Tomorrow night (Tuesday) at 7, Cheryl Strayed joins us to read from and talk about her bestselling memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. Wild is sitting pretty on The New York Times bestseller list, and it's receiving rave reviews everywhere. Seriously. You have to have been living in a cave not to have heard about Cheryl Strayed and her wonderful new memoir. But beyond the rave and the hype, I'm happy to tell you that it's the real deal. It's moving and powerful, an engrossing story well told and beautifully written.
Her mother, with whom Cheryl was very close, died of cancer when Cheryl was twenty-two. To say it shattered her world would be an understatement. Cheryl's life went into a downward spiral. She trashed her marriage and tried to obliterate her grief with drinking, drugs, and sex. But then she decided that she needed to find a way to become the girl that she had once been. The one her mother raised. So she decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert to the Oregon/Washington border. Eleven hundred miles. Alone. This decision from a woman who hadn't backpacked a day in her life.
She went into the trip thinking it would be sort of a rejuvenating trek through the outdoors, giving her an opportunity to commune with nature and think transcendent thoughts. Of course, it was anything but. Carrying -- or attempting to -- an overloaded backpack she nicknamed Monster, Cheryl faced bears, snakes, hunger, loneliness, intense heat and record snowfalls, and a physical pounding that included feet that had essentially turned to pulp by the end of her journey.
But despite the pain and obstacles and her fears, she persevered. Because her only other option was to quit. And she refused to take that option. On the trail or in life.
The book is heartbreaking but never maudlin, told with gut-wrenching candor. One of my favorite of the many reviews of this book is the one by Dwight Garner of The New York Times, who said the book "pretty much obliterated me." He went on to describe Wild as a book "as loose and sexy and dark as an early Lucinda Williams song. It’s got a punk spirit and makes an earthy and American sound."
On Thursday we have another spectacular evening for you as we welcome back our monthly Comma Reading Series, curated by Kirsten Rian. This month Comma offers you Kim Stafford and Matt Love.
Kim Stafford is a writer and teacher living in Portland. He is the founding director of the Northwest Writing Institute at Lewis & Clark College and is the author of a dozen books of poetry and prose. He teaches frequently at the Sitka Center for Art & Ecology and the Fishtrap Gathering. His book 100 Tricks Every Boy Can Do: A Memoir, is forthcoming from Trinity University Press. At our reading on Thursday he'll be reading from his poetry book Prairie Prescription, published by Limberlost Press.
Matt Love grew up in Oregon City and is the publisher of Nestucca Spit Press and the author/editor of eight books about Oregon. He is the winner of the Oregon Literary Arts' Stewart H. Holbrook Literary Legacy Award for his contributions to Oregon history and literature. He teaches English, photography, creative writing, and journalism at Newport High School. On Thursday Matt will be presenting his newly published book, Sometimes a Great Movie: Paul Newman, Ken Kesey and the Filming of the Great Oregon Novel, about the filming of Kesey's book Sometimes a Great Notion in the central Oregon coast region in 1970. Besides telling the story of the filming and the interactions with the local community, the book presents more than a hundred photographs.
We hope you can join us on Tuesday for Cheryl and on Thursday for Kim and Matt -- two marvelous evenings.