Blue Moon Over Thurman Street is a photoessay book by writer Ursula K. LeGuin and photographer Roger Dorband. The subject of the book is Thurman Street, a road in Northwest Portland running from the Willamette River and Southern Pacific railroad tracks, up through residential and commercial districts, to the expensive West Hills. Because of its diversity, the street lends itself to interesting pictures and words.
LeGuin originally presented the idea to Dorband on the day of a blue moon in July 1985, and over the next several years, the two of them would photograph and write about events on Thurman Street. The book was finally released in 1993, through New Sage Press, a small publisher in Portland. The book seems to have had a rather limited run, unlike much of LeGuin's books.
As is the case in books like these, the photographer seemed to be aiming for "slice of life", and for the most part he succeeds. All of the photos are in black and white, which seems to fit some parts of Thurman Street, such as the industrial district, well, but doesn't always capture the vibrant beauty of some of the neighborhoods. The photographs, now around twenty years old, are also now somewhat of period pieces, capturing an era-late 80's Portland- that most people probably would have missed, as an era. I find it somewhat interesting because my own association with Northwest Portland goes back to the mid-90s, and so these pictures flirt right between familiarity and strangeness for me: a reaction that is probably fairly specific to myself.
As for the poetry and prose that LeGuin adds to the pictures, I have to admit that I find it somewhat off, despite the fact that most of LeGuin's works do hold my attention. All of what the reader believes about poetry, especially poetry that doesn't seem to rhyme or have structure, and is written in what seems to be sentence fragments, applies here. I can't figure out whether there is some great art put into this poetry, or whether it really is just a matter of half-finished thoughts passing as poetry. Also, for reasons that aren't made totally clear, some of the captions are not LeGuin's own poetry, but quotes from the Bhagavad-Gita, a work that I can't find directly related to the essence of Thurman Street.
I find this book an interesting book. However, since this book would fit my niche interest, being a book about a neighborhood I have a long standing interest in, by an author I like, it might not hold everyone's interest the way it does mine.