Review: “Dispatches from 1320”

Tom Hallman Jr., a senior reporter for the Oregonian, won a Pulitzer prize for his feature story “Sam: The Boy Behind the Mask” in 2001. The story follows a facially disfigured boy who chooses to have life-threatening surgery to improve his appearance.

In Hallman’s new collection of nonfiction profile stories, “Dispatches from 1320,” he aims to give a voice to everyday people in Portland and illustrate the city in a never before seen perspective. It was originally published on November 17, 2015.

The body of text includes 52 profile narratives written by the author during his career at the Oregonian.

In “‘Dispatches from 1320,” Hallman states “the stories written in this collection were written in a newsroom that does not exist.” He is referring to the former Oregonian building that was located on 1320 S.W. Broadway st Portland, Oregon. This place holds significance to Hallman and this collection of stories.

“We moved to a building within walking distance of our old building. It was a nice place. We have new furniture, state-of-the-art technology, and stunning views of Mount Hood and the Willamette River. If you’ve worked in a newsroom, you know what I mean. And if you haven’t, well, you’ve missed something special.” Hallman said.

The author gives us a look into the old Oregonian newsroom with absolute brilliance.

“A high-ranking editor used a squirt gun on people passing by his desk,” said Hallman.

Hallman uses this anecdote to illustrate the playful vibe in the newsroom at the time. He reminisces on the newsroom feeling that seems nostalgic to him and exciting to others. These are all critical writing and storytelling elements that earned him the Pulitzer Prize.

The story called “Pioneer” in the book highlights the retirement of William A. Hilliard, a local journalist and the first African-American editor of the Oregonian. “Pioneer” showcases Tom Hallman Jr’s writing excellence to its core. If you read carefully, you can even notice a piece of flashy alliteration in his work.

Hallman shares with the reader a brief summary of his beginnings and how he achieved highly-ranked position at the Oregonian.

“When he was a child, Hilliard dreamed of being a journalist. It was a ridiculous goal because in the 1930s negroes were maids or waiters or redcaps. They cleaned toilets, carried luggage and cleared tables. That didn’t deter Hilliard. When he was 10, he started a neighborhood paper in Southeast Portland,” Hallman said.

Personally, the book was hard to put down because each story was rich with literary skill and effective writing. I would recommend this book to anybody that lives in or grew up in Portland, or anybody who likes to read a wholesome short story, for that matter. Hallman’s short stories in “Dispatches from 1320” provide the necessary substance to hold its ground as a 500 page novel. However, the body of text is kept in a short story format on account of its simplicity.

“Dispatches from 1320” is available online and on Amazon.

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