The people who make Portlandia the show made a book. It is called Portlandia: A Visitor's Guide, and Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein are promoting it tonight at the Bagdad. The book is not good, but I read it so you don't have to. You're welcome.
Books like this tend to be cash-ins for the property with which they are associated. As much as much as I love Stephen Colbert, for instance, it’s hard to pretend that his latest book is anything other than an easy payday for Comedy Central. Portlandia’s book has only a dim percentage of the show’s thin humor. Even if you like the show (for some reason) very little of what IFC cutely splatters onto television has made it onto the page.
A sputtering, spittle-flecked display of hatred and bile, after the jump.
The book is divided into a series of guides about Portland’s five quadrants (except for North Portland- that chapter was “omitted to save a tree”) and outlines sundry hilarious aspects of Portland like, um, lots of dog parks. Look at all those fucking dog parks! Dog parks are funny, right? Yeah. Sure. Hey, look at all those food carts! Portland has carts with food in them! Are you not amused? Are you not charmed? Are you not overtaken with chuckles at their supremely witty observation?
Here, let's try Portlandia's brand of humor with some other cities. Like, I don't know, L.A. They sure drive, a lot don't they! And they have lots of taco trucks! Yup. L.A., amirite? Driving and tacos. Chicago sure is windy! Oh, New York. They sure do like pizza. Humor, everyone! Peabody, please.
Portlandia (be it in show or book form) has neither heart nor edge, and is effective neither as a love letter to Portland, nor a scathing rebuke of it. Their cash-in guidebook is a diminished version of something that lacked both heart and bite to begin with. Portlandia: A Visitor’s Guide is soulless, boring, and ultimately one should feel a mild despair at its very being. It is a waste of paper, ink, and carbon atoms. There is no conceivable reason why you should exchange American dollars for Armisen and Brownstein’s vague attempt at literature. For the $16.99 that the publisher is demanding, you could purchase other things, like a round of alcoholic beverages, most of a lap dance, or a goodly-sized bag of cat food. All of those things contribute to more to the total happiness human civilization than this uninspiring brick of tree pulp.
But you probably suspected as much when you saw the damn thing at Powell’s.