Nationally acclaimed San Joaquin Valley author Mark Arax will read from his recently published book “The Dreamt Land” on Wednesday evening at The Vineyard Restaurant, 605 S. I St., in Madera.
Trained as an investigative journalist, Fresno native Arax reported from the Central Valley for many years for the Los Angeles Times, where his pieces on agriculture and urban development issues were recognized for their in-depth quality.
Arax’s drive to uncover truth springs from his father’s unsolved murder in 1972, when Mark was just a teenager. His first book, “In My Father’s Name,” is a memoir of that personal loss, and its connections to Fresno’s heartland culture, including its seamier side. His best-selling “The King of California,” exploring the story of J.G. Boswell’s San Joaquin Valley cotton empire, won a California Book Award and the William Saroyan Prize from Stanford University, and was named a top book of 2004 by the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle.
“The Dreamt Land” (Knopf, May 2019) emerged from the author’s frustration with the kind of reporting produced by the hordes of journalists who parachuted into our Valley from around the globe to cover its recent five-year drought. People who spent a few days or a week here could not grasp the depth or complexity of the history that delivered California into its present water circumstances.
Arax’s “The Dreamt Land” hauls you along on the author’s own five-year odyssey up and down our state’s 800-mile length, while he weaves together engrossing stories of the modern men and women whose outsized ambitions drove them to “remedy God’s uneven design of California.” He is admiring but not uncritical of the Californians who redirected rivers, drilled ever-deeper wells and built towering dams, pushing the water supply past its natural limits.
A consummate storyteller, Araxs writes in prose that is spare, evocative of his mentor Saroyan, even verging on the poetic at times.
The author especially looks forward to engagement with Madera’s agricultural community on October 23. To that end, several local farmers and ranchers who have read “The Dreamt Land” will dialogue with Arax following his presentation.
Dusty Daulton of Daulton Ranch, Steve Schafer of Schafer Ranch and San Joaquin Wine Co., and John Lasgoity of John E. Lasgoity Farming and Livestock Enterprises will give of their time to make the topics of Arax’s book relevant to a local community facing the uncertainty of its water future.
Wednesday evening’s event will commence at 5 p.m., with a no-host mixer at The Vineyard Restaurant, followed by the reading and program at 6 p.m.
The program, open to the public without charge, is sponsored by Slow Food Madera and by The Vineyard Restaurant & Bar.