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The 'Tooth' About Martin: Prechtel reads from his latest book April 29 at Bookshop Santa Cruz.

Operation Isengardi Freedom

Wars and other world crises got you down? Escape to Middle Earth and all points literary.

By Jessica Neuman Beck

With everything else that's been going on in the world--and don't get me started on the subject of protesters who seem to have lost sight of protesting for or against the war and have instead begun protesting each other--losing oneself in a book seems like an underappreciated luxury. Instead of CNN at night, I doggedly immerse myself in a rereading of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which seems oddly topical (it was rumored to have been an allusion to World War II, a claim which was denied by Tolkien, who said he had outlined the salient plot points long before the war began). Instead of perusing MSNBC's video-game Target:Iraq with its "Latest Action" interactive war zone map, I flip through Dr. Seuss Goes to War: The World War II Editorial Cartoons of Theodor Seuss Geisel.

Santa Cruz's bookstores are a perfect place to escape the news--provided, of course, you steer clear of the periodicals section. Bookshop Santa Cruz is hosting several author events this month, including Watsonville High English teacher Vinnie Hansen, reading from her newest novel Rotten Dates on April 8. Jane Smiley will be in the store on April 24. On April 29--which, as an aside, also happens to be your faithful literature columnist's birthday--Martin Prechtel will read from his eagerly anticipated fourth book, The Toe Bone and the Tooth: An Ancient Mayan Story Relived in Modern Times: Leaving Home to Come Home. This is the third installment in Prechtel's autobiographical narrative trilogy.

On April 8 at the Capitola Book Cafe, Oscar Cesares will read from Brownsville, a short story collection about a border town in Texas where Mexican-Americans make up 96 percent of the population. On April 11, Paul Collins (a McSweeny's contributor) talks about Sixpence House, which takes place in the Welsh "Town of Books" that boasts 1,500 inhabitants and 40 bookstores. (Note to self: I hear the Welsh countryside is nice this time of year.)

Gateways is all about Tantra this month, with Charles and Carolyn Muir and Tantra: The Art of Conscious Loving on April 10 and Rabbi Marc Gafni reading from The Mystery of Love on the 21st. I mean, hey, who couldn't use a little more love thy neighbor, am I right?

Of course, if you're looking for a dose of healthy realism, Mark Zepezauer will be reading from Boomerang: How Our Covert Wars Have Created Enemies Across the Middle East and Brought Terror To America at Bookshop Santa Cruz on April 28. Zepezauer's book is a timely examination of U.S. intervention in the Middle East, and may shed some light on our future (and present) political situation. And at the Book Cafe on April 15, UCSC Professor Daniel Press will talk about Saving Open Space: The Politics of Local Preservation in California. In the wake of recent budget cuts, it's important to remember that there are things here in Santa Cruz worth fighting for. Maybe that's an important thing to think about all around.

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From the April 2-8, 2003 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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