Tangerine Flake 

Tom Wolfe plays Berkeley

Sat 11/20

Way back in the day, Tom Wolfe almost single-handedly made media cool. It started with a case of writer's block. In 1963, after struggling for several fruitless days to write an Esquire piece on hot rods, Wolfe realized that standard diction could never adequately conjure the weird people and outrageous vehicles he had come to know. Desperate and deadline-crazed, the young Virginian simply started typing out his notes and impressions, all sensual detail and verbal tics and free-association scene-building.

New Journalism, anybody?

Forty years later, the author of such culture-defining works as The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and Bonfire of the Vanities -- coiner of the terms "the right stuff," "radical chic," "the me generation," and even "good ol' boy" -- will read from his new novel, I Am Charlotte Simmons, at the Berkeley Public Library's main branch this Saturday. Cody's Books began giving away free tickets for the 10 a.m., two-hundred-seat event several weeks ago, so if you don't already have a ticket your best hope is for standing space.

If the date rings a bell, that's because it's Big Game Day. Wolfe's publisher offered one time-slot and one only, and Cody's went for it. The novel is about college, after all, and a virtuous freshman girl's increasingly ineffectual attempts to stay sweet amid the contact sports of campus life. After spending several recent years trolling for slang and atmosphere on American campuses -- including Stanford, of all places -- Wolfe set out to evoke sexual dynamics whose decadence shocks him. Having gained fame for writing about revolutions, he now scrutinizes their cynical, shallow, the-more-things-change-
the-more-they-stay-the-same aftermath with a gimlet eye.

Those lucky enough to have scored tickets from Cody's are eligible for discounted all-day parking at nearby Berkeley High School, which lets them attend the reading, catch a shuttle to Memorial Stadium for the game, then head back downtown after. -- Anneli Rufus

11/17-11/21

Lit Happens

Carry On, Carrion

A kinky sleuth probes big money in Vulture Capital, the latest from Stanford Phi Beta Kappa keyholder and Shamus Award nominee Mark Coggins, who worked in SiliValley venture-capital firms himself before becoming a crime novelist. Invest an evening at Alameda's Spellbinding Tales (Wed., 7 p.m.). ... Calling all future J.K. Rowlings and wannabe Doctors Seuss: Kids aged seven and up can ask Ying Cha Compestine all about the writing and publishing biz. National Children's Book Week brings this local author of The Runaway Rice Cake and other children's books to the Lafayette Library for a Q&A (Thu., 3 p.m.). ... Explore Athens West's ongoing love affair with itself in Berkeley: The Life and Spirit of a Remarkable Town, whose lush photos by Kiran Singh spotlight the eats, the streets, the radicals, and the roses. Singh and author Ellen Weis are at Orinda Books (Thu., 4 p.m.). ... Even before her mother, father, and brother were brutally murdered, Rigoberta Menchú Tum was an activist for women's rights and peasants' rights. The Nobel laureate and Crossing Borders author is at Soda Center, Saint Mary's College (Thu., 7:30 p.m.). ... Love blooms on Mauritius in Darwin's Wink, Alison Anderson's novel about two naturalists striving to save rare birds. Wax evolutionary with Anderson at Barnes & Noble Walnut Creek (Thu., 7:30 p.m.). ... It's all in your mind, but what the heck is that? UC Berkeley philosophy prof John R. Searle grapples heads and their contents in Mind: A Brief Introduction. Mind what he says at Black Oak (Thu., 7:30 p.m.). ... Having translated the Book of Genesis, the Tao Te Ching, the Bhagavad Gita, and now Gilgamesh into English, surely Stephen Mitchell -- at home in eight different languages -- has the inside line on redemption. Babylon with him at Berkeley's First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way (Fri., 7:30 p.m.). ... How does NASA handle flatulence in space? What thickens sauces fast? Ask On Food and Cooking author Harold McGee, wielder of tips, techniques, and wire whisks, at Diesel (Sun., 2 p.m.). -- Anneli Rufus

Sat 11/20

Mile High, Low Blows

It's been a while since Gravy Train!!! graced this section with its pleasure-seeking missile of a presence, but plenty's been up with Oakland's porniest outfit: The band went on tour with feminist party poster band Le Tigre, during which it got to gig with downtown NY legends ESG. And, with the departure of dirrrty dancer Drunx, the electro-party rappers have a new member, Junx. Also rocking the girls-on-top configuration are SF's BobbyTeens , who have never let having a dude drummer drag down their bodaciously bratty, bad-girl rock assault. Put these bands together and you can expect odes to young meat, back-seat lovin', sex nerves, bouncin' boobs, and drinkin' forties. Gravy Train!!! is more explicit and Day-Glo; the BobbyTeens, more straight-ahead and leather-clad. Either way, the verdict's the same: Mothers, lock up your sons. Also appearing: the Moth Balls . Eighteen-and-up, $7, 9 p.m. start time. Mile High Club, 3629 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Oakland. 510-654-4549 -- Stefanie Kalem

Wed 11/17

Russet 'n' Roll

Mongols and taters and nags, oh my

Top Brown has a hankering for its namesake color -- the band's Web site even boasts a page devoted to vintage rides in various shades, and various states of pimpness and disrepair, parked throughout the East Bay. Its sound errs more on the muddied bronze side of the spectrum -- cave-dwelling blues-rock lunacy, heavy stomping fuzz infused with funk, buoyed by the devil's own brass horns and interspersed with psych-out jams. The band'll make a fitting middleman on Wednesday's Stork Club bill, moving the crowd around before headliner Drunk Horse settles in for stoner sludge. DH is about two-thirds of the way through a mini West Coast tour that started up in Seattle, visited Vancouver, and will eventually wind its way down to San Diego. And the band has a relatively new member: Michael McDonald impersonator by day, jeans model and guitarist by night Joel Robinow. Ghengis Khan opens the show, which starts around 9 p.m. 21-and-up, $5 cover. The Stork is at 2330 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. Call 510-444-6174 for more details. -- Stefanie Kalem

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