November 2011

Sherman Alexie

Award-winning author of "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven," among others
Sherman Alexie may be the most controversial author living in the Pacific Northwest. He has some good competition from Chuck Pahlaniuk for the title, but Pahlaniuk is controversial mainly for his writing's graphic content, and not for the things that he himself has said and done. (Even the radical politics of Fight Club are not really, when you get right down to it, all that radical.)
 
Alexie is an outspoken Native American who spends a lot of time thinking about and discussing the politics of the boundary between reservation life and the rest of America. This is the kind of thing you don't discuss in polite company in America, which is why it is so important to discuss it. The statistics about reservation life - suicide, rape, literacy, poverty - are frankly shameful. The history that created the reservation system, worse still.

Third Place Books

As you might guess from their name, they take the concept of "community" seriously
Although Third Place has two locations, I am only familiar with their store in Lake Forest Park. And what a treasure it is! 
 
Third Place is one of the few book stores which shelves both new and used books together. Possibly the only such store in the Seattle area that I am aware of. (I don't count Half Price, which only stocks discounted new books.) Powell's in Portland is the only other store I know of with this practice, and of course we all love Powell's.

Douglas Coupland (Well, Not Technically)

Douglas Coupland is a Canadian artist and author who frequently sets his novels in Washington state. And his books aren't just set in Washington, they are also about Washington in an indefinable way that made me incredibly homesick when I re-read several of his books while spending a year on a contract job in Atlanta.
 
Coupland's home is Vancouver, which is a pretty good stand-in for the suburbs around Seattle, which is where a lot of his action is set. His second novel, Shampoo Planet, is set in the fictional town of Lancaster, WA. Lancaster is a ghost town, having been abandoned by its single largest employer, The Plants. It could be any of a number of towns in Washington, where industries from Boeing to the timber industry have slowly collapsed or moved elsewhere.