Either as an objective Portland tour guide or as a personal memoir about time spent there, Chuck Palahniuk's Fugitives And Refugees seems thematically confused and a bit underweight. Neither one thing nor another, nor a comfortable mix between the two, it heaps anecdotes, lists, and standard guidebook citations on top of each other, jumping in and out of the Fight Club author's point of view, tantalizing readers with hilarious stories only to veer back into chapters of factoids. Still, for those planning a trip to Portland–or willing to let themselves get talked into one based on a celebrity author's descriptions of colorful local characters, resale shops, and sex clubs–Fugitives And Refugees is certainly more interesting than the average edition of Frommer's or Zagat's. The latest in the "Crown Journeys" series, which features prominent writers discussing the towns they know or love best (The Hours author Michael Cunningham on Provincetown, Civil War historian James M. McPherson on Gettysburg, New Yorker columnist William Murray on Rome, and so forth), Fugitives And Refugees includes a map of downtown Portland, with citations for such tourist attractions as "Vacuum Cleaner Museum," "Miss Mona's Rack," and "The Silver Dildo" (not to mention "Chuck Worked Here" and "Chuck Got Beat Up Here"). Over the course of 175 pages, Palahniuk provides lists of people to meet and offbeat museums, gardens, and "quests" to try in Portland, sometimes in a chummy feature-journalism style and sometimes with bland objectivity. The latter is frequently disappointing, especially when Palahniuk is listing off haunted locations, along with the manifestations supposedly to be found therein. Did he actually visit any of these places, let alone see the shadowy woman in Hoodoo Antiques, or hear the screaming at St. John's Bridge? If so, he doesn't share his experiences. He saves those for between-chapter "postcard" interludes, in which he tells bizarre personal stories that show how much fun Fugitives And Refugees could have been as a memoir. From his experience shooting a music video in a supermarket meat locker in 1985 to his movie-palace New Year's Eve millennium party, Palahniuk's brief glimpses into his own life are far more compelling than his fawning ads for local restaurants, which come complete with recipes. Those sit particularly oddly alongside interviews with the likes of Reverend Chuck of the Our Lady Of Eternal Combustion Church. ("Get legally married in 10 minutes or less, or your money back!") According to Reverend Chuck, Portland has a "small-man complex," and it "makes up for its small size with its loud and obnoxious behavior." Palahniuk's portraits of local oddities seem to support that theory, but mostly from a detached and taming distance.