From an artsy Tacoma idea to a $22,700 Kickstarter project, the “South Sound User’s Guide” is now a flesh-and-blood book (well, paper-and-glue, anyhow) and local supporters are celebrating with launches at Kings Books tomorrow. An Olympia launch will happen Tuesday night at Orca books. The book offers an intimate, locals’-eye perspective to the South Sound, going through its various neighborhoods and locations with tips on eating, recreation, shopping and the arts, accompanied by the pen-and-ink Tolkien-esque illustrations of Tacoma artist and former gallerist Sean Alexander.
Why a tourist guide to the South Sound? Firstly, because there wasn’t one, said editor Ken Miller, the book’s mastermind, back when he was first asking the community for advance financial support on kickstarter.com, the online project fundraising site. It’s also due to the natural beauty of the place, says Ron Swarner in the book’s foreword.
But, he goes on, the real reason is that “there’s a pioneering spirit that draws us all here.” You can see that pioneering spirit in action tomorrow afternoon from 2 p.m. at King’s, as Miller, Alexander and all the local writers who contributed to the book get together with the folks who backed them. The book will be available for claiming (if you backed at that level on Kickstarter) or purchase. Drinks and nibbles will be provided.
As art, the Guide is cute enough you’ll want to buy it just to look at it. Alexander, who combines Escher-like clarity of line with a simple, nostalgic mood and tiny, ineffable shadow hatchings in a style reminiscent of Tolkien, sums up everything from the Narrows Bridge (with cars cycling crazily around the border) to Sumner, with a streetscape centered on an enormous pie. His people are a little Gumby-ish, but he makes up for it with beautifully symbolic borders and a mood that perfectly encapsulates the casual, slightly resigned calm of the Tacoma-Oly area.
Tip-wise, the Guide does well for the most part, describing local attractions like the Java Jive and the Governor’s Mansion with just enough detail and opinion to make it more than a Frommers’ wannabe. Writers include TNT/Olympian journalist Molly Gilmore, playwright Rosalind Bell, photographer Jesse Michener, novelist Tom Llewellyn and PR guru Courtnay Chamberlin, who give insightful personal and historic takes on the neighborhoods.
What’s missing? (Other than me, that is.) A table of contents with actual page numbers would be helpful, and coding eats, shops, arts and parks with symbols or just sections within each location would make this book much easier to reference for actual touring. Linking folks up to online resources for further information (e.g. local media, city arts sites and the like) would extend the book’s reach.
But hey, these are minor considerations when you think that now South Sounders and tourists alike have a book that covers our country – from the Key Peninsula to Mason County – highlighting what’s great about our area without any reference to that narcissistic colossus up north (you know what I mean.)
The book launch will be held at 2 p.m. Oct. 12 at King’s Books, 218 St Helen’s Ave., Tacoma, 253-272-8801, kingsbookstore.com. 7 p.m. Oct. 9, Orca Books, 509 4th Ave. E, Olympia. 360-352-0123, orcabooks.com More information: southsoundusersguide.blogspot.com