Just when you thought it was safe to light up ... One of several premises raided during a sudden anti-cannabis crackdown on both sides of the bay earlier this month was the Oakland home of Ed Rosenthal, head of the Quick American Archives company and author of its Ask Ed: Marijuana Law ($14.95) and Easy Marijuana Gardening ($14.95). An outspoken activist, Rosenthal was arrested February 12, based on the DEA's suspicion that he was operating a cannabis club out of his house, and charged with the cultivation of more than a hundred marijuana plants.
The early-morning raid was a surprise, says the author and publisher, who was released soon after his arrest on $200,000 bail and now awaits a March 4 arraignment. The agents removed Rosenthal's hundred-plus plants, "but they didn't take a single thing" from the Quick American Archives office, which is located on the same property.
"They couldn't have chosen a more clear-cut case," concedes Rosenthal, who discusses pot laws on his KPFA-FM talk show the last Wednesday of every month.
Christopher Rice's parents never dreamed he'd become a novelist. Instead, Anne Rice and poet Stan Rice thought their Berkeley-born son was headed for Hollywood because "in high school I was Mister Theater, the star of everything," says the twentysomething author of The Snow Garden (Talk Miramax, $24.95). But a few weeks into his first term at Brown University, Rice didn't get a part he wanted. After the initial audition, he recalls woefully, "I didn't even get called back." So he decided to come up with a new artistic pursuit "that doesn't require a callback." The result was his first thriller, A Density of Souls, which found many gay teens among a grateful fan base. In The Snow Garden, Rice's new novel, first-year students at a college resembling Brown confront the death -- accidental or not? -- of the wife of a prof who's been boning one of their own, a blue-eyed boy from the dorms.
"Anne Rice fans expecting something gothic or supernatural" will be disappointed, says her son, whose own year at college provided the spark for a thriller if not the actual events. "All around me, freshmen were racing to find new identities, to change who they'd always been," recalls Rice, who was intrigued by "the abuses of that ability." Now living in West Hollywood, where he's the fiction editor of the gay-lifestyle magazine Genre, Rice will read from his new novel at A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books in San Francisco on March 7.
In Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer (Little, Brown, $14.95) and other graphic novels, Ben Katchor's noirish, poetic, and just-this-side-of-surreal cartoons capture a black-and-white megalopolis where old men mutter in Yiddish and marvel at things like canned grapes. (Despite how it sounds, knipl is Yiddish for "nest egg.") The Obie Award-winning Katchor will be on hand to open a new exhibition of his work set to run March 21-June 30 at 121 Steuart St. in San Francisco, a new venue for Berkeley's Magnes Museum. An illustrated lecture by the artist on, of all things, the design and culture of museum cafeterias is part of the celebration; for details, visit www.magnesmuseum.org.
Lying awake all night is the sort of agony you have to have been through to really understand, as Bill Hayes points out in a memoir that deftly blends nightmare with belly laugh and ecstasy with REM sleep. A national bestseller now out in paperback, Sleep Demons (Washington Square Press, $15) incorporates so much history, science, and mythology into Hayes' life story that it might just mean the dawn of a whole new genre.
"As far back as I can remember, I've been in search of a good night's sleep," says Hayes, a former UC Berkeley Art Museum staffer who now lives in San Francisco. "Lack of sleep has become a fascination with sleep," which is hardly indistinguishable from "an obsession with sleep, something you just think about all the time."
A Coke bottler's son, he fell in love with caffeine early and hard. His book weaves the stories of noted sleep researchers and the delicate biologies of infant slumber and sleep-inducing pharmacopeia into Hayes' own suburban-lawn stories of growing up, coming out, and beyond.
"I knew I'd have to write about intensely personal issues," says the author, who will be at Black Oak Books on March 6, "because what has kept me awake over the years" includes his difficult role as the only boy in a large family, then his emerging sexuality, and later "worrying about my partner, who was so sick with AIDS." That partner, in better health today, is an excellent sleeper.
"I have this theory that insomniacs never pair up with other insomniacs," sighs Hayes. "Opposites attract. It's just part of our torture."
Bringing back into print another California artist who refused to be crushed by his confinement in a WWII internment camp, Berkeley's Heyday Books has just released Living in Color: The Art of Hideo Date ($24), in conjunction with the Japanese American National Museum. Edited by Karin Higa, it traces Date's daring synthesis of traditional Japanese art and American painting.
Don't got milk? Lactose intolerance is no joke, as anyone who doesn't agree with dairy foods will tell you. Denise Jardine loved them and never dreamed that they lay behind the "downward spiral" of "bloating, constipation, and intestinal bleeding" that led to a baker's dozen misdiagnoses. Her Recipes for Dairy-Free Living, fresh from Berkeley's Ten Speed Press ($18.95), soothes and seduces with butterless gravy, cheeseless manicotti, and milkless bisque -- not to mention creamless sour cream, ice cream, and cream sauce. While "finding substitutes for milk is getting easier all the time," the author notes, figuring out what to do with them takes a bit of finesse.
Berkeley's booksellers don't just sell books. This month marks the arrival of Berkeley's Green and Pleasant Land (Regent, $12.95), a haunting short-story anthology by Renee Blitz, widow of the late, lamented Moe Moskowitz. Shedding a very personal light on those hallowed '60s, it lays bare the mindgames and sexual chicanery that left such jagged scars. Also brand-new from those quarters is The Chandler Apartments (Creative Arts, $13.95), a cheeky mystery by longtime Moe's staffer Owen Hill, who will read from the book at San Francisco's main library on April 9. Roaming the familiar scenery of Berkeley's Southside, Hill's used-book buyer and sleuth sports a self-deprecating wit that cuts like a scalpel. It's a funny scalpel, though, such as when an old flame shows up looking slimmer and "astonishingly beautiful."
"What is a man supposed to say when a woman loses weight?" Hill's Clay Blackburn wonders. "Or, to put a finer point on it, what is a man in Berkeley supposed to say?"
Like lots of sleuths, Blackburn likes wine and women. But not exclusively.
"Maybe there are other bisexual detectives out there somewhere," Hill notes, "but I've never found one." As for his new book: "I'm very proud of the blow job scene."
Do you feel eccentric? Berkeley's How Berkeley Can You Be? festival figures in Jan Friedman's new Eccentric America (Globe Pequot, $18.95), an illustrated guide to weird statues, egg-eating contests, houses built out of beer cans, and more. A 28-ounce hamburger awaits in Nebraska, while a Dr. Pepper Museum provides yet another reason to visit Waco, TX. Also in the Bay Area, the author recommends a visit to either of Good Vibrations' two locations. Now what's so eccentric about ... ?
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