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For Love of Boonville 

We find, sitting next to us, a petite and smiling Amy Tan, sadly without her legendary posse of yapping dogs

Wednesday, Aug 3 2005
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When we first heard about the literary festival Litquake, we were suspect of it, mainly because of the name. "Litquake" has that good-and-good-for-you spin -- à la "Rock the Vote," "Safe Sex Is Hot Sex," and "Fruit Is Nature's Candy" -- that hopes to convince you something dull will bring instant excitement. This is, of course, nonsense. Litquake promises to shake the literary world, and it's a promise we doubt just as thoroughly as we doubt that loud music inspires civic virtue.

All the same, Litquake -- which consists, mostly, of a large clique of local writers reading their work at venues where you can get stinking drunk -- is gaining in popularity. Its attractiveness isn't surprising; the Bay Area is busting at the seams with people who just love to think of themselves as cultured. Normally, Dog Bites steers clear of these people, not because we find them pretentious, but because they tend to be less fun than a melting ice cube. When a recent Monday morning greeted us with an invite to Litquake's opening party at RNM, though, our interest stirred. "Only if there's an open bar," we demanded -- and there was!

After running back to our apartment for a quick shower and a costume change (all black, naturally, which In Style promises will be everywhere this fall), we fish for compliments from our roommate. Are we attractive and insouciant enough for a gathering of the terribly wry? "Well, all of those bracelets you're wearing, and that large bag you're carrying, make you look like that anorexic girl from Full House, Mary-Kate something."

Awesome, we think.

As we're whisked through the door of RNM, a closed-fisted punch of pungent truffle oil hits our nose. Known for its unbelievably delicious hors d'oeuvres -- er, small plates -- RNM has strewn the place with good grub and an oyster bar. We look around and are surprised to see a chatty and cheery crowd. There is little to no brooding happening in this litter of writers -- speaking of which, we spot a dashing Po Bronson, chatting with several women; a smiling Phil Bronstein hanging by the bar; and ultrathin author and poet Kate Braverman sporting an all-black dress and a daring hat while talking to Peter Plate, a writer conspicuously wearing sunglasses indoors. Everyone here seems to have a carefully crafted look. One Litquake donor, the extraordinarily wealthy John Hutchinson, even has his stand-in here (yes, he has a stand-in), who is charming and sports a bow tie. When we introduce ourselves to the fake Hutchinson, who claims to be "a nobody," he kids us by alleging to be two very different literary stars. As he shakes our hand, he says, "Thomas Pynchon or Danielle Steel. I haven't decided which one."

"Steel might be hard, what with her having a vagina and all," we note.

We head upstairs to the raw bar, where we begin our attempt to consume more than 20 raw oysters and get a good look at Boonville author Robert Mailer Anderson. Oh my God and holy fuck, he's beautiful! we scream in our head. Oh shit, he's coming this way!

"Hi, are you having fun? I'm Robert," he says, standing tall and dark and swarthy, Heathcliff-like in his appearance, with us yearning to be his Cathy. "Um, yes I am, uh ...," we trail off. Even after four glasses of champagne, we're prone to shyness around a guy this beautiful. "Yeah, nice place and great food," we finally blurt out, knowing his sister-in-law is the chef. "Thanks!" he beams and walks away. (Soon Dog Bites finds out he's straight ... and feels very, very foolish.)

Falling into a chair to recover, we find, sitting next to us, a petite and smiling Amy Tan, sadly without her legendary posse of yapping dogs. Someone is chatting her ear off about something Norman Mailer said about JFK eons ago. She smiles graciously, looks down at the crostini sitting on the table, turns to us, and asks, "Is there meat in these? I'm a vegetarian."

"Oh, no, I don't think so," we say.

She cautiously picks one up and is ready to bite into it when the Norman Mailer fan at the table warns, "No, actually, there's salmon in those."

Tan puts the crostini back down. Dog Bites slinks away, aware that we'd nearly defiled the author of the book The Joy Luck Club, which was made into a touching movie we've seen at least five times on cable.

A few misadventures notwithstanding, Dog Bites is happy to say that this is the best Litquake event we've ever attended. But there were no author readings, so we're anxious for the literary part of Litquake to begin in October. OK, not really. We just want to see the male-modelish Anderson read, and to be the first in line, our Paul Frank briefs bunched up in hand and ready to hurl at him. (Brock Keeling)

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John Mecklin

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