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Portland, OR

Jason Gurley is an author and designer from Portland, Oregon.



The Movement Omnibus

Jason Gurley

While I haven't yet written The Travelers, the third and final book in my Movement series, I have started imagining what an omnibus edition of the entire series might look like. I haven't settled on a name – The Runaways almost surely will not be it – but I'm considering this cover for the omnibus, which I made last night before going to bed. (It would be more impressive had I made it after going to bed.)

As lovely as the title The Runaways looks there, I'm probably going to change it to something that doesn't preserve the pattern established by the three individual novels, which are called The Settlers, The Colonists, and The Travelers. There's just no single good word that sums up everything about the people who populate this world: I've considered refugees, emigrants, migrants, deserters, fugitives, nomads... and fifty other similar words. None quite works for me. So this edition may end up with a title that breaks the standard the individual books created. I think that's okay. The individual book titles will represent 'acts' in the omnibus edition. 

There's one more change I may make when the entire series is complete. I wrote the books absent any quotation marks around dialogue. It was a creative decision, one that I personally like very much, and that many readers enjoyed, too. But it's also been the greatest point of contention for a wide audience of readers. So for the omnibus edition, I may be reversing my prior creative decision. 

We'll see. First I have to write the final book!

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On the nature of instruction: Remembering Manual

Jason Gurley

Here's a major throwback:. In 2002, I was invited to join sixteen other bloggers and authors in an anthology project called MANUAL, as in RTFM, as in Read the Fucking Manual. The book was a collection of stories built around the simplest theme: 'how to' lessons. There was a story called "How to Keep Your Distance," another called "How to Show Your Work," another called "How to Unsuccessfully Woo Your Roommate's Future Husband". These were short stories, or nonfiction pieces, or poems. My favorite was a short little piece called "How to Take the Train." Even then, I preferred melancholy to almost anything else. 

My contribution is an embarrassing little humor piece that, I think, bears little resemblance to any of my current work. It's called "How to Start a Dialogue with a Complete Stranger." I was running a little blog experiment called The Dialogue Project at the time, which was a series of blog posts written entirely as conversations between unidentified strangers. These were hilarious to me, and probably completely unintelligible to readers. "How to Start a Dialogue" is not much different from those strange pieces, and its crude humor reflects some of my reading and movie consumption habits of the time. If you read it, try not to imagine that I was already one year into the writing of Eleanor. You will not be able to resolve the two versions of myself that these two writings will present to you.

In any case, MANUAL has been kept online for the last twelve years by Josh Allen, who runs the web curiosity Fireland. The anthology was downloaded some 40,000 times in its first week of availability, which I think very few of us expected, and none of us had any idea how to monetize, so we gave it away for free. There was a brief mention of the project in Wired, but that was about it. 

In the years since, plenty of things have changed for the authors involved in this project. Many still write. Kevin Guilfoile has published a few very good novels. Rosecrans Baldwin reviews books on NPR, and writes his own novels and memoirs, and edits The Morning News as well. Heather Armstrong's Dooce blew up and became a very high-profile blog. Paul Ford also writes books, and does too many other things to name. Josh, he of the generous twelve years of web archival, wrote a fascinating novel himself, every chapter written, in a sense, in public, and catalogued online. I've lost track of most of these people; most I knew only lightly, as connections of other connections of mine. I read most of their web sites for years, and now I still read one or two, though many of them have long since vanished. Sadly, one terrific writer in the collection passed away a few years after MANUAL was published. I'm still connected to, I think, two of them, via social media tools that didn't exist for us back then. 

Once, a few years ago, I got in touch with as many of my fellow contributors as possible and raised the possibility of a second volume of stories. Only a couple, as I recall, were interested in the prospect; the rest were busy, or no longer interested, or hadn't had as idyllic an experience as my own. A second volume never materialized, and these days, I wouldn't propose it again. I am, however, enormously pleased to see that this little artifact of the past is still there, still as prettily designed as ever, still as moving and funny and sharply-written as I remember.

MANUAL is still available, and free to read, at Fireland

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Eleanor teaser trailer

Jason Gurley

My good friend Mark Nguyen created a teaser trailer for Eleanor! 

One of these days, I hope, Mark and I will collaborate on a novel. I don't know anybody with as many good story ideas as he has. We've started a few, but we're basically waiting for the magical day when neither of us is overwhelmingly busy. (So look for this novel when we're senior citizens.)

Isn't this the coolest trailer ever?

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It's thunder and it's lightning

Jason Gurley

A couple of years ago Felicia and I went to a Jimmy Eat World concert in San Luis Obispo. (It was at the VFW, I think. Did Jimmy Eat World ever play big shows during their heyday? The San Luis Obispo VFW was a tiny, wouldn't-expect-to-see-a-concert-here kind of place.) 

The opening act that night was a Scottish indie rock group called We Were Promised Jetpacks. I liked their name, but dreaded actually listening to them. I have a long history of disliking the opening bands at shows I've been to. But they were really good, much better than the headliner show after (though I confess I was never a Jimmy Eat World fan, at least not until they popped up on Yo Gabba Gabba, singing a song on the backs of cats and dogs). 

Anyway, all that to say this: Felicia found out that We Were Promised Jetpacks is coming to Portland this November. We may try to plan a rare date night to go catch the show. I'm surprisingly excited about this. 

I haven't listened to music quite like theirs before. My favorite artists are terrific writers. I like to listen to music where the lyrics are so finely spun that they take my breath away a little. Josh Ritter turns some impressive imagery out in his songs, for example, often in a waterfall rush of words that I really love (and Felicia really, really doesn't). So does Patty Griffin, or Kathleen Edwards, or Ben Gibbard. At first glance, the Jetpacks boys might seem like an ordinary college rock band. But there are some really gorgeous bursts of language in their songs – spare, tight, quivering. That's all it takes to make me fall in love with an artist's work. 

This is one of the things that I do love about Portland (even as, I confess, I'm struggling to figure out how I quite fit into this city): wonderful musical acts come through here. With Squish at home, Felicia and I haven't managed to catch as many shows as we'd like, but we have seen Patty Griffin and Josh Ritter, and Felicia's caught a few shows with friends. I'm hoping that Kathleen Edwards swings through one of these days – I've seen her a few times, but it's been several years now. 

We miss San Luis Obispo more than either of us expected, I think. It was beautiful there, even on its hottest days, and we had friends there that we miss. Squish doesn't remember it; she was less than a year old when we moved north. During my own adult life, I've never lived anyplace longer than the eight years that I spent in Morro Bay and SLO. Felicia was there for eleven years. Listening to Jetpacks now conjures memories of not only seeing them play the VFW, but of cranking their melancholy, crunchy guitars up while tearing down the 101, the top off of the Jeep, doors off, spectacular sunsets and warm breezes. Most of my life I've been homesick, but it's always been for Anchorage and the Alaskan winters that I loved so much as a child. Now that we're here in Oregon, which we dreamed of moving to for years, we find ourselves missing California's central coast. Go figure. We miss weekend trips to Santa Barbara, breakfasts at Tupelo Junction, strolling down Higuera on warm afternoons. We miss the dozen little shops we'd visit every so often, and pulling on our boots and going country dancing at the Grad, or quiet little dinners in Los Osos, where the owner knew our name and always came out to greet us. We'll figure Portland out eventually, I'm sure. Powell's Books and great concert events are a start. 

To make this entire rambling post worth your while, here's Jimmy Eat World, singing on the backs of house pets:

That totally did it for you, didn't it? I thought it might. 

Off-topic – as if this entire post hasn't been one long exercise in wandering topics – but tomorrow I'm having my remaining two wisdom teeth surgically extracted from my skull. 2014 is not only the year of Eleanor and a great new job, it's the year of dental Disneyland. If any ill-advised, groggy blog posts appear tomorrow, you'll know why. 

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