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Northwest Passages: Jon Raymond

Emilly Chenoweth

The Pacific Northwest is often praised for its “livability.”  This week writer Jon Raymond won the Oregon Book Award for fiction for his stories collected under that title. But his tales set the accolade on edge.

In “Train Choir,” Verna left the Midwest close to broke with the hope of getting rich canning fish in Alaska. In a few grim days in Eastern Oregon she lost her car, dog, and her sense of purpose.

“The Suckling Pig” is the centerpiece dish at a dinner party where the wealthy host insists two day laborers stay. “Young Bodies,” one of Raymond’s favorites, explores what happens when two teenagers get locked in a mall (Portland’s Lloyd Center) overnight.

These aren’t the stories the concept of “livability” might bring to mind. No young hip creatives biking in organic raingear; no successful city planner families taking light rail to a festival in a park. One reviewer wrote these stories:

rival my own memories of inertia, isolation, and wild invention in the Pacific Northwest.

Raymond’s work has been made into movies as well, in a process he finds “strangely natural.” Old Joy was his first story to be filmed, changing the plot in ways he thought improved it.  Wendy and Lucy was written as a short story, but intended as a film at the same time.

We’ll talk books, movies, inertia, livability and more with Jon Raymond as part of our Northwest Passages series. Post your thoughts and questions to help shape the conversation here.

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