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Jonathan Raban Reflects On Seattle Through The Decades

Jonathan Raban's book "Driving Home."

Writer Jonathan Raban came to Seattle from his native England in 1991. Microsoft and Starbucks were in their toddler years and Seattle’s music scene had just become an international sensation. What was once a workingman’s town was evolving, and Raban was here to chronicle that change. "Driving Home," a collection of Raban’s essays written over 20 years, is out now in paperback. He talks with Marcie Sillman about the Seattle he first met.

How Seattle Has Changed Since He Arrived In 1990
There was a feeling that Seattle was a town closely in touch with its past, and I feel that has gone. And it’s been interesting to watch it disappear. I’ve already, just in those 23 years, seen a very considerable chunk of Seattle’s entire history. And that’s quite frightening.

Seattle Looming Large In The West
I kept on testing actually, even after I’d written "Driving Home," how far east do you have to go to lose Seattle as the capital? It fascinated me that I’d actually got across the North Dakota border, and I was still saying, “What team do you support?” And it was the Mariners. Even at a ranch in North Dakota, I found that people in the West seem rarely to look back east. They always kind of look forward to the next city to the west.

Reading The First-Person Essay
I think we all to some extent become the person who is the author. I find myself rather enviously fancying myself to be Gore Vidal when I read Gore Vidal, or fancying myself to be Joan Didion when I read Joan Didion. I think that capacity to enter into the first person, which enables every reader to be the writer, I think it’s hugely important. And it’s one of the most liberal and democratic things about the essay.

Interview edited for clarity.