Between the Sheets 

This month's East Bay book news.

My boy lollipop: Her dad used to own the San Francisco '49ers; now she's married to a man whose semen (she swears) tastes like lemon meringue. What more could a gal want?

To be the author of a brand-new novel whose love scenes sear the fingertips turning its pages, that's what. And in God-Shaped Hole (Sourcebooks, $12), whose smart young protagonists meet via a personals ad, Tiffanie DeBartolo has it.

"I'm obsessed with sex," says the 1991 UC Berkeley grad. "My husband likes that." She has already begun another novel, "inspired by fifteen years of Catholic school," about a woman who is only attracted to men who remind her of Jesus. Those steamy scenes DeBartolo writes spring from "sitting down and thinking about it" -- for instance remembering certain antics involving a mango. "Most writers try to make those scenes too pretty." It was mentor and Pulitzer Prize finalist Tim O'Brien "who told me, 'You've gotta get in there and describe it.' "

A recent Denver Post review called God-Shaped Hole "vulgar." "I figured the reviewer hadn't had good sex," reasons the former philosophy major. "He definitely had something up his ass."_Bend over: Yoga has hit the celebrity circuit, and those who teach Downward-Facing Dog to the stars are now willing to help book-buying plebes contort. Sting wrote the foreword for Jivamukti Yoga (Ballantine, $16), a soberly philosophical manual from Sharon Gannon and David Life, who used to hang with ex-Berkeleyite Allen Ginsberg. A double-jointed little bird has told Press Here that a seven-figure advance led to Bay Area-bred Baron Baptiste's Journey Into Power (Fireside, $27), endorsed by Elisabeth Shue and Helen Hunt. And Yoga, the Poetry of the Body (St. Martin's, $21.95) features a running dialogue on body and mind between Piedmont's Rodney Yee -- whose instructional videos are among the most popular in the world, and whom Time magazine dubbed a "stud-muffin guru" -- and coauthor Nina Zolotow.

Yee winces at the g-word, but "as for an Asian-American man being called a stud muffin, okay, I'll take that." Can yoga put lead in your pencil? How could it not? It's "a practice that makes you more sensitive to your body, your breath, your dreams. It makes you grateful for who you are, and makes you ask yourself how you feel. If you have a better screwdriver, you'll put the screw in better," muses Yee, who has taught Donna Karan and Demi Moore but doesn't like to talk about that: "It just gets nauseating. Do you want to talk about yoga or who I teach?" Well ... both. As do the reporters nationwide who are now covering a lawsuit that accuses him of committing indiscretions with students.

Sexy beast: Arriving on Polk Street during its late-'70s heyday, Kevin Bentley still remembered clearly what his dad had said a few days previous as young Kevin left his Texas home: "Queer! Fairy! Faggot!" Now those famous last words launch Wild Animals I Have Known: Polk Street Diaries and After (Green Candy, $12.95). Anne Frank it's not. But Animals, leaping from sun-dappled spent wads to Berkeley's late, lamented, lesbian-owned Brick Hut cafe and back to the Stud bar, is a moving testament to a time and place. Its countless close encounters are all the more poignant for the pre-AIDS innocence of their all-out enthusiasm -- captured with a flair for the explicit that never bores.

"I've always loved reading published diaries," says Bentley, a longtime editor whose brushes with the famous make for interesting dish. (One phone call with Katharine Hepburn "was so surreal I might as well have been chatting with Rocky Squirrel.") Reexamining his own diaries, "I realized that they describe a lost world -- so many men who peopled this period aren't here to tell about it." He hopes his memoir will intrigue new arrivals who've come to the Bay Area for the same reason he and his friends did: "to become themselves."

Writing about sex means keeping it real: "That may mean noting the omnipresent pulsing vein and mushroom head, or it may mean describing only what was going on in my mind. There's a porn vocabulary you can't entirely avoid, but you can breathe real life into that with real characters, feelings, and settings." It's the next-best thing to being there.

What's long and hard and full of ... seamen: Also new from Bentley is a picture book, Sailor: Vintage Photos of a Masculine Icon (Council Oak, $24.95). Dating back through the last century and sure to tempt those who crave salt, the scores of swabs it depicts include a few East Bay boys.

Tie me down: And also new from Green Candy is Fetish Fashion ($21.95), Walnut Creek photographer Larry Utley's coffee-table confection featuring models such as UC Berkeley alum Fetish Diva Midori in cutting-edge corsets. "My doctors had been urging me to get out of the house" and have some nice healthy fun, Utley says.

This is the result.

What a kick: Working in a Seattle Chinese restaurant a few decades back, Paisley Rekdal's mother watched the new busboy "whip his arms and legs around the kitchen." He dropped a dish, cut his hand on a knife, and smelled weird. He was Bruce Lee.

But The Night My Mother Met Bruce Lee (Vintage, $12) isn't really about Bruce Lee, who later launched a kung-fu studio in Oakland. In her lyrical collection of essays on growing up biracial, Rekdal examines the dimensions of "not fitting in" -- as a tourist considered Caucasian in Taiwan, as a hopping-mad hotel guest in China, and as a Fulbright scholar teaching English in Korea.

Rekdal's Korean students were disappointed at her sort-of-Asian face: "They wanted a 'real' American." She was Western enough, though, to be asked all about her sex life. When her blue-eyed boyfriend came to class, the high-school girls showered him with candy and declarations of love.

In San Francisco recently, Rekdal met a former student of Bruce Lee's who told her the master was biracial. Lee's mother was half-white, Rekdal reports; "It's a little-known fact."

Pole vaulter: A wild international orgy is worth waiting for in The Winter Zoo (Holt, $25), ex-Berkeleyite John Beckman's energetic debut novel about a young American canoodling in Krakow. Beckman, who will be at Books Inc. on June 13, knows whereof he speaks. His doctoral dissertation is about fun.

"Everything's been written about it, yet nothing's been written about it," says the scholar, who now teaches at the US Naval Academy. "Fun is the purest expression of democracy in America."

Stronger every day: New from Oakland's New Harbinger Publications is It Happened to Me, by psychologist William Lee Carter ($17.95), a workbook for teens overcoming sexual abuse. Packed with activities, tips, and commentary addressing a wide range of emotions and reactions, this one's a jewel.

Body time: East Bay physiques are among those depicted by the likes of Gordon Parks and Edward S. Curtis in The Black Female Body: A Photographic History (Temple University, $60); authors Deborah Willis and Carla Williams will be at Marcus Books' new branch on May 31.

Kabul guy: Facing the draft in 1962, David Fleishhacker -- whose distinguished forebears gave San Francisco's zoo its original name -- joined the Peace Corps and wound up in Afghanistan.

Kabul was friendly but medieval, its unpaved sidewalks dark with what "appeared to be dog droppings in profusion," Fleishhacker reports. He soon learned the spoor was human. Fleishhacker attended a Duke Ellington concert that sent dismayed Afghans streaming out of the hall, and he watched sporting events in a stadium that was later used for public executions.

Contacting KGO-AM's Ronn Owens last September, Fleishhacker offered the morning-radio audience an inside look at America's newest enemy. Owens declined, saying Fleishhacker's time in Kabul was too long ago.

"But you have to understand," says Fleishhacker, whose Lessons from Afghanistan (DF, $13.95) combines anecdote with up-to-date analysis, "In Afghanistan, forty years ago is pretty much the same as four hundred years ago." Fleishhacker will be at Easy Going June 18.

Snippets: With The Incantation of Frida K. (Seven Stories, $23.95), ex-Berkeleyite Kate Braverman has joined the queue of writers authoring novels about real-life painters, most of whom are Frida Kahlo. Oakland rapper KRS-One is a guest artist on one of the gazillion recordings cited in Dave Thompson's landmark Reggae & Caribbean Music ($24.95), new from local Backbeat Books. Too Much Coffee Man (Adhesive Comics, $4.95) is now a sassily blasphemous quarterly magazine, edited by Berkeley-bred cartoonist Shannon Wheeler. Fellow East Bay art guy Elisha Cooper takes his topic from udder to spoon in the new kids' book Ice Cream (Harper Collins, $15.95).


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