Entertainment & the Arts: Friday, August 01, 2003

 

‘The Wave’ captures Seattle’s years on the cutting edge

By Mark Lindquist
Special to The Seattle Times

In the 1970s and 1980s, many young people with an adventurous or alternative bent left Seattle for New York and Los Angeles. In the 1990s, most everyone came back, and they were followed by the hordes.

Seattle somehow became Scenester Central for musicians, writers, Web geeks, restless souls and the coterie that surrounds them all. Caren Gussoff was apparently one of these people. Born in New York, she lived here during the go-go years, and after a number of moves, settled here permanently three years ago.

Several of the stories in “The Wave and Other Stories” (Serpent’s Tail, $14) are set locally. In the title piece, a novella, two young women from the New York club scene have relocated to Seattle unbeknownst to each other. Olive, who teaches writing on Capitol Hill — as Gussoff did — is obsessed with Allison, who was popular in the New York scene and sang in a band called Betty Rage.

“I knew Allison, I followed her, but I am not a stalker. Many people know Allison, and followed her news. She’s a bit famous, her friends a bit famous, to people like me, the many people like me. The ones no one writes about.”

Their paths eventually cross in Seattle and they connect, “bound together in the sorority of poor childhoods.” Many of us know these damaged women well. Gussoff certainly does. Allison is drawn with dark strokes of doom. One of her blog entries states, “I’m not dead. Love Allison,” so you can guess where this is going. Her story does not have many surprises, but it does have many spasms of truth, and it is smartly and sharply told.

The other stories in this collection share, for the most part, an affection for lonely fringe characters and our steel-gray city.

The standouts include “Bruce Lee,” in which two young women visit the kung-fu star’s local grave site and commiserate about loss, and “Love Story,” which is hilarious. If you’re single and frustrated with dating, “Love Story” alone is worth the price of this paperback original.

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Mark Lindquist