Honor thy Father and Mother 

This month's East Bay book news.

Mom's on the menu: Shocking photographs in Eating Apes, new from UC Press ($24.95), show gorillas butchered and bloody and ready for the skillet. In this bold exposé, Dale Peterson and Karl Ammann reveal how the opening of African forests by international logging firms has increased the local consumption of wild animal meat so exponentially that chimps, gorillas, and bonobos could be extinct in thirty years if this practice continues unchecked.

Severed ape hands served with beer. Smoked baby chimp. Gorilla ragout. Butchering, by the bye, enhances the spread of blood-borne viruses.

As for why Africans would kill, sell, and eat into extinction some of their continent's most intelligent creatures -- and humanity's closest kin -- Peterson explains that "the situation has arisen because people are doing what they normally and traditionally do. Cut trees. Eat food. Make money. There is indeed a seeming lack of concern in Africa over the issue of extinction of African animals. Part of the reason may be that many Central Africans are living within hunting cultures -- so their attitude toward animals in the forest is rather like that of people from fishing communities about fish in the sea."

Great apes "are far closer to being human than most of us imagine," says Peterson. Soup's on.

Pop sensibilities: Ex-Clinton administration staffer Kevin Sweeney was still a toddler when his young father died of heart failure. One of six San Bruno siblings whose heartbroken mom never remarried, Sweeney set about selecting three local grownups to be his role models. Wise choices, as the UC grad and Piedmont resident -- and popular guest on Nightline, NewsHour, and Larry King Live -- recounts in Father Figures (Harper Collins, $22.95), whose lean and tender prose is fine-tuned for reducing even steely readers to tears.

Fatherless children are like members of a secret club, Sweeney has found. "Whenever the subject of my father's death comes up, someone in the room will mention that they, too, lost a parent. Sometimes, they're talking about death; sometimes they're talking about abandonment. But there's a connection, an acknowledgment," says the author, who will be at Cody's Southside on June 11.

Of all the ways to lose a parent, he muses, "death might actually be the easiest way." Finding role models to replace the still-living deadbeat "can be difficult, because it might stir up feelings of disloyalty or raise new fears of rejection."

Wine, women, and forks: The day she talked to Press Here, Annie Roberts was preparing marinated duck breast for a crowd at the Robert Mondavi Winery, where her mother Margrit Biever Mondavi is vice president of art and culture and her stepdad is vintner Mondavi himself. Annie and Margrit, a mother-and-daughter collection of recipes and memories, is new from Berkeley's Ten Speed Press ($35) and features the collaboration of Chez Panisse's original chef, Victoria Wise, who now lives in Oakland.

"My mother and I have talked about doing this for years," says ex-Berkeleyite Roberts, who made history thirty years back by becoming Napa Valley's first executive winery chef. Having grown up visiting relatives in Europe frequently, "I was exposed to wine as a child and wasn't afraid of it."

The Napa Valley remains "one of the top areas in the world to cook, with an unbelievable availability of ingredients. And of course the wine makes everything taste better."

The secret history: In Nina Revoyr's Southland (Akashic, $15.95), a new novel lit with dead-on descriptions of a California both gritty and golden, UC Berkeley grad and young lawyer Jackie Ishida has a puzzle to tackle when her Japanese granddad leaves something big in his will to an African-American man whose name none of her relatives recognize. Yet any semblance to standard potboiler fare ends there; Jackie's long-term lesbian relationship faces a crisis after she meets a compelling man, and points of view shift like shafts of sunlight.

While researching LA's Little Tokyo, she says, she learned that when its Japanese-American residents were uprooted and interned, the district was soon repopulated with new black arrivals from the South, and was promptly nicknamed Bronzeville.

"My biggest revelation came, though, when I first walked into the Holiday Bowl, a coffee shop and bowling alley on Crenshaw Boulevard" while researching the novel. "The coffee shop was filled with elderly Japanese Americans and elderly African Americans, and many of these mixed-race groups of friends had clearly known each other since childhood. The menu reflected the customers -- it had everything from jambalaya to yakisoba to red beans and rice. I hung out at the Holiday Bowl regularly for next several years," says the Tokyo-born author. "Unfortunately, it's now been sold and is about to be torn down to make room for a strip mall."

Sax and drugs: As a boy, Berkeley's Adam Mansbach was "captivated by the politics and poetry of hip-hop ... I started rhyming almost immediately and seeking out the music -- which you had to do at that time, since it wasn't on the radio or on TV. I got into jazz a bit later, when rappers started sampling jazz artists in the late '80s/early '90s." At fifteen, the future novelist debated hip-hop's merits "endlessly" with pal Delfeayo Marsalis. "He would slay me day after day, but it helped me get my chops." After working as a roadie for drummer Elvin Jones, Mansbach began collaborating with jazz artists onstage and on records. His novel, Shackling Water (Anchor, $12), infuses a sax prodigy's saga with what Jack Kerouac used to call "bop prosody."

"The onus is on artists to push the rules, whether that's Coltrane moving away from chord changes or Shakespeare introducing 3,400 new words into the English language. Experimentation that is meaningless, however, that is not well-thought-out and instead simply whimsical or gimmicky, I find to be one of the most annoying things in the world."

Read All Over

May 28: Historical spy novelist Alan Furst reads from Blood of Victory at Rakestraw Books, 409 Railroad Ave., Danville, 925-837-7337.

May 29: Wry evolutionist Wendy Northcutt discusses Darwin Awards II: Natural Selection, at Barnes & Noble, 98 Broadway, Oakland, 510-272-0120.

May 31: Novelist Edward Miyakawa reads from Tule Lake at Eastwind, 2066 University Ave., Berkeley, 510-548-2350.

June 1: Cartoonist Jim Davis celebrates his latest Garfield book, In Dog Years I'd Be Dead, at Towne Center Books, 555 Main St., Pleasanton, 925-846-8826.

June 2: Scots pottymouth Irvine Welsh reads from the new paperback edition of Porno at Diesel, 5433 College Ave., Oakland, 510-653-9965.

June 10: Megacyclist Joe Kurmaskie talks about his latest book, Riding Outside the Lines, at Bookshop Benicia, 856 Southampton Rd., Benicia, 707-747-5155.

June 12: Isabel Allende discusses My Invented Country: A Nostalgic Journey Through Chile at Cody's, 1730 Fourth St., Berkeley, 510-559-9500.

June 13: Terry Gamble reads from her new novel, The Water Dancers, at Lafayette Bookstore, 3579 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, 925-284-1233.

June 21: Starting at one minute after midnight, it's a Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix release party at Goodenough Books, 1362 Railroad Ave., Livermore, 925-443-4354.

June 24: Berkeley connoisseur Richard Sterling reads from his new book, World Food: California, at Easy Going, 1385 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-843-3533.

June 26: Manuel Luis Martinez reads from his coming-of-age novel Drift at Barnes & Noble, 98 Broadway, Oakland, 510-272-0120.


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