I bought Willy’s book, “Motel Life” as a gift for Christy for her birthday in February. I had no idea what it was, and I don’t think she really did, either. She just told me it was set in Reno and she wanted it. So I got it.
I actually read it before her. It took me a while to get it going, but once I settled into it, I ripped through it pretty quickly. It was set in Reno and made the rounds, as it were, to just about every killer local establishment that means something to locals. At times I even thought it was a bit gratuitous to hit on all those places, as if Vlautin sent characters to places just because he hadn’t mentioned them yet. My point isn’t to criticize him for that, though.
As he talked about his latest novel, “Northline,” I realized that he just wants to be connected to Reno. He has family and friends here, and he spent a lot of his youth here. And as he put it, Reno is just one of his favorite places to write about. I’d have to say that feeling is in the same vein as the Esquire article about Reno, or the Modest Mouse video that was shot here using some local talent. They’re not the most complimentary depictions of our great town, but they convey a sentiment that shows a true sense of what Reno is and what Reno means to people. There’s nothing about any of those things that is homogenized. You can’t come to Reno, or live in Reno, and not experience something unique. Homogenization is something that affects way too many of the similar-sized—or much larger—cities across the country.
Willy Vlautin has captured the Reno vibe brilliantly. It was a treat to see him talk about he town, hear him read more about the experiences he’s presenting about Nevada, and to be able to ask him about how much time he spends here these days. He admitted that it’s not much, but his statement about this being one of his favorite spots spoke volumes to me. Life gets in the way of doing your favorite things, for sure, but Willy Vlautin has been able to commit to books what he considers his favorite things, and Reno is one of them. And he did that one pretty well.