Suspicions of Jaundice 

A lost manuscript resurfaces, and a lusty mom spills the beans.

Proto-ground Zero: Charlie Chaplin would have portrayed the sole survivor of an atomic attack on Manhattan in a movie, if James Agee had had his way. The legendary scriptwriter and film critic, a lifelong Chaplin fan, wrote the text in question in 1947 and finally got the master to read it. The men became friends, the film never got made; the manuscript was forgotten -- until Cal student John Wranovics rediscovered it in a Texas archive while writing his undergrad honors thesis in 1984.

"It was incredible, the first black-comedy response to Hiroshima," Wranovics recalls. "Had it been made, it would have prefigured Dr. Strangelove by fifteen years." His request to Agee's estate for permission to publish the manuscript was turned down. Graduating, "I went on with my Silicon Valley marketing-guy life." Eighteen years later, out of the blue, permission was granted.

The result is Wranovics' Chaplin and Agee: The Little-Known Story of the Tramp, the Writer, and the Lost Screenplay (Palgrave Macmillan, $24.95), spinning a charmed friendship and a movie that, says the Livermoreite, would have been "mindblowing. What would the Little Tramp do in a Manhattan that's been destroyed by atom bombs? First, he'd go to department stores and go crazy." Then he'd see corpses transformed into shadows on the sidewalk, and "elevators full of burned bodies that fall like dust."

So who dropped the bombs? A tiny, mythical monarchy called Obnoxia, says Wranovics, who will be at Pleasanton's Towne Center bookshop May 14.

Blood will tell: An author has been charged as an accessory to the attempted murder of a 75-year-old Berkeley woman whose throat was slashed to the bone by sixteen-year-old Marilyn Webster near Codornices Park on March 16. Alameda County Juvenile Hall counselor Hamaseh Kianfar -- author of Sufi Stories (IAS, $11) -- was Webster's companion that evening. After the slashing, the pair walked quickly back to Kianfar's sky-blue Miata convertible and drove off. Hours later, Kianfar dropped Webster off at home. She never reported the incident. Only after Webster -- who has called the attack a "feasting" ritual -- was arrested two days later did Kianfar talk to police, offering conflicting accounts of her role.

Can you keep a secret? Berkeley novelist Ayelet Waldman announced in The New York Times on March 27 that she's the only woman in her new moms' support group who is getting laid. Maybe, Waldman mused, it's because her husband is "handsome, brilliant and successful." (He's also Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Chabon.) Moreover, "he is a man and thus possesses a strong libido." Check. The pair has four kids, but "having found something to usurp me as the sun of his universe does not mean he wants to make love to me any less. ... We talk about our love, about how much we love each other's bodies and brains," Waldman confided to millions worldwide. The essay also appears in a new anthology, Because I Said So (Harper Collins, $24.95), edited by Salon's Camille Peri and Kate Moses.

Wonderful world of color: Uprooted from their Hayward home in 1942, Matsusaburo and Hisako Hibi -- Japanese-born painters who had met at San Francisco's California School of Fine Arts -- were sent with their two children to Utah's Topaz camp. As revealed in Peaceful Painter: Hisako Hibi (Heyday, $20), Topaz was a kind of artists' colony among the relocation camps, with its own internee-directed art school. Edited by the painters' daughter Ibuki Lee, who was preschool-age when war broke out, the book evokes camp life from an artist's perspective. Hibi's bold oils depict barracks, barren landscapes, Buddhist celebrations held under desolate desert skies -- and the turmoil of postwar life for a widow with kids. Matsusaburo died of cancer in 1946 after being misdiagnosed by a "Caucasian doctor who ... had not suspected jaundice because he said that he thought Asians naturally have yellowish skin."

Dis the city: The city of Richmond is messed-up, and Nicholas Adjuder says toxic emissions aren't the reason. In Why Richmond, CA Has Failed (Adjuder Publishing, $29.99), the libertarian San Pabloite blames local-government overspending and exclusive city contracts with companies such as Comcast, American Medical Rescue, and Richmond Sanitary: "If you own a house, you have to have them haul your garbage away," Adjuder says. But "a teenager with a truck could do it for a lot cheaper. I'm for a free market. Everyone says, 'Richmond's poor' and leaves it at that. They say, 'Hey, the people of Richmond are black and Hispanic; that's what happens.' But the real problem is monopolies, cronyism, and nepotism." In the book, he asserts, "I can and will blame the people." Visitors to Adjuder's RichmondHasFailed.com Web site have a choice of options: Click one button to read excerpts, another to buy the book, another to "contact my black ass," another to order posters of naked chicks. "I want to attract teenage males" to the site, the author tells Press Here. "And that's my carrot to get them."

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