Whips, Drains 

In this month's East Bay book news, Huck Finn wears a dress.

'Scuse me while I kiss this guy: If you were Jimi Hendrix' brother and played guitar in a band, you'd cover his songs, right? Leon Hendrix won't. "I'm trying to find my own niche," declares the helmsman of the Leon Hendrix Mysterience. "I don't know yet what genre I'm playing." Uh-oh. The kid bro of the ex-Berkeleyite superstar laments how Jimi brought him into showbiz but "I ended up in jail for burglary and narcotics," then got cut out of Jimi's estate. "I was supposed to get 25 percent," but no dice. "I'm not going to point fingers," Hendrix promises in Topic (TopicMag.com), a litmag whose current issue has excellent pieces by a deaf hip-hop fan, karaoke's inventor, and a Cambodian flutist forced by the Khmer Rouge to kill people.

War and peas: A 9/11 memorial rally where liberals' signs say "NO WAR" and conservatives' signs say "NUKE THE BASTARDS!" and "PACIFISTS GO TO HELL" (how's that for realism?) is the starting scene for Family Business (Perseverance, $13.95), a mystery by Berkeley's Janet LaPierre, in which a sensitive cop urges his wife not to dye the gray out of her hair and some protesters fall off a cliff.

Don't just sit there: That WTC thing has ex-Cal linguistics prof John McWhorter — author of Winning the Race: Beyond the Crisis in Black America (Gotham, $27.50), now a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute think tank — tussling with "the leftist orthodoxy on what has happened since. For me, especially confusing is those who rue our not having met 9/11 with 'pacifism,'" he wrote in the New York Sun to mark the fifth anniversary. "Their sense seems to be that America owes the world passivity. ... I imagine some would wangle the mental equipoise to insist that we should engage in no military response against al-Qaeda as they cradled their mother's corpse in the smoking ruins of an Amtrak bombing."

Gosh nose: As a twenty-year-old Berkeley undergrad in 1984, Terry Healey looked like your typical healthy frat boy. But then a bout with fibrosarcoma of the nose changed everything, as Healey recounts in At Face Value: My Struggle with a Disfiguring Cancer (Xlibris, $21.99).

Poets do it deeper: Her musings "hover just below rational discourse," according to Publishers Weekly, intending it as a compliment. So check out three lines plucked at random from Judith Goldman's DeathStar/Rico-chet ($14), new from Oakland's O Books:

Got it — mindle55, t00 — a5 rummy a5 0il

God's RottwEilEr/shot himsElf/adding that/quotERElativismquote

at noon, the veiled work of midnight/squeegee/transcendental/WIPE IT

"The implications of Goldman's work are immense," writes Goldman's colleague Rod Smith, who edited On Your Knees, Citizen: A Collection of "Prayers" for the "Public" [Schools] (Edge, $5).

Tribal ligation: The East Bay's original inhabitants "had been extirpated" by 1806, writes James Benney in Native American Indian Sites in the East Bay Hills (Rocky Ridge, $12.50), a guide to ex-villages, acorn-leaching sites, and even pictograph caves near Mount Diablo — so fragile that the visitor should "try not to even breathe on it." Benney was at first conflicted about revealing these locations, "recognizing the propensity of my ancestors (Cornish miners and Scottish ranchers) to romp and stomp recklessly across this continent."

Let's bounce: "I do love those barely legal Asian beauties," squeals the narrator of a story, hooking up with a pigtailed, tube-socked lass whose "sounds of fear shift into moans as she begins to grind into me. 'Oh, teacher, oh, you make me feel so good! Oh, yes, f--- your dirty little coed!' She bounces on my ..." Lines from a wank mag found in a bus station in 1972? No, it's in the spanking-new collection Master Han's Daughter (Circlet, $12.95) by UC Berkeley alum-cum-dominatrix Midori. Call it erotica, set it in cyber-neo-Tokyo, call yourself a "sex educator," and you too can write porn like a grizzled old perv.

Blowing smoke: Addicts speak in dialect ("Da bitch know bettah, shidd") in Chester Himes Award-winner Renay Jackson's fifth novel Crack City (Frog, $14.95), set in Richmond, where "Emma Rogers could only be described as fat, black, and ugly. You know the type: No matter how drunk you got, she still looked horrible." Poor Emma.

So gallantly streaming: Huck Finn is a cross-dressing ho ("Clean up these Southern belle toes of mine, you Yankee scum"), and a wagon train's pioneers include a decapitator, a gender shifter ("At first it appeared she was vomiting, but she was just manning up for the evening"), a woman who French-kisses a horse, "a tall, blond, castrated, semireformed sex-offender," and a cannibal who "had a bowel movement that frightened him, something along the lines of a beet-red opossum" in A Fictional History of the United States with Huge Chunks Missing (Akashic, $15.95), an omnibus of "counternarratives" edited by Berkeley's Adam Mansbach with work by Neal Pollack, Ron Kovic, Valerie Miner, and more.

Silver and gold: Tap-dancing on the "Chop Suey Circuit," Dorothy Takahashi Toy and Paul Wing were dubbed the Chinese Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Toy still timesteps at age 89. Alabama-born Mary Beth Washington, aka Orunamamu, tells stories on her Rockridge front steps and at Toastmasters meetings at age 95. A 104-year old sculptor, a 107-year-old pianist, a 94-year-old rugmaker — Amy Gorman profiles creative Bay Area women aged 85 and up in Aging Artfully (PAL, $20).

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