by Anneli Rufus
New books from East Bay authors and publishers offer erotic scenes, plastic dolls, hummingbirds, and rancidity, although not all at the same time.
UC Berkeley alum/teen-lit cult figure Francesca Lia Block's House of Dolls largely takes place in exactly that: a dollhouse ... in the room of a bored, sour-faced girl who has a lot to learn from these wise plastic creatures. And she does. Block lets the dolls tell their own story. Asked to describe war — he's been through one, after all — a toy soldier whispers: "War is being blinded and locked in a box, unable to see, hear, or touch" his beloved black-haired doll-girlfriend. "War is being reminded that you are completely at the mercy of death at every moment, without the illusion that you are not. Without the distractions that make life worth living."
In Sitting Shiva for Myself, new from Berkeley's Regent Press, UC Berkeley alumna Renee Blitz — widow of the late bookstore owner Moe Moskowitz — presents wrenching vignettes about being a woman in a Berkeley that wasn't (and isn't) exactly as liberated as it pretended (and pretends) to be, where everyone seems to disappoint: "What's wrong with these people and why must we waste the conversational mode on them which is only there in the first place to charm, delight, enchant, open the portals away from self-disgust, wretchedness, rancidity."
New from Berkeley-based Cleis Press is a raft of erotica anthologies, including Fast Girls: Erotica for Women, Girl Crush: Women's Erotic Fantasies, and Fairy Tale Lust: Erotic Fantasies for Women. One tale in that last volume begins: "James went seeking his fortune. ... He'd been gifted with a well-made sword, one of notable length and girth."
Contra Costa Times colunnist Gary Bogue tells the story of a family that learns a lot about minuscule avians in There's a Hummingbird in My Backyard, illustrated by CCT presentation editor Chuck Todd and published by Berkeley's Heyday. It's packed with handy tips for attracting hummingbirds — with feeders and with red and orange flowers — and watching these creatures as they grow. As the family watches hummingbirds engage in mating-dance hijinks, Daddy explains: "He's doing all that fancy flying to catch her eye and show her what strong babies they could have."