Bitch Farm 

This month's East Bay best-sellers indicate a rising guilt front and increasing chance of ill-timed mockery.

In the East Bay, everything's about food or politics, so Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma (Penguin, $26.95) — a ratatouille of food and politics — remains for the third straight month the best-selling read in town. Pollan bashes big agribusiness and exalts boutique organic farms, perfect for assuaging the guilt of gourmands whose addiction to the finer tastes depends on (mum's the word!) a globalized economy. But not everyone can afford $9-a-pound heritage pears. Can precious "sustainable" family farms feed the entire world? Six billion is a lot of mouths.

Is George Lakoff a double agent? First he helped usher George W. Bush back into the White House with his misguided 2004 best-seller Don't Think of an Elephant, in which he ruinously advised Democrats to tinker with metaphors instead of policies, as if voters' perceptions were shaped by word choices rather than the substance of each party's political positions. Now Lakoff is back with Whose Freedom? (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $23), an increasingly strident rehash of his previous theses as he grows ever more clueless about how to woo undecided voters. Here's a clue, doc: Don't insult them and mock them and then publicly announce how you plan to trick them with linguistic sleight-of-hand.

In her new novel The Emperor's Children (Knopf, $25), Claire Messud hazards a high-wire act: to craft a story that appeals both to pretentious overeducated New Yorkers and to people who loathe pretentious overeducated New Yorkers. Amazingly — if the red-hot sales and reviews are any indication — she has succeeded. The Emperor's Children skewers the hypocritical elite, yet they are the ones apparently buying the book. Perhaps this is because she glamorizes her subjects simultaneously: a trio of brilliant, witty, breathtakingly beautiful thirty-year-olds facing a post-adolescent/pre-midlife crisis; a pompous '60s revolutionary who has become a media darling; and a rebellious but earnest trustafarian. Aren't bookstores in the Big Apple (and the Bay Area) full of people just like that, or who wish they were? No wonder it sells.

Static, by Amy Goodman and David Goodman (Hyperion, $23.95), makes a bizarre argument: that our fascist government controls the media and pushes right-wing propaganda. Hello? In what universe? A recent poll revealed that more than 90 percent of reporters classified themselves as "liberal"; the book-publishing industry is even more anti-Bush, if the torrent of antiwar and anti-Christian Right books is any indication. Still, the siblings Goodman sound the alarms of onrushing totalitarianism. If anything, that "static" we hear is the white noise of ten thousand authors like these telling us at top volume that they are being silenced by nefarious forces. Millions tune in to Amy Goodman's Democracy Now! radio program every day. Dig that silencing.


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