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Author Archive: "Jon Raymond"

Dragon Days

My final blog post is coming not from Paris, but from the town of Metz, about an hour and a half outside Paris, and scene of L’Ete du Livre, a book fair of literature and journalism. It feels slightly appropriate to sign off from here, the week my book, Rain Dragon, comes out, because the town is known for a legendary dragon called “Graoully.” As myth has it, the town was long ago menaced by a giant snake and Saint Clement promised to help the villagers if they agreed to abandon their pagan gods for Christianity. They accepted the offer, and Saint Clement proceeded to tame the creature with the sign of the cross and cast him out into the river.

I can tell you, judging from the number of dragon sculptures, friezes, key chains, and t-shirts in this town, that the pagans didn't exactly keep their end of the bargain.

It's been a real pleasure blogging for Powell's, the greatest bookstore in the world. And as I head off in search of gifts for my girlfriend and kids (something better than the duty-free Toblerone I brought home last ...


Swans and Jellyfish

I was hungover yesterday. I had a plan to check out the Musée d'Orsay, but it took a long time to actualize. First I had to do some blogging, find coffee, change my plan and check out the Pompidou Center instead, get repelled by the long line, walk in the rain over the river, watch some swans grooming themselves with their flopping, muscular necks, gobble down a croque-monsieur in a tourist diner before I fainted, and only then arrive at the entrance of the d'Orsay, which was of course swamped by its own giant, immobile line of tourists.

I got in eventually, though, and it was probably worth it. The d'Orsay is mostly devoted to 19th-century French art like Manet, Degas, Monet, etc., some of which is just college dorm fodder, and some of which is really, truly great. I won't bore you with my art historical opinions, but I will say this: as it turns out, if a painting's got some Velasquez in there, I'm generally into it. That cotton candy stuff, on the other hand, I can't get away from fast enough.

I walked back home because ...


War Stories

So, yesterday was the official kick-off of the Keep Portland Weird festival here in Paris, which meant that I had a reading/screening in the evening, while upstairs the first docket of bands played, including Street Nights, Michael Hurley, Rebecca Gates, and Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks. A great line-up.

The day started nicely. I woke up, blogged, and headed out onto the street, pondering the what and how of the night's reading. I had some good thoughts, walking along the Seine and staring at Notre Dame. I would talk about hot tubs, I decided. I just wrote a story that involves a hot tub, and the movie they were screening, Old Joy, based on an earlier story of mine, also has a hot tub. I could talk about the rise of hot tub culture on the West Coast, the suburbanization of the public bath, the idea of the hot tub as the site of middle-class debauchery, the very aporia (to throw around an old French theory word) of the Western bourgeois home. I could compare the hot tub to the American lawn, symbol of a lost agrarian past — ...


Don Carpenter

Some of my friends are probably getting sick of hearing me evangelize about the greatness of the late Don Carpenter, but yesterday I took it to a whole new level by extolling him on national French radio.

I guess now is a good time to mention that I'm in Paris for the "Keep Portland Weird" festival, a week-long, multi-museum event devoted to the culture, mostly musical, of my (and Powell's) hometown. Apparently the festival happens every year, usually devoted to larger places like Berlin or Istanbul, but this time they've cast their gaze our way.

Don Carpenter is a writer with Portland roots. His first novel, Hard Rain Falling (1966), is currently one of my favorites. It's a book characterized on occasion as a crime or prison novel, and while that's true in a way, and the book does spend its share of pages in a world of petty crime, prostitution, pool halls, and prisons, it's really a work of much greater ambition than that. George Pelecanos calls it possibly "the most unheralded important American novel of the '60s," and that seems about right, what ...


Paris ’92

My book, Rain Dragon, officially appears on shelves this week, but I'm skipping town for Paris. I'll explain why in a later post, but for the moment, sitting in the airport, my mind is on 1992, and the college semester I spent studying art history in the City of Light.

I lived in a minuscule chambre de bonne (absurdly) just off the Champs-Élysées. The room had a bed, a hot plate, a desk, and a window that if you craned your head offered a slivered glimpse of a statue of Balzac on the street below. A cement catwalk led through the open air to a bathroom where you could crane your head and catch sight of Montmartre. Did I mention the room was extremely small? Standing in the middle of the floor, I could touch all the walls, and what little space was leftover from the furniture was dominated by the shower. It was this plastic pod thing, a cylindrical isolation tank with a moldy curtain, literally two feet from my bed. Part of the deal was that some Spanish student downstairs had access to the shower, too, ...


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