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Are You My Commie?: Lauren Kessler reads from 'Clever Girl: Elizabeth Bentley and the Dawn of the McCarthy Era' Aug. 13 at the Capitola Book Cafe.

Dazed and Perused

Lots of books to read, and a dearth of author events. Like the Go-Go's said, vacation's meant to be spent alone. They were all about literacy.

By Jessica Neuman Beck

Maybe there's something to the old phrase "the lazy days of summer." I certainly feel like I'm moving through a lackadaisical haze that can't quite be blamed on a thyroid imbalance or insufficient quantity of caffeine.

Rambling through the bookshops on my lunch hour, I notice a glut of titles just begging for a long, leisurely read. McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales looks pretty entertaining. I've spent the last couple of years meaning to read Don DeLillo's Underworld. And as a Monterey Bay resident, don't I have some sort of cultural obligation to read all of Steinbeck's novels at least once?

Something else I notice during my pilgrimage to the bookstores: author events are at an all-time low. Looking out at the sun shining through the trees, I'd imagine that the choice between listening to an author read long passages from his or her latest novel and running out to take advantage of the last hours of daylight wouldn't be much of a choice at all. Or maybe it's the authors who are MIA--after all, writers take summer vacations, too.

Whatever the reason, I say, "Enough is enough!" So what if it's beautiful outside-let's have some more author appearances! Bookshop Santa Cruz has that whole skylight thing going--and yet, not one author event in the month of August. September brings Chuck Palahniuk, though, which almost makes up for it.

As though hearing my plea, a few authors are sauntering in to give readings at the Capitola Book Cafe this month. Elizabeth George, author of I, Richard and the popular Thomas Lynley/Barbara Havers series, will be reading from her newest novel, A Place of Hiding, on Aug. 10 at 7:30pm.

Aug. 11 brings Roger King reading from A Girl From Zanzibar. I haven't yet read the novel myself, but it won the Bay Area Book Reviewers Association Award for Fiction 2003, so maybe I should.

Lauren Kessler will be appearing on Aug. 13, with her new book Clever Girl: Elizabeth Bentley and the Dawn of the McCarthy Era. Kessler, the author of such entertainingly titled books as The Happy Bottom Riding Club and Stubborn Twig, brings us the biography of the Soviet-spy-turned-FBI -informant known to 1940s New York City tabloids as "Red Spy Queen."

On Aug. 20, David Corbett, author of The Devil's Redhead, will be reading from his newest noir novel, Done for a Dime. Is it just me, or are book titles more interesting lately?

The bay, the sun--it all comes back to that, doesn't it? Maybe the solution is a series of open-air book readings. It'd be like Shakespeare in the Park, only without the Shakespeare ... and, you know, without the park. We could all congregate at the corner of Pacific and Front and soak up some rays while listening to passages from the latest bestseller. As long as nobody juggles, we'll all be OK.

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From the August 6-13, 2003 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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