Several of the stories and facts I learned while researching Walking Portland
made me wonder if there have been any great historical novels set here. I can't think of any, but if there isn't one about Dr. James C. Hawthorne, namesake of Hawthorne Boulevard, that would be a good place to start. Born in Pennsylvania, Hawthorne (1819–1881) spent several years working in medicine in California, where he also served in the state senate. He arrived in Portland in 1857 to run a hospital for the mentally ill; in 1862 he took over running the Oregon Hospital for the Insane, as it was called at the time (it occupied 200 acres near lower Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard). Hawthorne was married twice: his first wife died a few weeks after they were married — automatically good material for a historical romance — and then in 1865 he married another woman, and they had three daughters, one of whom died in infancy. As for the details in between — who knows? But I for one am curious.
Hawthorne is buried in Lone Fir Cemetery; according to the cemetery's website, some 132 of his patients are also buried there, though their graves are unmarked and the exact locations uncertain. Metro, the regional government in charge of Lone Fir maintenance and operation, is planning a memorial garden to commemorate the patients as well as the Chinese workers who were buried there. (For more about the plan, visit Metro's website.)
Travel and reading go so well together — people just have more time to read while traveling, and the freedom to read whatever they like. With that in mind, I thought I'd share a few books I tend to foist upon people whenever I have the chance. For the most part they have nothing to do with travel, or walking, but even so:
Laird Hunt: I was just telling someone about Hunt yesterday, in fact. He's a Boulder, Colorado–based writer whose dreamy, semi-experimental novels aren't quite like anything else I've read. I recommend starting with Indiana, Indiana, but all of his books, including his new novel, Kind One, are strange and wonderful.
Steve Aylett: Aylett is a British writer who, again, doesn't sound like anyone else I've ever read. He produces some of the most compressed sentences ever made — there are zero wasted words. My favorites of his are The Crime Studio, one of his earliest books set in the maddening hardboiled city of Beerlight, and Fain the Sorcerer.
Kelly Link: Kelly is probably much better known than Hunt or Aylett, but I still think not enough people read her, mostly because I think everybody should read her. Fans of Aimee Bender will love her (although fans of Aimee Bender probably already know about her). Try Pretty Monsters. She's amazing.
Rory Stewart, The Places In Between: OK, this one actually is a walking book. I recommend it frequently. Stewart, a British writer and politician, walked across Afghanistan in 2002 and wrote about his journey here. It was a massive undertaking, and the book is a really great read.
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