Eugene Weekly : Books : 5.6.10


Inside Passage

Robin Cody’s Another Way the River Has: Taut True Tales from the Northwest (OSU Press; $18.95) is a deeply Northwestern book, and one that covers more than 20 years of traveling through and writing about the Northwest and those who live and work here. Though sometimes the date of each piece isn’t immediately clear, it isn’t always necessary to know the when of Cody’s tales. Some seem to hover in an in-between time; other than an anachronstic detail or two, they could be happening now. Or then.

Among those in-between stories are Cody’s adventures on a small, shallow-drafted boat called The Turtle, on which he explores the rivers around Portland. The boat-set stories, scattered throughout, bind together the other, often more journalistic pieces that skip through Oregon and Washington, visiting bronco riders at the Pendleton Round-Up and lifeboat captains at Cape Disappointment. Cody listens to tunnel-diggers, blends the tales of Snow White and Goldilocks to entertain a 6-year-old with spina bifida, follows a bird-lover in the city and eulogizes a friend who met a terrible end in the forest. 

The voices in these stories ring true and crisp, unchanged by their passage through a writer’s pen. But Cody is at his best on The Turtle. The small craft, built by his friend Sam Kinney with Cody’s help, noses around the Willamette and the Columbia, drawing inquisitive looks from children and herons. River otters play nearby; birds, spiders, deer and raindrops catch Cody’s eye in the place he calls Hideaway Slough. Coyotes howl and Cody watches the natural patterns that fill quiet days. It’s these observant pieces, calm and solitary but never lonely or overly self-aware,  that make Another Way such a Northwestern book. From the river, Cody considers the myth that Northwesterners like to “wrap ourselves in,” the idea that we’re especially close to nature, and how that myth is composed of truths and muddled ideals at once. “Nature is close but out there,” he writes. Another Way the River Has brings it in close.

Robin Cody reads from Another Way the River Has at 7 pm Friday, May 7, at The Arts Center, Corvallis, and at 2 pm Saturday, May 8, at Springfield Public Library. — Molly Templeton




Comments are closed.