Mister Tooth Decay 

In this month's East Bay book news, skunk-scent is an aphrodisiac.

He inhaled: Turned on by skunk-scent, office-worker Damien snares a striped rodent and totes it home. There, as Damien "chased him about the yard, I held a hot plate of spaghetti or tofu stir-fry out in front of me, so that when he finally stopped to musk at me, he got at least a few drops of the fluid on the plate." Soon, Damien is swilling musk shots in Justin Courter's novel Skunk: A Love Story ($14.95), from Richmond fabulist-fiction outfit Omnidawn.

Word salad: Tales from the crypt. ... Cowbell doorbell. ... The word I want is Shampoo. ... A procedure by which they stick a metal device up one's prick. ... Fabulous flab. ... Animalism of the garbage trucks. So goes The Age of Huts (compleat) (UC Press, $19.95), by postmodern ex-Berkeleyite poet Ron Silliman, an NEA Fellow and Pew Fellow who powers on like this for page after indentless page. Press Here checks out what the intellectuals are up to so that you don't have to. Lyn Hejinian's cover blurb avows: "It would be impossible to overestimate the importance of Ron Silliman's Age of Huts." Did we mention that he was an executive director of the Socialist Review?

Spouse repair: After years of calling him a "dirty Jew" and mocking his penis size in front of their sons, Susan Polk murdered her husband and ex-therapist Felix Polk in Orinda in 2002 and was convicted in 2006. Catherine Crier's book about the case came out on February 20. Carol Pogash's captivating book about the case, published by the same company, came out a month later. Crier "attended voir dire and the verdict but missed the trial," Pogash tells Press Here. While researching Seduced by Madness (Morrow, $24.95), Pogash learned intriguing theories from those in the innermost circle. For instance, Felix Polk's best friend suggested that Felix loved Susan so much as to let her kill him — and "died from suicide by wife," as Pogash puts it.

Tripoli trip: North Korea is "beyond redemption." Iraq, Iran, and Libya are "mildly malevolent." Cuba is "slightly misguided," sez the EvilMeter(TM) that ex-Emeryviller and Lonely Planet kingpin Tony Wheeler employs in Bad Lands ($14.99), about his sojourns to terrorist-breedin', citizen-torturin' nations.

Magyar opus: Roma (St. Martin's, $25.95) is Steven Saylor's second novel about an ancient-Roman sleuth, Gordianus the Finder. Although it reached the New York Times extended best-seller list, "the real surprise came with my June book tour to Budapest, of all places," Saylor tells Press Here. "Apparently my books are more popular in Hungary than anywhere else. Who knew?" At an outdoor book fest, the Berkeley author signed copies continuously for over two hours: "Roma is up to #3 on the Hungarian best-seller lists." What's the deal? Maybe it's the nearness of Hungary's Roman ruins, "where Hadrian famously hung out," and where Saylor has been "doing TV, radio, Web, and print interviews."

Battle stations: Boasting a three-hundred-plus IQ, evil superpowered Doctor Impossible is "technically ... a sovereign power." And metal-skeletoned cyborg Fatale is a "gleaming technological marvel" constructed from 57 percent of a female accident victim who was dragged under a truck in São Paulo. She's "going to be the next generation of warfare" in Soon I Will Be Invincible (Pantheon, $22.95), the debut novel of Berkeley game designer Austin Grossman, whose past credits include Deus Ex, Battle Realms, and Ultima Underworld II: Labyrinth of Worlds.

Conflagration station: New top-hats of a dry resurrection, thorn-born ... They rose from graves ... syringe derrick ... hoof beats of a gunpowder séance tomb-lit. ... Detritis [sic], crub-nurtured babble rebuilding the Tower: Bardic ethnobotanist Dale Pendell, whose Pharmako trilogy mixed myth, magic, morphine, and more, addresses Burning Man in Inspired Madness ($15.95), from Berkeley's Frog Ltd. A stroke rendered its illustrator, Just Freeman Pope, paralyzed and mute in the 1980s; he recovered partial use of his left side, completed these drawings, then died.

Assault and Dr. Pepper: A woman reads an article about a three-hundred-pound learning-disabled man in a homemade Batman costume being beaten with pop bottles by two fourteen-year-old boys and a thirteen-year-old girl who shout "Fatman not Batman!" in Memories from a Sinking Ship (Seven Stories, $21.95), a new novel by prolific Berkeleyite Barry Gifford.

Winging it: Lo, the ox-eyed satyr, funereal duskywing, and Mormon metalmark. Arthur Shapiro's Field Guide to Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento Valley Regions (UC Press, $18.95) is this season's lepidoptera fave. Species, habitats: It's all here. And Shapiro answers that question we've all asked: "The male genitalia of insects are typically heavily sclerotized; in other words, they are impregnated with the protein sclerotin, which makes them hard and rigid ... with all sorts of bumps, hooks, spines, and such."

Sects and violins: A female foundling learns to "send a cascade of notes heavenward from my violin — or, for that matter, from the cembalo, cello, viola d'amore, the lute, the theorbo, and the mandolin" as the Red Priest coughs and composes in Vivaldi's Virgins (Harper Collins, $24.95): Visit Baroque Venice with Berkeley novelist Barbara Quick, as "the secret trove of possibilities held by the night" reveals, among other wonders, "the child of a priest and a Jewess, and a sodomite besides!" Quick will be at Cody's on July 10.


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