TV Dinners and Dung 

In this month's East Bay book news, Timothy Leary was kidnapped, Bollywood gets AIDS all wrong, and a Berkeley engineer golfed across Mongolia.

Don't say magic: A boy falls out a window and his grieving parents seek solace in a humanoid house in Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi's debut novel The Last Song of Dusk (Random House, $3.95). In one scene the couple lie abed, "arms embroiled with each other, like copulating kraits." Now splitting his time between Mumbai and Albany, Shanghvi wrote the multi-award-winning book at 22 and was instantly hailed as India's Next Big Thing. "British critics," he says, "have called my novel 'postcolonial'" — but it's "galling to have myself defined in relation to a nonexistent and heinous form of former governance." Nor does he like the fact that so many adorers call him a magical realist — "that convenient catchall to plonk writers from a certain part of the world under one umbrella." As a journalist, he's been covering AIDS in India. "What we need most in India is to see AIDS. We need a public face over its private horrors. We need an Indian Rock Hudson to die before we will ever confront AIDS socially." It's a class thing, says Shanghvi, who will be at Cody's Fourth Street on June 29. The subcontinent's growing middle class, "who are cashing out on the new economy of Callcenteristan ... refuse to see the epidemic as it ravages the lower orders. There are also Bollywood films that deal with AIDS, but the subject is handled awkwardly and good intention is lost in bad art. ... My picture of AIDS in India is a lot less graphic than how we see AIDS in Africa. I hear phones ringing in a call center somewhere in Delhi; but there's no one at the shiny new desk; there is only this ringing, this terrible and endless ringing."

Par 11,880: Berkeley engineer André Tolmé golfed across Mongolia. Because it was there. And because it's mostly flat, treeless, and uninhabited. Tolmé golfed an eighteen-hole, 1,200-mile "course" across a country as big as two Texases in ninety days, with 509 balls. He used dung for tees. Learn more in I Golfed Across Mongolia (Thunder's Mouth, $25).

Didya miss it? Ignacio De La Fuente declared February 1 a holiday in Oakland honoring '60s revolutionary Stew Albert, who managed the "Pigasus the Pig for President" campaign, ran for Alameda County sheriff in 1970, wrote the memoir Who the Hell Is Stew Albert? (Red Hen, $16.95) — in which he calls Eldridge Cleaver "his holiness" — and died January 30. De La Fuente's declaration proclaimed that whereas Albert "was a cofounder of the Yippies and a friend of Jerry Rubin and a friend of Abbie Hoffman and a friend of Eldridge Cleaver and a friend of John Lennon ... and WHEREAS, Stew Albert was a target of J. Edgar Hoover and a target of Richard Nixon and a target of the FBI ... and an irrepressible critic of the unjust and the idiotic to the moment he died, addressing the power that rules us now ... THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Oakland City Council proclaims ... 'Stew Albert Day' ... in recognition of his contributions [and] his faith in what can be, what must be, and what will be." So ... we will be Maoists?

Sunshine superman: Albert was among those interviewed by Robert Greenfield for Timothy Leary (Harcourt, $28), a scathing portrait of the acid king as a wife-beating demagogue groveling at the feet of Cleaver, whom he and his missus followed from Oakland to Algeria, where upon arrival Rosemary Leary was ordered to start making beds at the Black Panther compound. Leary mused that his best bet for introducing Algerians to LSD would be by converting to Islam. Cleaver held the Learys captive at gunpoint for some puzzling political reason, and the Learys and Cleaver toured the Middle East with fellow rads and Panthers, as Albert put it, "to visit al-Fatah to give Leary a little Third World legitimacy." It all ended in alcoholism, partial erections, prison, eternal fame, and cremation.

After Brokeback: Set for June 2007, Ang Lee's next film will be based on "Lust, Caution," a short story by late Cal prof Eileen Chang, aka Zhang Ailing, in which a college student-turned-spy is sent to assassinate a political hothead, but falls for him, but he's married, but he falls for her, and stuff ensues. After teaching at Cal in the '50s, the glamorous Shanghai-born author of Written on Water (Columbia, $27.95) — who herself once hooked up with a married political hothead — became reclusive and was found dead by her landlord in a downbeat Los Angeles apartment in 1995. Hailed as China's greatest-ever female writer, Chang wrote of male-female miseries, fueled by memories of her opium-addicted dad and his concubine. When she died, reporters allegedly probed her trash seeking clues about an icon reduced to subsisting mainly on TV dinners.

Please pass the sonnet: Berkeley-bred Edie Meidav — whose novel Crawl Space (Picador, $15), in which a Frenchman gets plastic surgery not to look hot but to hide his past as a Nazi collaborator, is out this month in paperback — is now teaching at Bard College in upstate New York, where "I often have the odd, weird good luck," she tells Press Here, "of being John Ashbery's dinnertable companion: Making small random chat with a poet who influenced me in my coming-up years has its surreal aspects."

Not the fun kind of camp: The name of his new job doesn't trip right off the tongue. On July 1, Cal grad Lane Hirabayashi will become UCLA's first George and Sakaye Aratani Professor of the Japanese American Internment, Redress, and Community. Ex-Kenwood CEO Aratani and his wife were WWII internees. Hirabayashi's declared specialty is "the intersectionality of racial formation theory with other theories of difference having to do with class, gender, and sexuality," and his eight books include Inside an American Concentration Camp (University of Arizona, $27) and The Politics of Fieldwork: Research in an American Concentration Camp (University of Arizona, $19.95).

Jump start: A suicidal man named Marvin waits on a subway platform to jump in front of a train. He notices a dark-haired lass on the opposite platform: ahh, one last pretty face to admire before he dies. But wait! The train arrives on her side, and she jumps — she's beaten him to the punch, after learning that her high-school sweetheart has gone insane. Thus starts In Quest of Another's Suicide (Authorhouse, $18.49), a debut novel by Berkeley psychologist and poet Morton Felix. The dead stranger becomes a strange angel for Marvin, who "is full of self-pity and resentment, and basically wants peace," says Felix, whose previous works include This Side of Felony and The Lilacs of Yearning. "Life was tedious for him — to kill himself would have been a final act of autonomy and freedom." Instead, Marvin finds redemption and (spoiler alert!) love with a coroner's-office secretary. Felix' clinical work and the novel have afforded food for thought about self-destruction. Therapists, he says, are typically "wounded by a client's suicide."

You're famous why? Panelists at a June 17 health forum "targeting African American same gender loving men" at the Oakland Museum included a reverend, a poet, a TV personality, a radio personality, and "celebrity guest" Jonathan Plummer, whom the sponsoring AIDS Project of the East Bay describes as "the ex-husband of author Terry McMillan."

Attention, shoppers: Those tearing out their hair about Cody's seem to forget that Telegraph is home to another huge, historic, family-owned, independent bookstore where locals have found love and fueled revolutions. "We're still here," says Doris Moskowitz of 47-year-old, four-story Moe's Books, where free balloons will mark her fortieth birthday and her late father's 85th on July 11, two days after Cody's goes bye-bye.

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