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Chile Prepper: Isabel Allende briefs readers on her native country on May 27 at the Capitola Book Cafe.

Insane in the Brain

In May, the Reading Railroad becomes a crazy train of lit events around Santa Cruz

By Jessica Neuman Beck

Forget Mother's Day. Forget Memorial Day. Because the real thing you have to remember about May is that it's Mental Health Awareness month. How is it that I've gone my whole life without knowing this? Could it be some sort of government conspiracy?

I have a solution, though: Mental Health Awareness cards for all my friends! (Possible marketing opportunity: greeting cards combining Mother's Day with Mental Health Awareness. "Without you, dear mother, my therapist's mortgage would go unpaid." Or how about, "Thinking of you with Oedipal fondness this Mother's Day?")

Addiction, dementia, schizophrenia ... Santa Cruz bookstores have seen it all--and I'm not just talking about the browsers in the self-help aisle. At the Capitola Book Cafe on May 2, James Frey places himself firmly on the side of the rehabilitated with his memoir, A Million Little Pieces, about his descent into drug abuse and subsequent recovery therefrom. Go to room 508 of Cabrillo College from 3:30 to 5:30pm on May 6 to hear five writers reading from Sin puertas visibles: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry by Mexican Women and Reversible Monuments: Contemporary Mexican Poetry in both Spanish and English (multiple personalities, anyone?).

On May 10 at Borders, Stanley Block, M.D., talks about Bridging the "I-System": Unifying Spirituality and Behavior. He's board certified in psychology and psychoanalysis, so his question-and-answer period should be good for those who have been putting off that trip to the therapist. For individuals aspiring to crazy-know-it-all-on-the-street-corner status, I recommend stopping by Bookshop Santa Cruz on May 15 to hear Bill Bryson talk about A Short History of Nearly Everything. He should be able to provide the base information for at least a week's worth of ranting, although I can't promise that it will all tie in to JFK and the grassy knoll. Also on the 15th, this time at the Book Cafe, Addi Somekh will be presenting Mary Holmes: Paintings and Ideas. Holmes was a Santa Cruz artist who spoke to Somekh about her paintings and the themes of her life--which really has nothing to do with mental health, except that everyone knows artists aren't right in the head.

May 16 finds Eric Schlosser at Bookshop Santa Cruz, reading from his disturbing, extensively researched new book Reefer Madness, which follows in the wake of his disturbing, extensively researched Fast Food Nation. At the Capitola Book Cafe, Dana McKenzie will thrill lunatics everywhere with The Big Splat, or How The Moon Came to Be on May 21. On May 27, also at the Book Cafe, Isabel Allende talks about her struggle with solipsism in My Invented Country (OK, I made that up--really it's a memoir about Chile). Compulsive sorts will be glad to note that copies of the book purchased at the Book Cafe can be signed by the author ... and then hoarded, carefully, in a dustproof jacket, kept away from light and moisture.

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From the April 30-May 7, 2003 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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