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Viet Thanh Nguyen | Back Country Book Club | L.A. Salami | RACC


Maybe it’s the Memorial Day weekend vibe. Maybe it’s something in the water. But everyone we talked to this week arrived ready for deeper dives, long reads and in-depth conversation — the kind of thoughts that don’t lend themselves to workday hustle. A Pulitzer Prize winner talks about walking in his mom and dad’s shoes. A London-based singer-songwriter slows down to look life with a Dylan-esque clarity. And three people with three extraordinary lives offer reading recommendations for those uninterrupted, stretches of time between the covers.


RACC is an independent agency with a budget just under ten million dollars ($10 million) — the lion’s share of it coming from the city.

RACC is an independent agency with a budget just under ten million dollars ($10 million) — the lion’s share of it coming from the city.

April Baer/OPB

Regional Arts and Culture Council — 1:15

An audit of metro Portland’s arts agency says time to get focused. The new audit of the Regional Arts and Culture Council, the agency that handles public funding for arts across the Portland metro area, finds it’s doing a lot but not necessarily doing the things outlined in its contract with the city.

RACC’s contract with the city expires at the end of June. It seems likely the contract will be extended until a new executive director is in place. The search committee hopes to hold meetings in June to talk about creating a new pool of candidates.


L.A. Salami during soundcheck at Mississippi Studios 3-20-18

L.A. Salami during soundcheck at Mississippi Studios 3-20-18

opbmusic/David Christensen

L.A. Salami — 6:52

In hard times, many of us reach for old favorite songs to take the edge off. But sometimes a new favorite can do the job just as well. London songwriter Lookman Adekunle Salami, aka L.A. Salami, talked with opbmusic’s Robin Bacior during an acoustic session at SXSW about how political and social currents show up in his writing.


Back Country Book Club — 13:46

It’s almost summer, which means people are prepping their summer reading lists. So what are you going to read this year? Hemingway? Christie? Or maybe something more modern, like “Ready Player One”?

We sat down with three avid readers who all gave us a taste of what they will be reading this summer.

Don Evans works Stephenson Mountain Lookout for five months out of the year and has over 500 books.

Don Evans works Stephenson Mountain Lookout for five months out of the year and has over 500 books.

April Baer/OPB

Don Evans

Don Evans works at the Stephenson Mountain Lookout, a job he’s had since the 1970’s.  For five months out of the year, Evans lives by himself, in the middle of a forest outside of Prineville, looking for fires. He has no internet and very little contact with the outside world. But what he does have is lots and lots of books. We’d need an entire Tumblr blog to show all the books we talked about but here are just a few of his recommendations:

“The Annotated Alice,” Martin Gardner

“This Side of Paradise,” F. Scott Fitzgerald

“As I Lay Dying,” William Faulkner

Forrest Van Tuyl

Forrest Van Tuyl

April Baer/OPB

Forrest Van Tuyl

When Forrest Van Tuyl isn’t busy taking people on horses and mules into the back country of the Hells Canyon wilderness or playing music, he’s busy reading. Would it surprise you to know he’s into Cormac McCarthy? An 8-mile trek, and for Van Tuyl, is an excellent time to meditate on the wilderness, McCarthy’s merciless clarity. Here are some of Forrest’s recommendations:

“The Crossing,” Cormac McCarthy

“All the Pretty Horses,” Cormac McCarthy

“True Horsemanship Through Feel,” Bill Dorrance

Lara Messersmith-Glavin

Lara Messersmith-Glavin

Courtesy  Lara Messersmith-Glavin 

Lara Messersmith-Glavin

Oregon’s wild places are not all found on land. Lara Messersmith-Glavin grew up partly on fishing boats, spending the summers near Kodiak Island, Alaska. Today, she teaches writing at Portland Community College, helping a new generation of readers wake up to literature. Here are a few of the books we discussed with her:

“Who Fears Death,” Nnedi Okorafor

“Ready Player One,” Ernest Cline

“A Moment in the Sun,” John Sayles


Author Viet Thanh Nguyen

Author Viet Thanh Nguyen

 Courtesy BeBe Jacobs

A Double Life with Viet Thanh Nguyen — 40:28

Author Viet Thanh Nguyen’s novel “The Sympathizer” won a Pulitzer in 2016. One line from the book’s narrator reads, “The best kind of truth is the one that meant at least two things.”

It’s a good description for his work. His prose can tickle you with one hand and punch with the other. He also tells us that colorblindness “is the willful inability to distinguish between white and any other color. He continues to point out, it’s the only infirmity Americans wish for themselves.

Nguyen was in Portland this month for a lecture at Literary Arts, and spoke with Dave Miller on “Think Out Loud.

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