Peter Manso — the Berkeley-based author of Brando: The Biography; Mailer: His Life and Times; Faster! A Racer's Diary; and Ptown: Art, Sex, and Money on the Outer Cape — was away from his other home in Truro, Massachusetts, last December when cops responding to a burglar alarm entered it and found guns. Among these was a Colt AR-15, classified as an assault weapon with a large-capacity magazine. Reached by phone, Manso helpfully told police where to find his weapons and ammunition around the unoccupied house. Today, Manso faces a dozen weapons charges and as many as ten years in prison — he's now 67 — chiefly because his Firearms Identification Card had expired. According to the Cape Cod Times and other news venues, Manso says he was unaware of the expiration, as the number of years between necessary renewals has changed recently. According to the San Francisco Examiner, Manso's lawyer calls the cops' December entry into the house an illegal search — and he wonders whether he's being targeted for harsh treatment because of his work on another book about the 2002 murder of fashion reporter Christa Worthington. Manso, who knew the victim, allegedly suspects that racism played a role in the conviction of an African-American garbage collector for the crime.
In her poetry collection How to (Un)cage a Girl, Francesca Lia Block includes a poem about how, as an anorexic UC Berkeley undergrad, she yearned to run away and live in People's Park, wanting "to join them/leave the plates of greasy food/that congealed their fats.../leave the cruelly beautiful blond boys and girls/in their polo shirts and top-siders/...it would be better to sleep in mud/eat roots and flowers/discarded crusts." Yeah, but she went back to LA and became one of the world's most-worshipped young-adult novelists instead.
Too Much Too Young
A notable composer by age three, a concert pianist by age eight, married ten times, bosom buddies with Bela Lugosi, musical prodigy Ervin Nyiregyhazi made such bad choices that for decades he lived in poverty and slept in subways. Lost Genius is his biography, new from UC Berkeley grad Kevin Bazzana.
Suck It Up
To keep from dehydrating, the Greater Roadrunner secretes salt from a gland in its bill. Find zillions more such facts in Bruce M. Pavlik's The California Deserts: An Ecological Rediscovery, new from UC Press.
Blue Man Group
The Hindu god Shiva is blue. The sea and sky look blue, so "blue is our mother." Hildegard of Bingen had a vision of a blue-clad man. So find your inner Blue Man, who "represents our expanding consciousness," urges Oakland ex-Dominican priest turned Creation Spirituality spearhead Matthew Fox in his 24th book, The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine. (An earlier Fox book was Whee! We, Wee All the Way Home.) "Are we up to it? Are we embodying the Blue Man in each of us?" Well, are ya, punk?
Them Thar Hills
As legend has it, an unlicensed foot doctor and his wife found Spanish armor, swords, 27 skeletons, and 16,000 gold bars inside a New Mexico mountain in 1937. Eventually, the great Victorio Peak treasure hunt would involve the US Air Force, the Department of Defense, Jehovah's Witnesses, Kaposi's Sarcoma, the Nixon administration — and Berkeley's David Schweidel, who with his pal Robert Boswell traced it to its arguable end. Catch gold fever from their smart page-turner, What Men Call Treasure.
Got a Light?
Make a little cardboard boat. Use plastic-straw bits and seven joints to make masts, rolled sails, and bowsprit. Pierce stern with straw. Light joints. Apply lips to stern-straw. Inhale. It's one of many projects (a joint space station, joint jumbojet, etc.) in Chris Stone's Spliffigami: Roll the 35 Greatest Joints of All Time, new from Berkeley's Ten Speed Press.
The Other Iron Curtain
Jack Kerouac struggled for six years to get On the Road published. His biography of the Buddha, written circa 1954, never got published — until now, by Viking, along with a fiftieth-anniversary reissue of his novel, The Dharma Bums, whose sex-in-public scene occurs in Berkeley and whose thrift-shopping scene occurs in Oakland. With an introduction by Uma's dad (the renowned Buddhism scholar) Robert Thurman, Wake Up: A Life of the Buddha is sober, ecstatic Kerouac: "The diamond mace of inconstancy can overturn the mountain of the moon, but only the diamond curtain of Tathagata, the iron curtain of the mind, can overwhelm inconstancy!"
To shun an unwanted lover, stick pins in a blue candle that has lain in your cat's basket overnight. Spit out a mouthful of beans and drop them onto your cat to forestall a lawsuit. Pour water from your cat's dish over ice, sprinkle it with camphor oil, then "converse with your cat, telling him precisely what debt you would like him to help you clear." Might work! Professional clairvoyant Gillian Kemp's The Good Cat Spell Book is new from Berkeley's Crossing Press.
Thelonious Monk gazes sidelong under the brim of a white felt hat. Dizzy Gillespie blows his trumpet, cheeks fully inflated. Nina Simone looks silvered in the stagelights. In Jazz Idiom: Blueprints, Stills and Frames, new from Berkeley's Heyday Books, photographer Charles L. Robinson's candid photos of the greats make you feel as if you're listening, not looking. Poems by Robinson's pal (and California Poet Laureate) Al Young keep the beat.
Artists don't just sit around applying for grants. They battle dictators, criminal gangs, and world hunger with poetry, plays, dances, and paintings. Well, some do. Meet them in William Cleveland's Art and Upheaval: Artists on the World's Frontlines, new from Oakland's New Village Press.
Matthew "Lunar Man" Boulton erected his own private mint, the world's biggest, in 1788 and began churning out coins; other private mints around England followed suit. New from Oakland's Independent Institute is Good Money: Birmingham Button Makers, the Royal Mint, and the Beginning of Modern Coinage, 1775-1821. West Virginia University Professor of Free Market Thought George Selgin urges readers to examine the "advantages, as well as the true shortcomings, of less top-heavy alternatives" to "existing government-controlled monetary systems."
Expat Behind Bars
Arriving at an Indian leper colony in 1904, Samuel Stokes changed his name to Satyanand, then was the only American jailed for aiding India's independence struggle. Learn how his apple-tree planting changed the economy of the Western Himalayas forever in An American in Gandhi's India, by his granddaughter, UC Berkeley research associate Asha Sharma.
Don't Point That Thing at Me
A woman threatens her daughter's boyfriend with the knife "she uses to cut cow brains for tacos," a character explains in Lee Doyle's novel about growing up in Salinas, The Love We All Wait For, new from Walnut Creek's Komenar Publishing.
Tehran and On
"How it burns,/Dagger gouging, .../An impatient child escapes the uterine strait," reads "Labor," one of 200-plus poems in the resplendent Belonging: New Poetry by Iranians Around the World, edited and translated by Niloufar Talebi and new from Berkeley's North Atlantic Books.
It Takes Two
She had an affair, her partner left her, so Camille Cusumano went to Argentina to dance the tango. "Off the floor I am an average-pretty woman," she writes in Tango: An Argentine Love Story, new from Emeryville's Seal Press. "On the floor, I am a goddess. Soy la diosa de esta jodida galaxia." And she gets into Zen.
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