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Disc Connected: Terry Pratchett will read from the newest entry in the Discworld series at Bookshop Santa Cruz Oct. 11.

Spooky Chats

October rituals ain't what they used to be, but this month's lit events offer some extra intrigue

By Jessica Neuman Beck

Let's take a look at what we've got going this October: (1) Santa Cruz celebrates a birthday on Oct. 4 with fireworks on the beach; (2) Oct. 6 is Yom Kippur; (3) daylight-saving time ends on Oct. 26 and we all get an extra hour of precious slumber, provided the rude shift in our sleep cycle doesn't render us glassy-eyed and insomniac; (4) Halloween beckons from costume shops, where we can wrestle with an overweight housewife for the last Britney Spears costume.

In other words, same old, same old. We should bring back some of the lesser-known holidays to spice things up a bit. For instance, in ancient Rome on the 15th of October, a chariot race was run in which the right-hand horse of the victorious team was sacrificed to Mars for the purpose of ensuring good crops. Those kooky Romans! Oct. 18, meanwhile, used to be Thesmophoria, a festival of ancient Greeks in which pig carcasses were retrieved from snake-filled chasms by women who mixed the rotten flesh with seed, praying to the grain goddess Demeter for abundant crops. C'mon, wouldn't that be more fun than a few fireworks?

In any case, as an alternative to sacrificing livestock, we've got a lot of literary goings-on this October. Bookshop Santa Cruz is hosting its first ever Local Authors Night. On Thursday, Oct. 2, at 7:30pm, Sue Fishkoff, Stephen Lestat, Mark Levine, Richard Mahler, Vicki Noble, Mark Rovan and Kimberly White will all be appearing to talk about their latest literary accomplishments and sign copies of their books. Come and show your support for local authors; horse sacrifice is optional.

On Tuesday, Oct. 7, at 7:30pm at the Capitola Book Cafe, Thomas Steinbeck (son of that other Steinbeck) will be reading from his short story collection, Down to a Soundless Sea, which celebrates the folklore of Monterey County. On Wednesday, Oct. 8, also at the Capitola Book Cafe, Meredith Maran presents Dirty: A Search for Answers Inside America's Teenage Drug Epidemic. Maran's book follows three drug-addled teens through recoveries and relapses and offers suggestions for putting an end to the ugly cycle.

At Bookshop Santa Cruz at noon on Saturday, Oct. 11, Terry Pratchett will be promoting the newest addition to his phenomenally successful Discworld series. Monstrous Regiment is a gender-bending satire about the follies of war that pits the Borogravians--followers of a god who believes that cats, babies and cheese are abominations-- against Discworld's beloved Ankh-Morpork. For Terry Pratchett, I'd be willing to spend a Saturday afternoon at the bookstore. He's the funniest thing to come out of England since Monty Python.

On Friday, Oct. 17, at 7:30pm at the Capitola Book Cafe, Karol Griffin will read from Skin Deep, a memoir about art and angst in the world of tattooing. Thursday, Oct. 23, also at the Capitola Book Cafe, Peter Elbling presents The Food Taster, a witty story about staying alive in a 16th-century Italian court.

Friday, Oct. 24, brings Ann Rule, America's bestselling true-crime writer. Her new book, Heart Full of Lies: A True Story of Desire and Death, examines the murder of Hawaiian Airlines pilot Chris Northon at the hands of his wife, Liysa.

At the Capitola Book Cafe: Sunday, Oct. 26, at 2:30pm, Absolute Power author David Baldacci reads from his newest thriller, Split Second; on Tuesday, Oct. 28, at 7:30pm, Daniel Bergner takes a look at war-ravaged Sierra Leone when he reads from his book, In The Land of Magic Soldiers: A Story of White and Black in West Africa.

Books may not make the crops grow, but they sure are less messy than a dead pig. Easier to explain to the neighbors, too.

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From the October 1-8, 2003 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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