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Pacific Agony

3.27 of 5 stars 3.27  ·  rating details  ·  62 ratings  ·  12 reviews
I gazed out my window on the sea of dark clouds as my shaking seat jiggled the image into double vision; and I pictured the flat, geometrically divided western landscapes below, wondering why anyone still bothered to travel in this cookie-cutter country. What was the use of visiting identical reproductions of the same Wal-Mart or adding new encounters of equally streamline ...more
Paperback, 179 pages
Published October 1st 2009 by Semiotext(e)
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What a pleasant surprise this was.

First off, Benderson's eviscerations of the Northwest's dull middle-class culture are vicious and spot-on. Right on! And yet, he doesn't come off as just some terrible New York snob. Rather, he just reveals that maybe, today, the emperor might not be wearing any clothes.

And-- and I say this as a Northwesterner-- his enumerations of what is actually interesting about the region are just as accurate. I'm so glad this was written by an actual outsider-- a pleasant
(mild spoiler alert)

i had a really difficult time putting this book down, or deciding whether i even liked the narrator, a cynical drug addled drunk recently incarcerated for pederasty and intoxicating a minor. usually i find rape/assault narratives as plot devices somewhat antiquated/infuriating, especially when it's used as a rouse to illicit some sort of "oh, this person is 'quirky' or 'edgy' and pushing against the norms of society" bullshit. i'm not sure my feelings about this resolved by t
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The narrative and structure of *Pacific Agony* are quite appealing: cynical and seditious east coast author is commissioned to write a guide to the Pacific Northwest, overseen by a regionally patriotic and rather uptight daughter of the Oregon Trail (whose voice is only found in the footnotes to the author’s manuscript). This premise seems to promise a humorous clash of cultures, and *Pacific Agony* does provide that, however, this conflict is played out to such an extreme degree that the text, ...more
This book was soooooo lame. The premise sounded awesome. About a travel book written by someone who didn't want to really write it, full of increasingly-furious protestations in the form of an editor's footnotes. But I sort of want some of these hours of my life back. It's not written like a travel book. It's not even really written like a travelogue. It's just so ham-fisted in everything it does, and the writing is boring. This book does a lot of telling and not a lot of showing, and it's not f ...more
John Wright
An accurately distorted account of the Northwest that pops the Portlandia bubble.
Machu Stapler = best. name. evar. (Machu as in Machu Picchu. Mr. Stapler is the protagonist's distant publisher.)

- Benderson delights in handling the taboo.
- There's a distracting war between the unsympathetic and barely reliable narrator and the PNW annotator whose righteously indignant footnotes make you wonder who's nuttier.
- I didn't really like this book. But I liked how I didn't like it.
Nov 03, 2013 Samuel added it
After The Romanian, it's amazing this book was written, given this author-man's demons. Weltschmerz is chief among them, for this well-oiled utilitarian svidrigailov-type narrator. The monster killer in here is reduced to a bed wetter his house is gone.
Diane C.
Completely nihilistic and hilarious!! A hack writer takes a job writing a travel piece on the northwest and Puget Sound, under false pretenses, and recounts his adventures here, his bitter sarcastic sense of humor at the ready.
In the midst of my own pacific agony, I enjoyed reading this book for its sardonic treatment of northwestern cities. But otherwise... not all that interesting.
I thought this sounded like the funniest, greatest premise, but it ended up being a bit of a slog.
At first I didn't like this book but stuck with it and got a kick out of it.
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Bruce Benderson is a novelist, essayist, journalist, and translator.
More about Bruce Benderson...
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“It was as if the region were just putting the finishing touches on its seamless, corporatized hegemony, complete with just enough of a gesture of sentimental respect for the nature around it; complete with fresh, new ways of keeping the body toned and healthy; a rhetoric of inclusiveness that kept all the classes in their place; and a final transformation of the land they'd stolen from its aborigines. But at the same time, ragged marginals, fueled by deep resentment--hand in hand with savage Nature--could be plotting, perhaps even unconsciously, its violent downfall. How much I wanted to be a part of their imagined doomsday scenario!” 3 likes
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