Lately instead of just fretting over the health of local bookstores, I’ve started to fret over the local publishing scene, too. I’ve tried to laugh about it, but the bad news just keeps coming. Will I someday be mourning the loss of Copper Canyon or Sasquatch Books the way I now miss browsing that glorious biblio-mayhem at Shorey’s or Beatty’s? Loompanics Unlimited is no longer firing its outrageous barrage of outlaw manuals – some truly indispensible – from Port Angeles, and I’d have figured they’d still be in business even after an apocalypse. No, make that especially after an apocalypse. Perhaps we should add to our New Year’s reading resolutions some local reading.
Between Fantagraphics in Seattle and Dark Horse in Portland, the Cascade corridor is an epicenter of the graphic novel universe. Fantagraphics glorious explosion of graphic wonderfulness regularly challenges my resolution to buy fewer books, as with Beasts 2, a breathtaking collection of creatures mythological and cryptozoological variously rendered by a slate of ninety artists, and one of very few books that would have appealed to me as much at the ages of 5, 15, and 35.
My childhood recollections of local publishing are dominated by homespun chapbooks filled with quaint illustrations of seagulls, mushrooms, clams and ferns, and sporting titles like Seattle Houseboaters gourmet scrapbook of recipes and tall tales! That one was published by Peanut Butter Press, which is still going strong with titles such as JP Patches, Northwest Icon, or Jeri Callahan’s Staying Afloat: Life Aboard Houseboats, Barges and Liveaboards. (I bought a copy of this straight from the author on her houseboat as we visited friends one summer evening). The other book I remember from back then was Footloose Around Puget Sound, an early title from the Mountaineers, who have long since expanded from trail guides to an impressive array of titles on the great outdoors, sports, and green living, as well as some terrific adventure books.
Of course there are our university presses, turning out titles that are anything but academic to Washington readers, such as Cliff Mass’ The Weather of the Pacific Northwest (UW Press), an eye-opening introduction to a topic of perennial fascination for us mossbacks, or Hill Williams’ The Restless Northwest: A Geological Story (WSU Press), an equally revelatory layperson’s guide about the imperceptibly slow weather under our feet. How about Timeless Books’ enlightening The Inner Life of the Asanas, just the thing for Yoga newcomers still trying to find the meditation amidst the pretzel work, to Copper Canyon’s Straw for the Fire: From the Notebooks of Theodore Roethke, an irresistible invitation into the game of poetry. And of course there are all those great Sasquatch Books titles that run the gamut from Lauren Weedman’s hilariously heartfelt A Woman Trapped in a Woman’s Body to Eric Liu’s inspiring The True Patriot to Tim Egan’s gripping story of crime in depression era Spokane, Breaking Blue; all this, and Book Lust too.
These days as more of us resolve to eat locally and act locally, let’s also try to read locally, and enjoy some delicious homegrown books.