Mark Arax’s new book sees California through the Arax lens…

The Fresno Bee Editorial Opinion Blog
February 25, 2009 Wednesday 9:20 PM EST

Mark Arax’s new book sees California through the Arax lens his
subjects have come to love and fear

by Jim Boren
Feb. 25, 2009

I just learned that Fresno writer Mark Arax’s latest book will be out
in mid April, and that should be another treat for the followers of
his writings. The title is "West of the West." The subtitle,
"Dreamers, Believers, Builders and Killers in the Golden State," seems
to sum up nicely the subjects in his crosshairs.

Publishers Weekly has an excellent review of the new book, saying
Arax’s series of essays move "past mere reportage to a high literary
enterprise that beautifully integrates the private and idiosyncratic
with the sweep of great historical forces." Now they’re selling me on
this book.

Arax, the former reporter for the Los Angeles Times, understands this
Valley and state as well as any journalist I know. Fresno is his
hometown, and he sees our community in ways that make you question the
validity of your deeply held convictions about Fresno. You may come to
a different conclusion, but you’d be naive not to factor Arax’s take
into your thinking.

His previous books include "In My Father’s Name," and "The King of
California: J.G. Boswell and the Making of a Secret American Empire,"
which Arax co-authored with Rick Wartzman. The latest book is
published by PublicAffairs, which is a member of the Perseus Books
Group. It will sell for $26.95.

Click herefor the complete review from Publishers Weekly. Here’s
another tidbit from that review: "Expect the unexpected from Arax’s
reports up and down the state: on the last of the okies, the latest
migrants from Mexico, the treesitters of Berkeley, Bay Area conspiracy
theorists, an Armenian chicken giant’s infamous fall or the mammoth
marijuana economy of Humboldt County, among much else."

And we can’t leave this subject without repeating something else from
the Publishers Weekly review. It says the Arax essays "take the
measure of contemporary California with a sure and supple hand,
consciously but deservedly taking its place alongside Didion’s and
Saroyan’s great social portraits."

Wow. Put that on the book jacket and watch the cash registers start
ringing at Barnes & Noble. (NYSE:BKS) I’m there.

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