Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Spokane Stereotype

Jess Walter is a local writer who has become popular on a national stage. He cut his teeth at the Spokesman-Review; then he published his first book, the spectacular Every Knee Shall Bow, based on his coverage of the Ruby Ridge debacle. He has since moved on to fiction, and his most recent novel, The Zero, has received rave reviews everywhere I look, and it was one of five books nominated for last year's National Book Award, a prestigious nomination indeed.

Unlike other local authors gone national (let's call him Sherman A.--no, that's too obvious...let's call him S. Alexie), Walter has decided to stick around Spokane. I often see him picking up his kids at basketball games or grocery shopping.

He also writes a monthly column for an outdoor magazine Out There. I found his last column particularly interesting, considering how, based on his recent success, he hobnobs with cosmopolitans on the other side of the state.

I was just at a swanky party on the top of the Smith Tower in Seattle and I kept getting the dreaded Spokane eye. You're having a perfectly swell conversation about politics or literature and the Seattleite asks where you're from and when you tell them, they pretend not to be horrified, but it's as if you've just casually mentioned that your hobby is collecting other people's scabs.

"Uh ... What do you do in Spokane?" the Seattler asks after a long, uncomfortable pause.

"Well, I used to sell meth but after my cousin and me got divorced and she got custody of the Siamese crack twins, I decided to put my life back together, so I got my GED and now I manage a mobile home park."

I used to launch into my Spokane-is-Rising and You-Wouldn't-Recognize-The-Place speech in that situation but, honestly, I'm getting tired of having to do that. I think we've reached a place where it's sort of needy and pathetic, like that mother of your friend you see who insists on telling you that Eric is a stockbroker when you know perfectly well that Eric is a stockboy.

And it doesn't work in Seattle anyway. It's plausible in every other city in the world, but in Seattle, the idea that Spokane is becoming cool or prosperous is just plain crazy talk. You may as well tell them that you're a professional ballet dancer in Omak.

So at this party, I decided to take the opposite tactic and just reinforce their ideas about the 'Kane. And I have to tell you, it really puts the Seattle person at ease and it's a lot more fun.

Read the entire article here.


Lane said...

Big W.

Your blog has kept me quite entertained at work today. I thought this was especially funny, since it's fairly true even for a college student from Spokane living in Seattle.


Eric said...

I love it when you call me Big W.