Here we are, almost midway through the summer. The state’s on fire along with much of the Western U.S., COVID cases are on the rise, and it turns out that surge protectors — like carbon-monoxide alarms — don’t last forever. I can’t blame you for wanting something cheery to read as you settle in for another week.
Not this week. Sorry. But I’ll try to find something for today’s list of suggested reading that’s a little lighthearted.
The Oregonian last week ran a hard-hitting story from Hillary Borrud about Gov. Kate Brown’s wherabouts during the hottest day of the brutal June heat wave that killed more than 100 state residents. Brown was attending an all-day strategic retreat at a Yamhill County winery. (The story is an online exclusive for Oregonian/Oregon Live subscribers.)
Speaking of Yamhill County, you might have missed an in-depth story from Leah Sottile in HIgh Country News about how a county battle over a proposed walking trail not only illuminates the growing urban-rural divide but has troubling links to far-right extremism.
And speaking of wineries, here’s a fresh story by Christopher Flavelle about how climate change is impacting the wine industry. Think sunscreen on grapes and disinfected toilet water for irrigation, for starters — but there’s a sense that such steps might not be sufficient.
There is good news locally for this Sunday: The Gazette-Times’ hard-working Troy Shinn has a story about how efforts to save the Fender’s blue butterfly, a Willamette Valley native once thought to be extinct, appear to be paying off. And if you missed Steve Gress’ recent story in the G-T about how my colleague Mike Corwin is closing in on 50 years umpiring baseball games, here’s the link.
Finally, here’s a fascinating New Yorker profile of the writer Ayad Akhtar which I call to your attention only because I’ve just finished Akhtar’s terrific 2020 book, “Homeland Elegies.” The book, which came out in paperback at the end of May, is a blistering, passionate blend of fiction and autobiography (the genre apparently is called “autofiction”) that has something urgent to say about what it’s like to be a Muslim in America. (For all the pain, the book ends with a full-throated embrace of America as the country in which Akhtar was born and calls home,) Akhtar also has pertinent and timely things to say about capitalism. The thread that runs through the book, however, is a clear-eyed but tender story about the relationship between a father and a son.
Akhtar arguably is better-known as a playwright (his Pulitzer Prize-winning “Disgraced” was staged a couple of seasons ago by the Majestic Readers Theatre Company), but “Homeland Elegies” is his second novel. In interviews, Akhtar has been coy about what parts of the book are fact and which are fiction — the main character in the novel is named Ayad Akhtar, and he’s a playwright — and parts of the book read like essays. But Akhtar (the author, not the character) has said he wanted the book to have the sizzle of the best reality TV, and he’s succeeded in that.
News broke a couple of weeks ago that Kumail Nanjiani (“The Big Sick”) is working to develop an eight-part limited series on FX based on the book. Akhtar is adapting his book and Oren Moverman, a longtime friend, will direct. But it’s hard to imagine how they’ll pull it off; I’ll be very curious to watch the results.