Issue #53: Portland/Brooklyn

Rob Spillman

When we started Tin House fourteen years ago, we had the crazy notion to be bicoastal. Not in Manhattan and LA, as everyone then assumed, but in Portland and Brooklyn. We wanted to tap into the long-standing vitality of both cultural centers. Alive and vibrant with independent artists, writers, and musicians, they were also at the forefront of thinking about what it means to be a sustainable modern city. Nearly fifteen years later, to our delight and dismay, both places have become cliché cool.

With this issue, we wanted to step back, cut through the hype and the ridicule, and give our readers a sampling of what attracted us to these places in the first place, and what continues to excite us. There is no one Portland, no one Brooklyn, and we don’t intend for this to be the definitive record of their writing, art, and music. Beyond their thriving art scenes, the cities share concerns over gentrification and hipsterism, both of which Evan Hughes examines here, helping us understand the impulse to urbanity and hipster self- hatred. The fiction and poetry are from emerging writers—like Ben Lerner and Vanessa Veselka—as well as established ones—like Ursula K. Le Guin and Hannah Tinti. Jon Raymond delves into Occupy Portland and Charles D’Ambrosio essays a time in his life when he felt exiled in Brooklyn. Karen Karbo takes you back to a pre-foodie Portland and Salma Abdelnour explores the century-old Arabic food culture of Brooklyn.

Our aim is not to memorialize and make a museum, but to stop time briefly and show you the ever-evolving dynamism of Portland and Brooklyn. Who knows what each place will ultimately morph into, but for now, pedal your single-speed over to the coffee shop that roasts its own beans or grab a beer brewed down the block— whatever you decide to do, enjoy it guilt-free while reading this issue.