Sexy Sumo

Tribal chin tattoos are back, and was Jesus gay?

Lord knows: Jesus is a woman whose small but perfectly round breasts — 34B, let’s say, and she doesn’t need underwires — poised pert above flat abs and gently sloping hips as … well, as she’s more or less crucified, gazing down at her feet from under lush chestnut bangs. Janet McKenzie’s painting Christ Mother is one of eleven artists’ new takes on the New Testament superstar in Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More ($38.95), new from Berkeley’s AndroGyne Press with text by Pacific School of Religion grad Kittredge Cherry, an art historian who ministered in the LGBT world until chronic fatigue immune dysfunction syndrome made her switch to a quieter, more contemplative life — during which she wrote the 2006 novel Jesus in Love, narrated in Castro-speak by a gay JC who gets jiggy in ancient Palestine with John the Baptist (whom Cherry describes as “a gay man mourning his lover’s death”) and Mary Magdalene (“a highly intelligent survivor of sexual abuse” — you know, like not a stupid one). Elsewhere in Art That Dares, leather-and-chain fetishists cling to Christ in Elisabeth Wallin’s photograph Sermon on the Mount, and a kneeling youth aims his face at the happy Lord’s lap in Robert Lentz’s painting Christ the Bridegroom.

Hex appeal: The biblical boinking continues as Satan, with his notoriously ice-cold member, seduces a starving 16th-century German grandma in The Witch’s Trinity (Crown, $23.95). Inspired to write this novel about witch trials and torture involving a vaginal speculum/shredder upon learning that one of her own ancestors was accused of witchcraft in Massachusetts, Oakland’s Erika Mailman narrated it in the putative voice of the grandma. An otherwise haunting saga is thus undermined by lines that read like odd translations, but were actually written this way, e.g.: “I voided into the straw” and “the gray pocket of her sex,” and, of cats: “They spake their mews sweetly and drank the stream that issued from the cow.”

Hot tatami: An ambitious sumo-wrestler romance — “he loosened the sash of Aki’s silk kimono and it slid away from her body like water … as they lay facing each other on the futon” — is the latest from El Cerrito novelist and book-club favorite Gail Tsukiyama. The Street of a Thousand Blossoms (St. Martin’s, $24.95) follows two Japanese brothers through WWII and beyond. Sample line: “It made Hiroshi sick to his stomach as he worked furiously to remove the swollen and bloated bodies from the river.” Chinese on her mother’s side and Japanese on her father’s, San Francisco-born Tsukiyama declares: “I relish my early travels to Hong Kong, and seeing stacks of wooden boxes filled with snakes, whose gall bladders were squeezed out and drunk down with rice wine to increase male virility. … The richness of the Chinese and Japanese cultures is endless.” Right, but don’t tell PETA how much fun you had watching those reptiles die.

Novel graphics: A divorced, balding nebbish seeks love in Mister Wonderful, a new comic strip by Oakland artist, Ghost World author, and Academy Award nominee Daniel Clowes that started running this month in the New York Times. Our piteous protagonist is insecure because, as he tells us, “let’s just say my wife had some issues with fidelity, and several of my friends were involved.” Along with Art Spiegelman (Maus) and Alan Moore (The Watchmen), Clowes portrays a character in a Comic Book Guy–centered The Simpsons episode airing October 7.

Take it on the chin: “One-elevens” — tattoos comprising three thick vertical bars from women’s bottom lips to under their chins — were a common sight around Northern California well into the 20th century, as several Native American tribes, including the Hupa, practiced that tradition. It died out midcentury, but it’s back, as reported in L. Frank and Kim Hogeland‘s First Families: A Photographic History of California Indians ($23.95), the result of two women’s quest to interview members of every single California tribe. Coauthor Frank, a member of the Ajachmem and Tongva tribes, is a self-described “decolonizationist.”

Going underground: Making the Bay Area “a compulsory destination” for “the wildly dedicated transport enthusiast,” BART is “sleek, efficient … brazenly traversing the infamously unstable San Andreas Fault.” Amazingly, it “may yet reach farther-flung cities like Byron or Tracy,” Mark Ovenden muses in Transit Maps of the World (Penguin, $25), a first-ever history detailing mass-transit systems worldwide, from Glasgow’s “Clockwork Orange” to Nizhniy Novgorod’s huge chandeliered stations. The trouble with BART, Ovenden laments, is the “slavish topographic accuracy” that renders its official map user-unfriendly.

Cello there: Question: What do you get when you drop a piano on an army base? Answer: A-flat major. Robert S. Wieder‘s The Wannabe Guide to Classical Music ($12.95), new from Oakland’s RDR Books, includes glossaries, biographies, listening tips — and jokes. Also: Bach and Handel went blind, Beethoven went deaf, and Schumann went crazy.

Bombs bursting in air: In 2002, antiwar activist/civil rights protester/journalist Norman Solomon toured the cancer ward in a Baghdad children’s hospital with Sean Penn. It was very sad. In 1970, he was tear-gassed on Telegraph Avenue. It was very nauseating. In 1987, he spoke Russian with young Soviets in Red Square: “When a man in his early twenties referred to me as a ‘capitalist,’ I objected,” Solomon remembers in Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters With America’s Warfare State (PoliPointPress, $24.95). Its cover sports endorsements from Medea Benjamin (“A fascinating read!”), Country Joe McDonald, Tom Hayden, and Phil Donahue; Daniel Ellsberg wrote the foreword. American soldiers, enemy combatants, Iraqi civilians, executed murderer (and author) Stanley “Tookie” Williams — they all kinda run together as Solomon rages: “From San Quentin to Iraq, in the name of the murdered, the state murdered; in the name of the fallen, more killed and fell.” Yes. Death is … bad.


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