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 specialities 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 woolly 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, Amazon.com