Perhaps the only thing more painful than being in high school is being in your 20s, a time when you're convinced you're smart, but you're not smart enough to realize how stupid you really are. In his second novel, The Everlasting
(Oni Press, 490 pages, $19.95), local author Jamie S. Rich serves up a reminder of those transitional years when you have the audacity to think you know a thing or two. Set in Portland in 1999, Rich's multiple-narrative tale follows Lance Scott, a 25-year-old Web designer navigating a turbulent journey of romance and self-discovery. Lance is not unlike many of the real urban hipsters who troll local watering holes, expounding the superiority of vinyl over compact discs, fussing about looks and pontificating on pop culture. "For Lance, the next step was crucial," writes Rich, describing his hero's preparing for a date. "Before he could do anything further—before he could dress, style his hair, anything, he had to pick some appropriate music to service his mood. Lance popped a vinyl copy of the Who's Meaty, Beaty, Big & Bouncy
onto his turntable." Lance, the middle child between two much more successful siblings, is not necessarily the sort of person you'd be dying to get to know at a party as he prattles on about the genius of the Jam's Paul Weller, but Rich makes reading about him fun.
Using various voices and jumping around in time, The Everlasting reads like a combination personal diary, screenplay and detached narrative observation of the life and times of Lance Scott. If this were a movie, it would be shot using various media—film, digital video, maybe even puppets—with Lance often looking right into the camera to address the audience. As a work of fiction, jumping around so much is not something to be ventured into lightly. But to his credit, Rich, for the most part, is up to the task. His writing is strong enough that his choices never seem gimmicky, nor does it seem like he is trying to prove something simply for the sake of proving it.
Jamie Rich reads from The Everlasting
Thursday, Sept. 14, at Twenty-Third Avenue Books, 1015 NW 23rd Ave., 224-5097. 7 pm. Free.