Fugitives and Refugees: A Walk in Portland, Oregon by Chuck Palahniuk (Crown), Readings at Annie Blooms, 7834 SW Capitol Hwy, Thursday 7:30 pm; Powell’s Downtown, 1005 W. Burnside, Friday 7:30 pm
OK. I like--maybe even love--living in Portland. But I'll admit the sorry truth, too: right now, Portland ain't the best place to be. What with all the socioeconomic problems, it's easy to settle into a sharp cynicism about the city.

If there's one upside to that truth, though, it's the damn good timing of Chuck Palahniuk's latest, Fugitives and Refugees--a happy Portland-centric bastardization of a tourist guide, history text, and autobiography.

Fugitives consists of "sort-of snapshots of Portland," focusing on known and unknown landmarks and the people behind them. With interspersed recollections of Palahniuk's Portland adventures, it makes good on the author's promise for a collection of "stories you won't find in any official Portland history book."

Not that all of it's riveting. Palahniuk wastes space by printing local restaurants' fancy-pants recipes, and drags out boring sections on train yards and industrial antiques. But maybe the reason those parts seem so pedestrian is because of how cool Palahniuk's other quests are. His inclusion of more mundane fare can't compete with his Psycho Safeway references, his descriptions of the Shanghai Tunnels, the drama of the eviction court at Pioneer Courthouse, or the crazy-assed pervy shit that goes on during Jefferson Theater's "Exotic Wednesday."

Fugitives feels like a guide to Portland, but one written by and for a Portland resident, which is good--with the clamoring multitude of problems currently plaguing our fine city, it's a relief to see Portland through another's eyes for 175 pages. The book is worth owning for the endpapers alone: they're printed with an annotated map of Portland, making it easy to track down places and events mentioned in the text. Don't be surprised to see people stumbling about downtown, book in hand, trying to find the put-in spot for subterranean rafting or the exact spot the author got the shit beat out of him for no good reason (the corner of SW Alder and Fifth). You can't go wrong by picking up a copy yourself, and joining them in the search for the minutia of Palahniuk's Portland. ERIK HENRIKSEN