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
) 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.
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