Those of you who follow my musings here since I became New To Seattle know I am fascinated by the way Seattle both is portrayed in other places and tries to fashion its image. I have described coverage of Miss Seattle’s Twitter complaints about the weather as well as the city’s effort to replace its official “Metronatural Seattle” marketing pitch with something a little less kinky.
So you can imagine my excitement at this headline stripped across the top of an inside page in yesterday’s New York Times:
“Seattle Reporter Finds Bubbles of Corruption Under the Space Needle”
Except that this was not a breaking news story. Nor was any actual corruption alleged or documented.
The headline appeared over a review of Truth Like the Sun, a new novel being officially released today by Jim Lynch, a former Seattle Times reporter who lives in Olympia. A novel–meaning that there is no warranty that the events depicted therein are true or even current.
The review, by veteran book critic Janet Maslin, was quite favorable. Lynch’s book, set in 2001, centers around an old-time fixer named Roger Morgan who helped run the 1962 World’s Fair and Helen Gulanos, a 30-ish reporter trying to get the goods on him decades later while working for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.(If nothing else, the plot proves that old newspapers never die, they just become grist for writers who don’t want to be sued for libel).
I haven’t read the book yet–it’s sitting on my desk–so I can’t tell you a lot more about it now. But quickly leafing through some of its early pages, it does seem to present a view of the World’s Fair a little less idyllic and rosy than what it is being so fondly remembered in this 50th anniversary year of the event that by all accounts put Seattle on the world map. For that reason alone, the book is probably worth reading.
But back to that New York Times headline, which appeared on the same page as the paper’s always-popular crossword puzzle. The fact that the story concerns a novel and not the previous day’s news might not be apparent to the many casual readers who apparently get their information by skimming big type rather than reading articles. So the take-away could be that Seattle is a simmering world-class den of iniquity.
But when stuck with lemons, make lemonade. Hey, Seattle’s Convention and Visitors Bureau, start marketing “literary Seattle.”
Last week, I wrote about Fifty Shades of Grey the first of a racy new trilogy by British writer E.L. James also set in Seattle (although, unlike Lynch’s work, the venue is not an essential part of the plot). God knows, there has been plenty of other fiction based here: the J.P. Beaumont detective novels by part-time Seattle resident J.A. Jance; Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, the Jamie Ford novel about World War II love and internment camps (featuring the International District’s still-standing Panama Hotel), and the told-from-a-dog’s-point-of-view The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein.
Think about it. Tourists could wander around Seattle looking for appropriate settings with e-books sold by Seattle’s Amazon.com (whose old Beacon Hill headquarters can be seen on the right edge of the photo adorning the cover of Truth Like the Sun). Now there’s a win-win for the local economy, regardless of what The New York Times screams.