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Fugitives and Refugees: A Walk in Portland, Oregon (Crown Journeys) Hardcover – July 8, 2003

4.2 out of 5 stars 61 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

It's rare to find a travel guide and a memoir joined neatly together in a single, highly readable 176-page volume. But Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club, Choke, Lullaby) is a writer of rare talent and his home of Portland, Oregon, is a city of rare wonders. In Strangers and Refugees: A Walk in Portland, Oregon, Palahniuk goes beyond the AAA handbooks to reveal the places, people, and legends of Portland that have long been known only to locals. The reader learns the location of the legendary Self Cleaning House, where to find the restless ghost of the founder of Powell's Books, and why feral cats are such an important part of Portland baseball. Portland, it seems, is also a highly sexual city and Palahniuk dutifully dissects the specialties of each strip joint as well as discussing Mochika, a zoo penguin with a real fetish for black boots. Along the way, he includes "postcards" from his life in the Rose City dating back to 1981 when, as a 19-year-old, he dropped acid and accidentally ate part of a woman's fur coat during a laser show of Pink Floyd's The Wall. As Palahniuk matures, the postcards reveal the author becoming increasingly a part of the city's scene, culminating with a wild and wooly Millennium Eve celebration at the Bagdad Theater that featured a screening of the film version of Fight Club. Fugitives and Refugees is a must for anyone who may, in their lives, go to Portland. But its appeal should reach beyond Oregonians. Palahniuk's love of the city is so great, and his stories so weirdly wonderful, it makes one want to get out of the house, get in the car, and drive to Portland right away. Just remember to pack the book. --John Moe

From Publishers Weekly

Beginning with the premise that "everyone looking to make a new life migrates west," Palahniuk (Fight Club; Lullaby) portrays Portland as a city that attracts a sort of modern-day pioneering-or at least innovative-spirit. And because it's the cheapest West Coast city in which to live, Portland also draws its share of down-and-outs, making it a bit rough around the edges. Written as much for first-time visitors as for those who already share Palahniuk's passion for the city, this book is a mixture of practical travel guide and personal vignettes featuring quirky acquaintances and moments of happenstance. In keeping with the Crown Journeys series' tone, this is at once a reflection of the writer and of a particular community. Would every other novelist have devoted one of the longer chapters to the city's thriving sex industry and the many places visitors can partake? Palahniuk's fondness for his not-so-sleepy hamlet comes through in each gritty detail (for example, the recommended shopping excursions list includes the best thrift stores, and suggestions for accommodations emphasize haunted hotels). Certain details will tempt as many readers as they'll deter: the semiannual Apocalypse Caf‚, where guests pretend to celebrate "the first potluck after a nuclear holocaust"; the world's largest hairball, on display at Mount Angel Abbey and Seminary; the 1940s self-cleaning house; and historic underground tunnel tours. Among the filth and grime, abundant gardens grow, and Palahniuk hypes them all-from the country's largest forested municipal park to Mill End Park, "the size of a big dinner plate... surrounded by six lanes of heavy traffic." Map.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Series: Crown Journeys
  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; 1 edition (July 8, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400047838
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400047833
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #159,264 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Chuck Palahniuk's novels are the bestselling Fight Club, which was made into a film by director David Fincher, Diary, Lullaby, Survivor, Haunted, and Invisible Monsters. Portions of Choke have appeared in Playboy, and Palahniuk's nonfiction work has been published by Gear, Black Book, The Stranger, and the Los Angeles Times. He lives in the Pacific Northwest.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Let me start by saying that I didn't pick this book up 'cause I'm a huge Chuck P fan. I liked the film of his book Fight Club, but the only novel of his I've read is Choke, and I found it to be muddled and rather weak. However, I did live in Portland for four years in the early '90s, when I was going to college there, so this seemed like a cool book to check out. Palahniuk's vibe is clearly aimed at the 15-50 quirkster/hipster demographic, and he hits on all cylinders with his portrait of the city nicknamed "Little Beirut" by Ronald Reagan and George Bush the Elder.
The book is broken up into twelve chapters. "Talk the Talk" presents the key bits of PDX slang you'll need to sound like a local (most of which were unknown to me). "Quests" lists fourteen different "adventures" or things to do in and around the city. Samples include visiting the famous self-cleaning house, or spending an afternoon in eviction court. "Chow" is on food, of course, and is probably the most disappointing chapter. "Haunts" lists sixteen places to commune with ghosts and spirits in places like haunted hotels and bathrooms. "Souvenirs" is a throwaway two-page chapter listing five offbeat places to buy stuff. "Unholy Relics" is a list of nine offbeat museums, like the Vacuum Cleaner Museum.
"Getting Off" is the longest chapter, and as one might guess, it's all about the city's sex scene, from strip bars to swinger clubs. Notable is the annual "I-Tit-A-Rod" race, in which the goal is to visit as many strip clubs in twelve hours as possible (no one has come close to making all fifty). A more genteel chapter follows this, highlighting the city's more interesting gardens and parks.
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Format: Hardcover
Being a long-time resident of Portland, Oregon, I know that there are plenty of quirky locations in the city. Fugitives And Refugees by Chuck Palahniuk reminded me of that...

This is one of those strange little books that will probably only appeal to those who live (or have lived) in the city. It's sort of a travel guide, personal diary, and social commentary of Palahnuik wrapped into a single small volume. Each chapter that deals with locations or places to see is followed by a "postcard" from the past that relates a personal experience. These are really bizarre stories, and you'll either really like them or wonder why they are even in the book. The chapters on locations list such things as restaurants to see, the most haunted locations in Portland, and museums that are worth visiting. Many of these sites are *not* five star locations you'll see in any other travel guide, like Wacky Willy's Surplus. But it will send you down the path to the off-beat side of Portland.

The part I found most interesting is the chapter on the Shanghai Tunnels. Portland was a notorious port in earlier days, and most of the bars and hotels at that time were connected to an underground tunnel system. These tunnels were used to "shanghai", or abduct, people and smuggle them onto ships for forced labor. There were also opium dens and other uses for these underground passages. Over time they deteriorated, but there are now guided tours and efforts to restore them as part of Portland's past.

Is the book good? It's got moments... For me, it was more hit and miss, however...
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Format: Hardcover
Rare for American cities, Portland, Oregon is widely loved by its inhabitants despite the fact that the city has so few of the typical tourist attractions other American cities can claim. One of Portland's finest novelists, Chuck Pahlaniuk, had the great idea of celebrating the weirdness of the city in a guide book that emphasizes what makes Portland so singular a city: its odd urban legends, its ghosts, its ever-increasing and especially its ever-present opportunities for seaminess and sex. What you get in the end is a very funny look at a very funky city, enlivened by Palahniuk's sober wittiness. The book does seem a bit of a rush-job in that it doesn't sustain a narrative as much as it could have: many of the ideas seem tossed together, and the work could have benefitted from more historical material (Portland's history is every bit as weird as its present). But nonetheless this is an inexpensive delight.
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Format: Hardcover
While certainly not for everyone, this little book belongs on many a shelf as well as in many a backpack - here's why (or why not, as the case may be):
* A fan of Mr. Palahniuk's work? A Must Have. Biographical sketches, funny and sad, poignant and pathetic, give flashbulb glimpses of the man and insight into his writing. As pure entertainment, 4.5 out of 5 stars.
* Looking to do something different in Portland, OR? Assuming all of the attractions noted haven't been overrun and wiped-out by rabid Fight Club wannabes, Fugitives and Refugees will lead you to some seriously off-the-map attractions. 5 of 5 stars but, like any travel guide, F & R will become less and less useful over time until it becomes a snapshot of a historical moment, "Chuck's Portland As It Was".
* Travel guide fan? Armchair explorer? Love reading about all those places you just know you'll never actually take the time to visit? This is among the oddest guides you'll find. 4 of 5 stars. Point off for its brevity.
* Jaded Portland Local? Too hip for your asymmetrical haircut? Got a "been-there-done-it-all-bought-the-ironic-tee-shirt" attitude? Do you now dislike Mr. Palahniuk and his books because of his popularity? 5 of 5 stars for you since this little book will give you more self-righteous "I Told You He Sold Out" proof to drop on your friends over six dollar lattes or twenty-five cent beers than any of his upcoming books and film releases ever possibly will.
Over-all grade: 4.625 out of 5 stars (rounded up for Amazon's whole-number system.)
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