The Literary Map of the Olympic Peninsula misses a number of items

The Literary Map of the Olympic Peninsula misses a number of items

Map displays ‘crude, broken strangeness’ of Olympic Peninsula

Our piece of the planet has unleashed many a writer into the wide world of literature.

And now, Matthew Stadler, a Portland, Ore., novelist, has created the Literary Map of the Olympic Peninsula, a mostly dark, drug-infused vision that may well mystify readers.

This map was inserted into the The Stranger, a free weekly street newspaper in Seattle, in its March 28 Art & Performance section.

(The map, shown on this page, can also be found online at At this site you can download a larger version of the map.)

On this map, a blue-green-brown-black painting by Aaron Bagley, we have Stadler’s blurbs, including one in the Forks area about logger Leroy Smith’s Pioneers of the Olympic Peninsula, the story of a “land of disastrous weather and massive trees, dominated by men carrying iron stoves filled with flour up flooded creeks into the rain forest.”

This refers to John Huelsdonk, aka the Iron Man of the Hoh, a legendary West End figure who lived from 1867 to 1946.

In his bit about Pioneers, Stadler lets us have it.

The book portrays “the peninsula, in all its crude, broken strangeness,” he writes.

Over in Port Townsend, Stadler gives a nod to Raymond Carver.

The famed short-story writer and poet, a Port Angeles resident who died there in 1988, and Montana writer Jim Crumley shared “a huge mound of cocaine” in a cabin at the 1980 Centrum Writers’ Conference, Stadler says.

Frank Herbert of Dune fame is here, too, with Soul Catcher, his novel set on the Peninsula about a “crazy/activist Native American and the 13-year-old white boy he kidnaps,” according to Stadler.

Herbert was a Port Townsend resident. He died in 1986.

Lady of the Lake

Over in Olympic National Park, Mavis Amundson lurks with The Lady of the Lake, the true-crime tale of the Lake Crescent Lodge waitress murdered in 1937.

Her weighted body was tossed into the lake and then “floated up years later, turned to soap by the pressure and the alkalinity,” Stadler writes, adding: “The soap corpse is now at the Mütter Museum of Medical Oddities in Philadelphia; the full story is told” in Amundson’s book.

Murray Morgan’s novel The Viewless Winds and Richard Hugo’s chapbook Rain Five Days and I Love It are on the map, too, and in one bright spot, there’s Betty MacDonald’s The Egg and I, the huge best-seller about farmers Ma and Pa Kettle of Chimacum.

Nowhere to be seen are poet and nature writer Tim McNulty, whose books include In Blue Mountain Dusk and Olympic National Park: A Natural History, or Aaron Elkins, whose mysteries include the Peninsula-set The Dark Place — though both authors are alive and living just outside Sequim.

Tess Gallagher, Carver’s widow and a resident of Port Angeles who just released Midnight Lantern, an anthology of her poetry, is missing, too.

And Stephenie Meyer’s phenomenon known as the Twilight saga, set in Forks and LaPush?

That’s not visible either.

Bella, Edward and the beach werewolves of Twilight didn’t make it on because the series “doesn’t interest me so much,” Stadler said in an interview.

“Also, the tiny, tiny bit I’ve read seems to be ‘set on’ the Peninsula but not very revelatory of anything particular about the Peninsula.”

That could be because Meyer initially found the inspiration for her books via Google, not by actually visiting the West End.

She had been surfing the Internet for the rainiest place in the lower 48 states so that Edward, her story’s vampire heartthrob, wouldn’t have to hide from sunlight.

As for the other living literary figures left off the map, Stadler lamented that he didn’t have enough space.

He’s a fan of Gallagher, though.

He would like to have included her, as well as Ruby El Hult, whose memoir is An Olympic Mountain Enchantment.

Stadler himself lived in a cabin at Lake Dawn, above Port Angeles, in 1996 and ’97.

He spent his time there writing his novel Allan Stein, about a young teacher who goes to Paris to uncover the history of Gertrude Stein’s nephew.

Stadler’s time at Lake Dawn was, he recalls, about burning wood in a stove to keep warm and taking breaks to work out at the YMCA in Port Angeles.

He also recollects a trip, longer ago, to the West End way back in the ’70s:

“When I was 6, our car broke down in Forks.

“We spent three days in a motel there. I have never forgotten it.

“That plus my months near PA and many, many times traversing especially the north and the West End left me with an impression of a place that is so demanding and extreme in its physical scope and weather and daily challenges,” he added, “that anyone living there becomes a kind of extraordinary being, something difficult to fully understand if all you do is visit.”

Stadler acknowledges he’s a mere visitor.

Then he touts that three-word description mentioned above.

“I am impressed,” he said, “by the ‘crude, broken strangeness’ of the place.

“Good qualities, all of them.”

Outsiders like Stadler tend to view the Olympic Peninsula as a dark, drenched corner, added Alan Turner, who as co-owner of Port Book and News in downtown Port Angeles has met quite a few visiting writers and read their books about this far-out part of the world.

The authors on Stadler’s map wrote about a Peninsula that is not the same place many residents experience today, Turner said.

‘Old Olympic Peninsula’

Stadler’s map describes “the old Olympic Peninsula,” he said.

“The new Peninsula,” he added, is that of McNulty, Gallagher and Elaine Grinnell, the Jamestown S’Klallam elder and storyteller who holds audiences, at venues near and far, rapt with her tales of life on Sequim Bay.

“You want ‘crude, broken strangeness’?” Turner asked.

“Try negotiating traffic in Seattle.”

Then he looked out his front window at the sunny Friday afternoon and noted that the sun was shining brightly, in high contrast to reports of rain in Stranger territory.


Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5062, or at

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