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Fugitives and Refugees

Chuck Palahniuk

Crown Journeys / Random House

US Hardcover First

ISBN 1-400-04783-8

Publication Date: 07-08-2003

175 Pages; $16.00

Date Reviewed: 07-22-03

Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2003



Non Fiction

09-20-02, 09-30-02, 10-08-02, 01-07-03, 06-12-03, 08-22-03, 10-22-03

Presumably the folks over at Crown Journeys, an imprint of Random House, knew what to expect when they hired Chuck Palahniuk to write a travel guide to his home city of Portland. Otherwise, they probably would not have put the wonderful leopard skin pasties on the cover. Readers who are waiting with toes a tapping for 'Diary', his next novel, to be released can rest easy. Here's a nice dose of the Chuck Palahniuk many of us suspected was there but had never seen so baldly displayed. Palahniuk is a wonderful humorist, and he gets a chance to spin some hysterically funny tales in this combination of memoir and tour guide. If you're looking to laugh out loud a few times -- or for places of interest in Portland -- then Palahniuk's guide will help you find the way.

'Fugitives and Refugees' is segmented into Postcards, which are Palahniuk's personal memories of his life in Portland, and a series of potted perspectives on places to visit, eat, stay or get laid. The Postcards are often totally hysterical, and they show that this talented writer can tell a humorous story better than most. They're straightforward memoirs starting in 1980 when Palahniuk moved to Portland upon leaving high school and concluding in 2002. Along the way, you'll take an acid trip to a Pink Floyd Laserium show, enjoy a Santa Rampage, tag along for the doings of the Cacophony Society, and attend a millennial showing of 'Fight Club'. For Palahniuk completists, this will seal the deal; buy the book now.

The tour guide portions are often just as enjoyable. From the Vacuum Cleaner museum to the World's Largest Hairball via the sex shops and the haunted hotels, Palahniuk accents the outré but touches many of the important bases as well. If your child is attending college in or near Portland, you'll want this guide to get an idea of what they're doing and where they're going. Palahniuk supplies names, addresses, phone numbers, website URL's and lots of funny and unsavory details about goings-on that many will consider better read about than experienced.

Moreover, Palahniuk chronicles both his own growth and the wishes he's made and been granted with a sort of sad joy. There's more than a bit of wistfulness in all the gusto he devotes to the drag queen shows and 'Monk for a Month' Vacations. The genuine affection that Palahniuk has for his chosen home underlies every word he writes. He's a quirky guy, and Portland is a quirky town. It's a match made not in heaven or hell, but in the most entertaining chambers of Purgatory. Certainly, Random House / Crown Journeys knew they were taking a chance when they hired Palahniuk on to write this tour guide. Some of the scenes Palahniuk describes may make your hair stand on end. But Palahniuk is an amazingly talented writer, and apparently Random House balanced the potential for offense with the certainty of excellent execution. They made the right choice. 'Fugitives and Refugees' demonstrates that when publishers take chances, everybody wins.