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B o o k R e v ie w s Reading Seattle: The City in Prose. Edited by Peter Donahue and John Trombold. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2004. 320 pages, $22.50. Reviewed by O. Alan Weltzien University of Montana-Western, Dillon Reading Seattle represents a solid and timely anthology. In his introduction, coeditor Peter Donahue argues that Seattle’s emergence a generation ago into national consciousness parallels an emergent literary self-consciousness. He and coeditor John Trombold intend their “collection of the best prose writ­ ing set in Seattle and about Seattle from the past fifty-plus years” to confirm Seattle “as one of the nation’s great literary cities” (17). Seattle’s literary repu­ tation, Donahue argues, has more recently distinguished itself from the Pacific Northwest in general as a distinct literary region, one chronicled in Nicholas O’Connell’s On Sacred Ground (2003). Even an initial perusal of the anthol­ ogy’s table of contents demonstrates, as Donahue claims, “that there is a bona fide Seattle literature” (6). A generation ago, people started moving to Seattle from all over, and the metro area turned into a happening place. When I visit my native city, which I do frequently, I struggle—as both insider and outsider—to locate the familiar inside the increasingly unfamiliar. I have the same experience with Reading Seattle, a generous mix of local and regional writers with others commanding national reputations (e.g., Betty MacDonald, Richard Hugo, Tom Robbins, David Guterson, Sherman Alexie). Donahue’s introduction provides a histori­ cal literary survey of Seattle as well as the rationale for the anthology’s threepart , chronological structure. Part 1 “Coming into Focus (1930s— 1980s),” includes thirteen writers; part 2, “Many Voices (1980s— 1990s),” includes eighteen; and part 3, “Unto Itself (1990s-Early 2000s),” adds an additional ten. Obviously, parts 2 and 3 overlap and, of the forty-one writers, twenty-nine published since 1985 and sixteen within the past decade. Literary Seattle is quite fresh and young, though Donahue traces its lineage back eighty years or more through a scattering of isolated voices. While the anthology represents a wide variety of writers, I often felt frustrated by the use of abridgments rather than whole texts—the usual fate of anthologies. In the epilogue, Trombold recognizes this lack and apologizes for the num­ ber of omissions: no Raymond Carver or Tess Gallagher, for example, because they’ve not explicitly written Seattle within their stories. I find the omission of Ivan Doig, a north Seattle figure for over three decades, mystifying. Charles Johnson, one of the best-known writers at the University of Washington, is only mentioned in the foreword. Trombold points readers to the book’s bibli­ ography, which lists the anthology’s writers and recommends many more. The editors provide brief biographical and critical introductions for each selection, helping readers to contextualize the work. Whether native or not, the reader 8 6 W e s t e r n A m e r ic a n L it e r a t u r e S p r in g 2 0 0 6 emerges sated from this fare, eager to read more of the writers less known out­ side the city or region. Reading Seattle includes historians, journalists, personal essayists, novelists, and short story writers, representing diverse backgrounds. They write about street comers, buildings, neighborhoods, and climates intimately familiar to me. Unsurprisingly, it is particularly rich in city portraits: writers like Roger Sale, Jonathan Raban, Thom Jones, Natalia Rachel Singer, Peter Bacho, Emily Baillargeon Russin, Paisley Rekdal, Neil Henry, and Lydia Minatoya render the area’s mystique clearly and forcefully. Seattle has come a long way from pioneer outpost. The Qreat Divide: The Rocky Mountains in the American Mind. By Gary Ferguson. New York: W. W. Norton, 2004. 288 pages, $24.95. Reviewed by Ben Quick Utah State University, Logan In The Great Divide: The Rocky Mountains in the American Mind, Gary Ferguson serves up an insightful history of the rift in the collective American psyche over our relationship to the land on which we live. Using the Rocky Mountains as a backdrop, Ferguson portrays, with smooth and provocative clarity, chronologi­ cal highlights...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 85-86
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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