High-school English teacher and longtime activist for Oregon Coast preservation Matt Love has made a hobby of collecting unusual stories about his beloved home state, stories that say, “It don’t get much more Oregon than that.” Now that hobby has culminated in a book, Citadel of the Spirit: Oregon’s Sesquicentennial Anthology (Nestucca Spit Press, 494 pages, $30), a wild and woolly collection of contemporary and historical writings as quirky as the Oregon people, places and events it describes. This is not an anthology of Oregon history as the Library of America might publish it, but a valentine from the Library of Love to a state whose 150th birthday happens to fall on Valentine’s Day this week. Don’t be fooled by the book’s cover, which features Harney County rock formations painted by Henk Pander. The art and typography suggest a decorum and gravitas the book’s contents simply don’t aspire to. Think of this as Uncle Matt’s Bathroom Reader of Oregon History. Even the book’s title is taken from a quotation by the original Merry Prankster himself, Ken Kesey. Most entries fill two or three pages, bite-sized chunks readers can digest in a single, brief sitting. They include an excerpt from former U.S. Sen. Bob Packwood’s personal diary in which he recounts a torrid sexual encounter with a female staffer Packwood identifies only as “S-1,” whose “big breasts…stand at attention.” Then there’s the FBI case file on the supposedly “obscene” lyrics found in the Kingsmen’s 1963 hit “Louie, Louie”: “Hey, lovemaker, hold my bone, it won’t take long so leave it alone.” One of the collection’s longest pieces is called “Pussy Fever,” a 12-page riff by Cheryl Strayed on Oregon’s sex industry, much of which is protected by the state’s constitution as free speech. In other words, this book may not be the perfect gift for your in-laws from Kansas—or, then again, maybe it is. Other selections are less carnal, more politically earnest. Love, for example, juxtaposes then-Gov. John Kitzhaber’s public apology in 2002 for the forced sterilization of thousands of patients in state mental institutions with Stewart Holbrook’s stirring 1946 account of the Great Tillamook Fire of 1933, which led, Love notes, to a catastrophic legacy of ecological mismanagement by the Oregon Department of Forestry. About half the anthology’s selections (reprinted in serif type) have been culled from historic documents and public records; the other half (in sans serif) were commissioned by Love himself from such writers as Kim Stafford, Monica Drake, Ken Babbs, Walt Curtis and Bob Armstrong. With every selection, Love’s heart is in the right place (that is, on his sleeve), even when readers may wonder what’s become of his mind.
READ: Editor Matt Love, as well as contributors Gina Ochsner, Brian Doyle, Bart King, Kaia Sand, David Horowitz, Katrine Barber and others, appears at Powell’s City of Books, 1005 W Burnside St., 228-4651. 7:30 pm Friday, Feb. 13. Free.