Monica Drake, a Portland-based novelist and writing professor and Chuck Palahniuk associate and former books editor of the Portland Mercury and the only fiction writer in the history of the Stranger to have a whole paper dedicated to a short story, "Bones in the Garden" (those where the days), and my sister-in-law, has a marvelous post on Longreads about her experiences with a famous and unnamed Hollywood comedian (though her identity is certainly easy to guess), who showed serious interest in her first novel Clown Girl.
It occurred to me, while reading the essay yesterday, that Drake has a sense of humor that fits better with the political and artistic culture of her city than the comedy show Portlandia. In skit after skit, Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, the stars and creators of Portlandia, present characters with contentless commitments to liberal and urban values and attitudes. The joke is to throw these values and attitudes into situations where they are applied strictly as a form. The consequences of this routine is that reality clashes with ideals—and laughter ensues.
Drake is also a committed lefty like many of the characters in Portlandia, but her humor complicates (rather than desiccates) her milieu (white, literary, middle class, progressive). She expresses with great ease and artistry both the cracks in and possibilities of the core components of her city's cosmopolitan politics. She also knows how to make fun of herself without compromising herself and ideals. Portlandia is a show that could easily be enjoyed by the rural folks in red states. It can speak to them. This is not the case with Drake's sense of humor.
But before I say one word more, I offer you this—a small section of the essay that involves how the Rose City writer compares her body to those of Hollywood stars—as a taste of Drake's truly Portlandian humor.
I’m pretty much the same height and weight as Sylvester Stallone, at least up through Rocky III, though he carries it in his biceps, where it looks a whole lot different.
I imagined this Hollywood beauty sitting next to herself—two of her, side by side. That might equal one of me.
More often I worry about climate change, the rich/poor split, and the rise of religion-based politics. I worry about my daughter’s happiness and if that nuclear disaster in Japan will be cleaned up before the next major earthquake. The width of my booty is not important—it isn’t!—but I’ve seen photos of myself looking gargantuan next to famous women. Once I was wedged into a booth in a New York club next to the lovely Parker Posey. I was wedged. She sat delicately. The more successful women are, the smaller they seem to be. This Hollywood actress—a thin slip, hugely famous—would be no exception. Next to her, I’d loom like our local sculpture, Portlandia—a woman made of hammered copper like the Statue of Liberty, kneeling on a building, big as a Macy’s float. She reaches down over the city, substantial and eager.
That would be me.
This is not nepotism. Monica Drake is a great writer. Read her piece here.