Portland Monthly asked its readers to vote on "the greatest Oregon book of all time," and the results are in. Out of the 20 nominations, I've read...just two of the authors. Boy, do I feel like a dope. And I've only ever heard of three of the authors: Beverly Cleary, Ken Kesey, and Ursula K. Le Guin.
Coming in at #1 (with 21% of the vote) is Cleary's great children's book Ramona the Pest, which will probably be read and enjoyed for decades to come. #2 is Kesey's Sometimes a Great Notion, which I've never had the notion to pick up (though I did enjoy One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest). But I've never even touched Kesey's hippie stuff, and while I know that Le Guin is the best at what she does, science fiction generally leaves me cold.
Of interest to me were two writers/books that didn't even make the list: Chuck Palahniuk, best known for Fight Club, and Katherine Dunn, the author of Geek Love. Why? These may not be all-time worldbeater Great American Novels, but I have to believe there was more imagination in Geek Love than there was in some of the 20 ultrasupergreats.
I suspect that a lot of people dismiss Dunn and Palahniuk as "cult writers," which is just as short-sighted and condescending as relegating, say, James Baldwin to the African-American shelf. And there are a lot of so-called "cult writers" (Douglas Coupland and Poppy Z. Brite, for two) who deserve wider readership and less condescension.
Anyway, the list of the greatest Oregon books of all time seemed awfully hinky to me, but maybe it's because Portland is such a young city. There's a canon of Los Angeles and San Francisco literature, for instance, but nothing of the kind in the Northwest...which should probably be seen as opportunity rather than paucity.