Local Literary Reviews

Local authors spring into the book biz

By Greg Cahill, Liesel Hofmann, Shelley Lawrence, and Patrick Sullivan

THE RAIN has stopped, the beach is beckoning, and life quickens in the sweet spring breezes. But before you leave the indoors behind for the season, step into your local bookstore to check out something else spring has to offer: a fresh crop of books by local authors, who have a bit of everything to offer this time out, from children’s books to novels to poetry and beyond.

Rob Brezsny The Televisionary Oracle (North Atlantic Books; $16.95)

FOR YEARS NOW, stargazer Rob Brezsny has used his Real Astrology column to provide offbeat advice about life and love in newspapers across the country, including the one you’re holding in your hands. Brezsny’s many starstruck fans will be delighted to learn that the San Rafael author has just published his first novel. Employing the column’s familiar mix of sexy banter and audacious astrological insights, The Televisionary Oracle tells the story of a peculiar man on a strange spiritual quest in Santa Cruz. (Catch Breszny live on Saturday, April 22, when he reads at Borders Books in Santa Rosa.)–P.S.

Geoffrey B. Cain The Wards of St. Dymphna (SoCo Arts & Media; $13.95)

IN HIS FIRST NOVEL, the local author takes the reader on a surreal trip, chronicling the exploits of protagonist Brian McCorley in the streets of a small Northern California town and in the depths of his own mind. The novel details Brian’s spiritual quest through his “mad third eye” and gives an interesting spin on his return to small-town life. The book is definitely interesting, but at times a little hard to follow.–S.L.

Jabez W. Churchill Sleeping with Ghosts (Kulupi Press; $8.95)

IN THIS NEW collection of work from local poet Jabez Churchill, the best lines jump across the page like oil skipping on a hot skillet. For example, take these lines from a poem called “Love’s Threshing Floor”: “This floor is hard./ It does not smell of ripened wheat,/ chaff and dust,/ or perfumed feet./ It smacks of tears and blood,/ the shit love beats from the heart.” Nothing else in Sleeping with Ghosts quite measures up to that high standard, but the other poems don’t fall far below it, either. The book also features wonderful cover art by Barbara Jacobsen and evocative black-and-white illustrations by Connie Butler.–P.S.

Jim Dreaver The Way of Harmony: Walking the Inner Path to Balance, Happiness, and Success (Avon Books; $12.50)

SELF-HELPMEISTER Jim Dreaver of Sebastopol tells his readers in simple and concise language how to walk the path to spiritual, emotional, physical, and material prosperity. The Way of Harmony is an easy guide for today’s busy person seeking spiritual truths without too much effort. The book is peppered with personal anecdotes, guided meditations, and step-by-step instructions on topics like “The Secret to Great Relationships” and “Dealing with Intense Feelings and Emotions.” Dreaver helps you unlock the secrets of abundance, expand your awareness by embracing your spirit, and connect with your inner wisdom. Ommmmm . . . –S.L.

Armando Garcia-Davila Out of My Heart/De Mi Corazon (Thumbprint Press; $10.95)

“POETRY BARGED through my door one day,” writes Armando Garcia-Davila in his poem “The Muse.” “There was no stealth in her movements, no cloak to hide her red hair, red lips, and red attitude. She caressed, cuddled, and had her way with me.” This newly published collection of the Sonoma County poet’s work offers some 20 poems rendered in both English and Spanish. That bilingual presentation provides a fascinating illustration of the fact that Romance languages usually make for better poetry.–P.S.

Terri Leonard, Editor In the Women’s Clubhouse: The Greatest Women Golfers in Their Own Words (Contemporary Books; $22.95)

EVERYONE KNOWS of Tiger Woods, but hardly anybody can name a professional woman golfer. While women have made major inroads in other male-dominated sports–think of soccer star Brandi Chastain or basketball hero Cheryl Miller–the history of women golfers remains as cloaked in mystery as the back nine at the fog-shrouded Pebble Beach golf course. Petaluman Terri Leonard goes a long way toward rectifying that situation with this intriguing collection of revealing personal stories spotlighting a century of golf tradition from the female perspective. In chapter after chapter, women describe in their own words the sense of power they felt from the hard swing of the club, the freedom of the links, the challenge of competition, the thrill of victory. From pioneer golfer Mabel Stringer to seven-time Swedish national champion Helen Alfredsson (and including my old high school hygiene teacher, Jane Blalock, one of the most consistent players on the LPGA tour), Leonard has opened the door for a new generation of women to discover the joys of the clubhouse.–G.C.

Jonathan London

BEST KNOWN for his hugely popular Froggy series, Graton’s most prolific children’s author returns with two new books about animals.

Snuggle Wuggle (Silver Whistle; $13)

YOUNGER CHILDREN learn how animal parents hug their kids in this new bedtime book: “How does a chick hug? Fluffy duffy, fluffy duffy”; “How does a kangaroo hug? Pouchety boing! boing! boing!” Michael Rex provides the warm and fuzzy illustrations.–P.S.

Who Bop? (HarperCollins Children’s Books; $14.89)

THE ANIMALS BOP to the smooth sax sounds of a cool cat named Jazz-Bo in this musical story about doodle-wopping frogs and swooping looping loons. London’s musical text–perfect for reading aloud–is paired with illustrations of dancing animals by Henry Cole.–P.S.

C. W. Meisterfeld Dog Whisper: Intuitive Communication (M-R-K Publishing; $21.95)

THE PETALUMA AUTHOR, a dog psychologist, relates over 30 engaging, informative tales about dogs whose behavior problems he has solved through mutual respect. By training humanely, “a responsible dog owner demonstrates to others, especially children, values such as kindness and compassion towards all life.” But since Meisterfeld trains hunting dogs and serves as a hunting guide, he apparently does not extend this view to all sentient creatures, causing some readers to perhaps be turned off by an otherwise appealing book.–L.H.

Shane Mooney Useless Sexual Trivia: Tastefully Prurient Facts about Everyone’s Favorite Subject (Simon & Schuster; $12)

IN MIDDLE EASTERN Islamic countries, it’s a sin and a crime to eat a lamb that you’ve had sex with . . . really. The Santa Rosa author’s collection of hilarious sexual factoids keeps the reader riveted through every chapter. “Sexual History” was this reader’s favorite chapter, offering such morsels as how many children Ramses the Great fathered (160, which is, ironically, why Ramses-brand condoms are named after him), how many prostitutes served at the parties hosted by Pope Alexander VI (50, and a prize was given to the one with the most stamina), and the sexual beliefs of ancient Chinese Taoists (immortality could be achieved by having sex with 20 different women each day). Sure to make any reader the life of the party.–S.L.

Holly J. Pierce, Editor High Tea with Jesus (Self-published; $15)

IT’S NO EASY task finding this book: local clerks eagerly refer you to the nearest Christian bookstore. But don’t be fooled. High Tea with Jesus is not chock-full of Bible stories. It’s actually a collection of poetry, stories, and essays by local writers under the tutelage of Sonoma County literary figure and writing teacher Sara Spaulding-Phillips. Between its covers, you’ll find poetry about soldier’s wives and a Chicago childhood, as well as dozens of stories and essays about a wide variety of subjects, including divorce, a girl’s first period, loneliness, a woman who has a husband in a burn center, and the title piece, a brief but pointed recollection by Spaulding-Phillips of a childhood ritual involving her grandmother, English bone china, and relentless Bible readings. (Hint: the best place–perhaps the only place–to find High Tea is at Copperfield’s Books in Montgomery Village.)–P.S.

Pamela Raphael, with Libby Colman and Lynn Loar Teaching Compassion: A Guide for Humane Educators, Teachers, and Parents (Latham Foundation for the Promotion of Humane Education; $19.95)

WITH GENTLE PASSION, the local authors explain how they’ve elicited often startling poems and drawings–scattered throughout the book–that enable young children to express compassion, love, pain, anger, outrage. Even kids who have witnessed or inflicted animal abuse have been led to discover that animals have emotions and communicate with humans. The book’s heartfelt lessons cover pet care, pet overpopulation, habitat loss, the question of hunting, and coping with neglect and abuse–all based on the authors’ realization of the remarkable affinity between children and animals.–L.H.

Eugene Shapiro Upright Man (Pir Press; $11.95)

“OUR RELATIONSHIP to our penis defines the kind of men we are,” asserts the local author of this book, which aims to help reconnect men to the “psychic power and sexual pleasure” of their sexual organs. Shapiro’s deeply personal anecdotes about his problems with impotence are impressive for their honesty. Eager to resurrect his sex life, the author experimented with everything from vacuum pumps to penile injections before finally finding a solution in Viagra. Readers may be dubious about the author’s sweeping pronouncements on male psychology, and Shapiro doesn’t help us out by citing much scientific evidence to support his view that men are virtually incapable of being anything but ultra-competitive, predatory beasts. But the book does close on a more hopeful note, arguing (in what almost seems an about-face) that emotional honesty plus Viagra can help older men create a new life as caring and giving lovers.–P.S.

Jack Withington (text); Ron Parenti (photographs) Historical Buildings of Sonoma County: A Pictorial Story of Yesterday’s Rural Structures (3rd Wing Press; $18.95)

THINK TWICE the next time you drive down Highway 116 past a dilapidated old building: It may be one of the oldest structures in this county. Parenti’s photographs and Santa Rosan Withington’s quirky, highly informative text put a new spin on old stuff. A good addition to anyone’s coffee table collection, Historical Buildings provides the reader with excellent and readable background information about our county (did you know that Sonoma County had the only chicken pharmacy in the United States?). It’s fun going through the pages and finding pictures of buildings that are everyday sights, then learning what’s happened there in years past.–S. L.

From the April 13-19, 2000 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

© Metro Publishing Inc.