Best of Portland 2012: Best Reads

Best National Printing Distributor

Moveable Type mobile letterpress studio

Best Reveal

For a couple years there, people shared their most personal problems with a complete stranger: Sugar, the anonymous advice columnist on online magazine the Rumpus ( But in February, Sugar revealed herself as none of than Cheryl Strayed, the Portland-based author of 2006 novel Torch, new memoir Wild, and an upcoming collection of Sugar columns, Tiny Beautiful Things. "It started to become one of those secrets that wasn't so secret anymore," Strayed says. Why? Because part of what makes Sugar so lovable is the heart-wrenching stories she shares from her own experiences—which obviously originate from the same life Strayed writes about, too. But don't fear: Little else has changed. The column is still as kind and foul-mouthed as ever, and Strayed assures us she won't shy away from the intimate biographical details. "I've never felt more connected to so many strangers in my life," she says. Now, there's just one less stranger in the equation. EMILEE BOOHER.

Best Public Art Trend

It felt insidious, at first: Repurposed Realtor-brochure boxes and DIY display cases popped up in a handful of well-appointed front yards throughout Northeast and Southeast neighborhoods. Each displayed printed verses of (mainly published) poetry on regular rotation. It all seemed evidence of a half-assed campaign by homeowners looking to endear themselves to the younger, increasingly rental, neighborhoods that surrounded them. Or was it simply an earnest way to display a love of the written word? The movement has a more official title as Portland Poetry Posts, a community effort whose website ( features a comprehensive map of participating homes, though there is also at least one enterprising local business that will set you up with your own HOA-compliant roadside art box (for $100-plus). So a tour of participating homes might give way to an agonizing struggle about the role of commerce in art—though isn't that the spirit of poetry, after all? SAUNDRA SORENSON.

Best Historic Historical Marker

terrifically authentic-looking signs marking the area as Portland’s Historic Redline District

Best Place to Set Kids Loose 

The passage to Wallace Books' (7241 SE Milwaukie Ave.) inner cave for children's begins at the front door of what was once someone's home. Move through the living room, then the kitchen (is that a sink under all those books?) and out to what was the garage. Step down, way down, as if descending into a cave, and wander in the deep recesses of high shelves. Here, Julie Wallace, purveyor of one of the last great neighborhood bookstores, has created a child's hideaway, a clubhouse, a den of wonder for kids' books. For parents, it's a moment of relief: Unlike other stores, where a child might wander off when you get engrossed in that poet you should have read years ago, there's nowhere for the kids to go. Their room is the end of the line: They are safe, contained, and probably seeking treasure in the drifts of books Wallace has waiting for them. The sagging shelves and the teetering titles—there are more books crammed into this store than you would think possible—lend an air of suspense, as if a volume yet undiscovered might tumble into their laps, begging for its secrets to be revealed. Watch for the modest sign and screaming yellow paint. BRENT WALTH.

Best Art Imitating Life Imitating Art

It all started, as things in Portland so often do these days, with a Kickstarter project. In November 2011, artist and writer Sean Joseph Partick Carney was looking for $2,000 to help his label Social Malpractice Publishing release a book called Fucking James Franco, "a collection of erotic fiction that describes hypothetical sexual encounters with the greatest American actor, writer, and visual artist of all time."

"It kind of came out of hearing that phrase muttered—"Fucking James Franco!"—in a disparaging capacity by a lot of different artists I know," says Carney of the dilettante actor. "At a certain point, I started thinking, 'What about fucking James Franco?'"

He approached artist friends from across the country to contribute, and set up the Kickstarter page to fund a short run. With such a provocative title, the Internet caught on quickly, with sites like the Onion's A.V. Club, Gawker and Gothamist all writing about it—though most assumed it was ironic fan fiction rather than real art.

Nevertheless, the project was a success. The book sold out of all 500 copies. Carney moved on to other things.

Then in April this year, Franco slammed the book in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. Later that month, the actor tweeted, without comment, a video of him screen-printing the cover of the book over and over while sniggering. "I watched that in disbelief, laughing, not having any idea what he's doing," says Carney. "As a joke, I made screen prints of those screen prints he made."

"I'm simultaneously flattered, but a bit confused, because I don't know the intention," says Carney. "But that's part of the reason I like art."

Despite all the renewed interest, he says, there will be no more copies of Fucking James Franco printed.

"I like that it's not for sale, you can't get it," he says. "It was an edition, an art object, and that's it." RUTH BROWN.

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