Jonathan Raban Mon Sept 6, 4:45-5:30 pm, Literary Stage

Let's now think about Jonathan Raban. Who is this man? He is a writer. He was born in England to an educated family. His father, who passed away at the very end of the last century, was a clergyman and the subject of a considerable part of Passage to Juneau, which is one of Raban's best books. It is one of his best books because everything that Raban does so well is stuffed into it--blurring out of existence the line between fiction and nonfiction, literary theory and journalism.

Raban has a daughter named Julia. He recently wrote about her in the Guardian, describing a trip they took to Baja from Seattle, where he presently lives. The article is called "Once Upon a Time in the West," and is in two parts, the first of which has this passage: "At [the town of] Seaside, Julia put on her new sunglasses, and I saw us reflected in the unfriendly stares of curious pedestrians--we looked uncannily like Humbert Humbert and Lolita. I wanted to call out, 'She's my daughter, I'm her dad,' but remembered that was Humbert's line too."

Like Humbert Humbert and his author, Raban is a very funny man, and he is very smart. Near the end of Lolita, Humbert Humbert is told by his double, Quilty, that "[they] are men of the world." This expression has two meanings: one is, men who have a "[taste] for the bizarre"; the other is, men who are cosmopolitan, and know things like the name of the last prime minister of the now-dead country of Rhodesia. Raban is a man of the world in the second sense. He not only contributes his opinions on current, global events to world-class newspapers, but also consumes such information with a voracity that is almost preternatural.

This man who writes and reads an immense amount, and lives on the north side of Queen Anne, and is a British subject with an American green card, and is to his countrymen something of an "our man in the Pacific Northwest"--this individual happens to be (be as in being) Jonathan Raban.