Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Read your heart out

To fete Oregon’s sesquicentennial in fine style, the Oregon State Library has compiled a list of 150 books with something important to say about our young region. The list includes books for young readers as well as "older."

A delllllllllllicate undertaking, in a state as literary as ours. Once you’ve counted the dead writers and must needs pass into the land of the quick, you’re likely to incite squabbles. But our fearless librarians have forged on undaunted.

Along with the books you’d expect – Ramona the Pest (which is set on Klickitat Street, one block away from where I’m scribbling right now) and The Shy Stegosaurus of Cricket Creek for the kids, and Sometimes a Great Notion and Honey in the Horn for the grown-ups – there are some pleasant surprises.

Molly Gloss gets two nods, for The Hearts of Horses and The Jump-off Creek, as does Ursula LeGuin, for The Lathe of Heaven and also for Searoad. There’s a collection of Floyd Skloot’s poems as well as Kim Stafford’s A Thousand Friends of Rain. Most gratifying is to see Chuck Palahniuk represented, even if Fugitives and Refugees: A Walk in Portland, Oregon is surely his least scabrous writing.

No one’s going to be totally happy with such a list, of course. I’m a tad gruntled to see no mention of any graphic novel, a form in which Portland is abundant. And the omission of Tom Spanbauer is perplexing – or not, depending on just how faint of heart you assume a State library organization is likely to be.

Still, it’s a worthy list – one I’ll refer to as I start to work my way through it. After all, to paraphrase James Joyce, it took these authors a hundred years to write all these books, the least I can do is take a hundred to read them.


k. crow said...

Mr.Mead, this sounds like a great excuse for a book group. It might motivate you to get through the entire list.

MightyToyCannon said...

In addition to overlooking Spanbauer, the list skipped past a few of my favorites:

We Came for the Beaver (Winston Q. Farnbeck). A true story of pioneering spirit and the search for pelts in the Oregon Territory.

Ice Ice Baby (as told to Viola von Splart). The Tonya Harding story re-imagined in a way that makes her seem heroic.

Penelope Poot: A Girl and her Fungi (Autobiography). The heartwarming memoir of a lonely pioneer girl growing up in the timberlands of the Pacific Northwest.

Smells Like Fish Spirits (author and title). An elegy to Celilo Falls written in Upper Chinookan.