Round Objects 

In this month's East Bay book news, Christopher Hitchens disses God.

Amen:Religion is "Abrahamic manmade filthy propaganda" and "human emancipation begins when this nonsense ends," raged God Is Not Great (Twelve, $24.99) author Christopher Hitchens at a fiery Berkeley debate with American Fascists (Free Press, $25) author Chris Hedges, sponsored by KPFA. Hedges lacerated organized Christianity, but his claim that jihadists are driven by "despair" made Hitchens revile "anyone who eulogizes this evil wicked thing." As the crowd roared, split about 60/40 into Hedges/Hitchens fans, Hedges maintained, "Self-immolation is the only route they have," to which Hitchens retorted, again and again, "You rationalized murder." Scorning a classic Christian tenet, Hitchens snarled, "Go love your enemies, but don't go loving mine. ... Don't be loving the suicide bomber ... the fascist ... the racist thug." Turning the topic to America, Hedges ventured, "We are universally reviled." The blogosphere is "killing our culture," mainstreaming porn and mediocrity in a Babel of pointless opinion, rages Berkeley ex-dot-commer Andrew Keen in The Cult of the Amateur (Currency, $22.95), a jeremiad against the egalitarian realm where his despised "citizen journalists" outwit, outplay, and outlast dinosaur media: "You won't find the talented, trained individual shipwrecked in his pajamas behind a computer, churning out inane blog postings or anonymous movie reviews," complains Keen, who lost a lot of other people's money when his startup failed. Grrr, "Craigslist siphons off an annual $50 million from Bay Area newspapers alone ... the people at the Chronicle and the San Jose Mercury News who lost their jobs in 2006 can thank shlumpy Craig [Newmark, Craigslist's founder] and his 22 employees and their 'free' advertising." Pay, you creeps.

B-town bigots: Berkeley is a hotbed of "vicious racism" for which its liberal reputation is a "facade," social critic Peter Sacks charges in Tearing Down the Gates: Confronting the Class Divide in American Education (UC Press, $24.95). Is the similarity between that title and Crashing the Gate, by fellow traveler and Berkeley blogger Markos Moulitsas Zuñiga, coincidence ... or conspiracy? Sacks rips Berkeley High School's voluntary college-prep Academic Choice program as elitist "realpolitik." At BHS, "fault lines split neatly along the divisions of race and class" as 20 and 25 percent of African-American and Hispanic students, respectively, passed a 2004 state English test that "almost 80 percent of whites" passed. (Comprising nearly 10 percent of Berkeley High's student body, Asian Americans remain curiously invisible in Sacks' discussion.) One semester, 20 percent of white students earned Ds or Fs, as did 75 percent and 65 percent of African Americans and Hispanics. Damn you, Berkeley!

Fly right: "Tiende and the Mauve Gerber Daisy would throw sugar granules at the ants," writes Oakland's Nerdy J, who in the '70s was the first TWA flight attendant to wear cornrows, and whose latest book is 'lil dottie: a fiction (Regent, $9.95). "Small nappy-head" fairies watch as aliens land, announcing: "We are a curious, nosey people. And the UFO was an idea that came to be because we loved and were fascinated by round objects."

July forth: A dying man teaches his daughter "his finger moves ... for getting a woman off." A female teacher having sex with her student, a special-needs teen, believes he is her long-ago phantom lover incarnate. The short-story collection No One Belongs Here More Than You (Scribner, $23) is Berkeley-bred Miranda July's follow-up to Me and You and Everyone We Know, the 2005 Sundance-and-Cannes-favorite film she wrote, directed, and starred in, which has a boy spurring an Internet affair with a grown woman by suggesting: "I'll poop into her butthole and she'll poop it back into my butthole and then we'll just keep doing it back and forth. With the same poop. Forever."

Oh Frodo: The folks at Oakland's New Yipes reading series raised funds to bring Tao Lin west from NYC. They call him "a future superstar." His poetry has been taught at Mills College. He won NYU's Undergraduate Creative Writing Prize and in his novel Eeeee Eee Eeee (Melville House, $14.95), a dolphin kills Elijah Wood: "The dolphin clubs Elijah Wood's head. Elijah Wood runs away and falls. The dolphin clubs Elijah's body and legs. Elijah screams." Elsewhere in the book: "There is more dog shit in the piano room." Lin's poem "The Very Retarded Giant Moth" includes the lines the moth was very giant and very retarded/it lived in pennsylvania/it was very retarded/... the moth was very big and very retarded and heavy/... it had cancer tumors on its face .../one day the moth typed, 'i want someone to kill me in the sky with a tennis racket.' On his blog, Lin promises to kill himself if Eeeee Eee Eeee doesn't become a best-seller.

Organic panic: Founding Berkeley's Elephant Pharmacy cost Stuart Skorman "almost all my money — $13 million." Quite soon, "the store was losing more than $50,000 a week," Skorman mourns in Confessions of a Serial Entrepreneur (Jossey-Bass, $22.95). He managed a rock band, was a real-estate broker, a professional poker and harmonica player, and founded and sold it for $100 million before launching Elephant, which "was bleeding me dry." He sought investors: "Just before I completed this book I signed a legal document that restricts me from writing about events at Elephant after Oct. 31, 2003." Shhhh.


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