Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Rose City Heist, by Matt Love

Matt Love hopes the Portland Mercury and the Willamette Week will pan his book.

Available at Wallace Books
He told me so as he dropped off copies of Rose City Heist, his newest book to come out of Nestucca Spit Press. This is the true crime story of the biggest jewel theft in Portland, and how Matt Love and his friend were the chief suspects for the Portland City Police and the FBI. It is about backyard pool parties and undulating substitute teachers, Colombian, sword-wielding Oliver Twists—and yes, even gravy plays a role.

First and foremost, it's about Portland.

Not the Portland that we know today: this is why Matt Love is looking forward to the supreme panning he expects. By taking us back to the summer of 1993, Matt is giving us a glance into a Portland past that (as far as this writer can tell) has mostly been forgotten. The surge that Portland has seen—which to his credit Matt credits the good work of Governor Tom McCall (also mostly forgotten)—means a near disappearance of the quiet grey city-town of twenty years ago. We can go to the Pearl and see that. Matt expects that, by disdaining the direction Portland has gone—the traffic, the nonsense of changing Memorial Coliseum to a corporate name that sounds like a bowel movement—he will not be forgiven by the scions of the ¨new¨ Portland.

I think Matt is going to be profoundly disappointed.

For one, this is just a great book. It has all the energetic prose the cult following of Matt Love (and there are many at Wallace Books alone) expects. It recalls to mind some of Richard Brautigan's better metaphors. It's tense, it leaves you guessing, it leaves you in love. You're there with Matt, back in a time when ¨old men still ruled the dive bars, which meant nothing ever happened and that was just fine. Languor presided. No one strained while falling apart." And although the weekly newsies might wish the book's disdain toward the new not be in it, I have a suspicion they are pretty good at assimilating a cultural relic into the new zeitgeist. And that's a good thing. Portland needs to remember its most recent past, and take pride in that past. Portland has made big steps forward on the continental stage. We need these books to remember when Portland was taciturn, albeit still a little crazy.

I wanted to put in a plug for the meta-story, but I'll refrain. Obviously you just have to trust what Matt's recounting is true. Or you can say it's false. This, no doubt, will be a criticism if I am wrong and the newsies decide to pan it. Whatever. Creative nonfiction or folk story, it is a damn fine summer read. And it's important. Go get yourself this book. Now.

~ James, July 2014
follow James @jkirkmaynard

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