the kind of upstanding companies I want to throw my money at, either. (Read Alison's post about Powell's relationship with Kobo here.)

Thanks to Amazon's dominance, there aren't a lot of comparable, easy, and feel-good alternatives out there for many of the digital services a lot of us have become accustomed to*. But if the past few days have shown anything, it's that we need to start finding some.

*They're called "bookstores," Erik. —Eds
That's why I said "digital," Alison. —Eds.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Portland Sci-Fi Author Jay Lake Dead at 49

Posted by Alison Hallett on Mon, Jun 2, 2014 at 10:44 AM

Portlander Jay Lake was a prolific, Campbell Award-winning science fiction writer and editor, the author of ten novels and more than 300 short stories. When diagnosed with colon cancer in 2008, he made his struggle with the illness public, detailing the effects of treatment on his blog; in his final days, the blog was maintained by his partner, Lisa, who reported his passing on Sunday morning. He was 49.

If you'd like to learn more about Lake's life and work, here are two great places to start:

In 2012, the Oregonian ran a terrific profile of Lake, which focuses largely on his cancer diagnosis and treatment. (One highlight: After a round of chemo caused him to lose his hair, he tattooed his scalp with the words "If you can read this, I have cancer again.")

And yesterday, io9's Charlie Jane Anders wrote a moving and thorough appreciation of Lake's writing career:

Through his writing, Lake leaves an enduring legacy, and his impact on science fiction and fantasy will be felt forever. His work as an editor, helping to publish new voices in the field, cannot be underestimated. His wealth of short fiction, and the novels he managed to complete, will be around forever — and a final short fiction collection, The Last Plane To Heaven, comes out this September. He'll be missed, but he'll also be read.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


Posted by Erik Henriksen on Wed, May 28, 2014 at 2:14 PM

Look, a TV production crew! Neat! Wow, this is a terrible picture
  • Look, a TV production crew! Neat! Wow, this is a terrible picture

Portland has a long and proud history of mediocre-but-successful TV shows filming here, which certainly bodes well (sort of!) for the new TNT series The Librarians—which, RIGHT THIS MINUTE, is filming at the library in Old Town, specifically on the corner of NW Couch and First, under the august direction of Jonathan Frakes!

The Librarians, which is based on a series of TV movies I've never seen but certainly do like the titles of*, sees everyone's favorite librarian, Noah Wyle, "passing the torch" to Rebecca Romijn, John Larroquette, and... somehow Bob Newhart is involved? BOOM! RATINGS BONANZA! I think we can all agree that when it starts airing later this year, The Librarians is sure to replace Mad Men as the show that everyone on my Twitter feed refuses to shut the fuck up about.

Wait. What is The Librarians even about? I assume not actual librarians, who are the best people in the world, but whose jobs probably don't make for thrilling TV series.

Titled The Librarians, the 10-episode project centers on four ordinary people with extraordinary talents who discover that they have been selected by Noah Wyle’s Flynn to work for The Library, an ancient fellowship of knowledge and heroism. The quartet travels the world investigating strange occurrences, battling ancient conspiracies and protecting the innocent from the dangerous, secret world of magic. (Via.)

Oh. So these "librarians" aren't anything like actual librarians, then. Cool! ANYWAY, if you see Rebecca Romijn around, ALERT THE MERCURY IMMEDIATELY. Same with John Larroquette! No need to tell us if you see Noah Wyle. That's just a precious thing you can cherish for yourself.

*The Librarian: Quest for the Spear (2004), The Librarian: Return to King Solomon's Mines (2006), The Librarian: Curse of the Judas Chalice (2008), The Librarian: Overdue Vengeance (currently being written, by me)


National Review "Eulogizes" Maya Angelou with Snark and Pro-Gun Blather

Posted by Paul Constant on Wed, May 28, 2014 at 1:29 PM

The headline alone shows a shocking lack of respect...

...but you should absolutely not click through unless you want to see a bunch of conservative assholes malign Angelou's memory in particular, and poetry in general. This is the kind of garbage that turns people off from Republican culture.

Instead of clicking through to that article, you should watch this video of Angelou's Sesame Street appearance:

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

This Is How You Write a Book Review

Posted by Alison Hallett on Tue, May 20, 2014 at 1:14 PM

I'll read anything under New York Magazine book critic Kathryn Schulz's byline—up to and including an essay about her relationship with Twitter, something I would categorically ignore from just about any other writer.

Her review of Geoff Dyer's new book Another Great Day at Sea, about Dyer's residency aboard the USS George HW Bush, is just about a perfect example of the form: Thoughtful, playful, deeply engaged with Dyer's book on a sentence-by-sentence level while never losing sight of the larger context of his work.

However you might imagine a fighter pilot would sound on the page—headlong like Kerouac, maybe, or terse like Hemingway, or controlled like Graham Greene—Dyer definitely does not sound that way. He sounds lazy, distractible, neurotic, indecisive—basically like everything you do not want near the cockpit of a plane.

Probably you do not even want Dyer near your military. There is no chance in hell he would pass a drug test. There is no chance in hell he would not, as they say, fraternize. There is every chance he would go awol, since he’s always leaving somewhere to amble (though more anxiously than that sounds) someplace else: France, Italy, Indonesia, Cambodia, Algeria, America. In short, if you have never read Dyer, you should not be imagining an unusually erudite young Tom Cruise. You should be imagining W. G. Sebald in Monty Python, or Montaigne on cocaine.

"Montaigne on cocaine"! Read the whole review, please, and then mark your calendar: Geoff Dyer will be at Powell's on Tuesday, June 3.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

George Saunders on Think Out Loud

Posted by Alison Hallett on Tue, May 13, 2014 at 11:59 AM

I have not had time to listen to this yet, but writer George Saunders was on Think Out Loud yesterday, for the whole hour! He was in town last night to give a speech at PSU, which I didn't know was even happening until yesterday and I'm really, really sorry I didn't tell you guys about it, because not only is George Saunders one of the best writers in America, but he just sort of emanates kindness and wisdom while at the same time being very dark and wry and appealing. I couldn't go myself because I was at a mall in the suburbs for a press screening of a Disney movie about baseball.

Here's the link.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Apparently Mother Foucault's Is Expanding!

Posted by Alison Hallett on Wed, May 7, 2014 at 10:59 AM


If you haven't been to this great little bookstore on Southeast Morrison, you really should check it out especially if you enjoy having your intellectual pretensions pandered to. (I do!)

When Erik and I did our epic Visiting All the Portland Bookstores that Aren't Powell's feature a few years ago, we wrote the following blurb about it, in which we managed to use "pretentious" three times in like 100 words (we is write good):

Mother Foucault's is a pretentious bookstore in the fine tradition of pretentious bookstores—one of the used books we pulled off the shelf bore a Shakespeare and Company stamp. The shop is tiny and relatively new, but somehow seems ancient, like a toddler wearing glasses. The shelves go so high there's an actual slidey ladder, just like in Beauty and the Beast, and they're well stocked in Important Books, with an emphasis on fiction and criticism. It is, in short, the kind of bookstore every undergrad intellectual dreams of owning. Pretentious? Sure, but also great. Plus, bonus points for any bookstore this classy that has a name that sounds suspiciously like "Motherfucker's."

Friday, May 2, 2014

This Weekend at Powell's: Wave Books

Posted by Thomas Ross on Fri, May 2, 2014 at 12:59 PM


Recently, Seattle’s Wave Books has released some killer collections by Northwest poets. Three of those poets—John Beer, Rodney Koeneke, and Cedar Sigo—will read this Sunday at Powell’s Books on Hawthorne (3723 SE Hawthorne). Koeneke and Beer are Portland poets (though Beer will likely read from the collection of Robert Lax poems he compiled for Wave) and Sigo was raised on the Suquamish Reservation in Washington.

In stark editions with black type on rough, flecked, unbleached paper covers, Wave’s recent books are distinctive. There’s a kind of attitude on display there, a small press saying: Fuck colors, fuck pictures, fuck heavy design elements... This is poetry.

Koeneke’s book, Etruria, features its title in towering letters on the cover. The collection is deeply historical, tracing ideas through references from the ancient Etruscans to mid-century American poets like Frank O’Hara (Koeneke’s “Poem” is an incredible riff on O’Hara’s poem of the same name; another in Etruria is called “Jack Spicer”) to the modern internet (“don’t tell me . . . how frequently in love I resemble/a lapsed blog or a model train enthusiast”).

The historical takes a back seat to the personal in Sigo’s Language Arts. More likely to spend a few lines cursing at some element of his life than examine O’Hara or Spicer, Sigo does spend a good amount of time writing about other poets. He just tends to write about them as people—as his friends and mentors and lovers. Sigo’s poetry is personal without being confessional, and his sense of humor and impulsive playfulness is clear on the page.

The star of this reading, though, should be a dead poet, Robert Lax. John Beer spent a few years as Lax’s assistant on the island of Patmos, and he’s put his unfettered access to Lax’s poetry to good use in Wave’s enormous collection, poems 1962—1997.

Continue reading »

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Alicia Silverstone Has Opinions About Baby Poop.

Posted by Alison Hallett on Wed, Apr 23, 2014 at 12:29 PM

I know several people who went vegan after reading Alicia Silverstone's cheerful vegan treatise/cookbook The Kind Diet, including the Merc's own Marjorie Skinner, albeit temporarily.

I suspect (hope?) her new parenting book will be a tougher sell. Silverstone is at the Cedar Hills Powell's tonight, reading from (deep breath) The Kind Mama: A Simple Guide to Supercharged Fertility, a Radiant Pregnancy, a Sweeter Birth, and a Healthier, More Beautiful Beginning.

Obligatory feeding-baby-like-a-bird video.

The Daily Beast breaks down some of the advice in Silverstone's new book: Let your kid poop in the grass! Stop using tampons! Go vegan! I wish celebrities would stop extrapolating universal truths from their own totally bizarre and highly privileged experiences. It would be funny if people didn't actually pay attention—this parenting book sounds like well-meaning, antivax-tinged nonsense, so the Portland reading will be pretty packed, I guess.

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