Clear Cut Future

edited by Matthew Stadler (Clear Cut Press) Release party December 2 Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison, 8 pm, $3

Q uality, contemporary literary anthologies are tough to come by. Bookstores and distributors don't want 'em, because for the most part, consumers rarely buy them. Most publishers, therefore, don't consider them worth the trouble. Innovative newcomer Clear Cut Press, however, is counting on subscription-based publishing and personalized distribution to avoid those universal obstacles.

"Rather than organizing efforts to push our books out and fill the system of commerce," reads Clear Cuts website, "we set up links throughout that system and respond to the interest of those who express it."

Subscribers receive a fat 528-page illustrated anthology, The Clear Cut Future, and seven additional titles of fiction, poetry and prose throughout the year. A year's subscription costs $65. That's about eight dollars per book, home delivered.

Beyond that, Clear Cut publisher Richard Jensen (ex-president of Sub Pop Records), and editor/Guggenheim fellow Matthew Stadler will apportion the remaining books to select commercial accounts across the country, personally.

Physically, Future feels a bit awkward at first, being unusually small sized yet over an inch thick. But the contents exude much insight and character, and offer appealing NW intellectual flavors, making it worth the risk of any potential carpal tunnel traumas.

For instance, Tiffany Lee Brown's subtly descriptive and satisfying fishing yarn, "They'll Make Great Bait," is right up our river. Brown casually rows through "Great Bait" with veridical ease.

Conceptually ambitious, Future is peppered with artistic essays as well as literary ones. Eight pages of Michael Brophy's "The Chinook Jargon" show selections of the Portland artist's miniaturized paintings, which represent an early NW "transcultural" trading language alphabet. There are photographic and foldout surprises, too.

With luck, the new breed of Pacific Northwest writers will be given their due, and publishers like Clear Cut Press will help prove to the rest of the world that we're as smart as we look, and more than just another pretty parka. JOHN DOOLEY