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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Sunday, June 13, 2004

The Clear Cut Future. Astoria, Oregon: Clear Cut Press, 2003. ISBN: 0972323414

This is a most peculiar book, to misquote pop singer, Paul Simon. First off, there's its unusual size: 5 ¾ inches by 4 inches, and about an inch thick. Second, the contents. The book is a wild mélange of essays, criticism, short stories, excerpts from novels, poetry, photo essays and the like by a variety of authors, none of whom you've likely ever heard of. Their only commonality appears to be that they are mostly if not entirely from the Pacific Northwest, although that is never stated, and may not even be true. But many of the individual items contained in the book have NW settings, themes, or connections.

You may even have difficulty finding this book. Amazon doesn't have it, although Powell's does. The Washington State Library, which specializes in "Northwestiana," has a copy (which is the one I read, naturally), but my large local public library system does not. You can subscribe to a series of these "well-published, original softbound books" as the publisher describes them directly from the publisher. They come 8 to a series. One interesting tidbit: although Clear Cut Press lists an address in Astoria, and the book oozes NW political correctness, the book is actually printed offshore, in Japan.

The quality or readability of the various components arbitrarily concatenated here also varies wildly. The most entertaining and thought provoking, IMHO, include Robert Adams' titleized photo essay "Clear Cuts," Corrina Wycoff's short story "The Adjunct" and Pravin J. Jain's essay "Capitalism Inside an Organization." The latter provides an insightful peek inside the workings of the Enron Corporation and some of its NW connections. "The Adjunct" describes the nightmarish existence of an instructor of Composition (first-year college writing) courses who has to shuttle from campus to campus with never enough hours to complete her work, all to earn a barely subsidence-level "living." The "Clear Cuts" photography consists of photos depicting exactly what the title says.

Also rich in NW verismo is Casey Sanchez's "As Bad as It Comes, as Good as It Gets: Canning Salmon in Alaska," which describes the social and economic phenomena, as well as the actual day to day rigors of traveling to the north country and working in a fish packing plant. The least readable, for me personally, were the academically absurdist writings of The Office for Soft Architecture.

If you like experimental writing and the good old fashioned avant garde, you'll definitely want to check out this book. Or if you are a fan of anything NW, likewise. Otherwise, you needn't bother.

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