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Mental Stimulation, Small-Town Questing, and Fall Poetry

Authors Garth Sundem and Brad Herzog Hit Chaucer’s; Poets Grace the Mission


USE YOUR HEAD: On Sunday, September 12, at Chaucer’s Books (3321 State), self-professed “übergeek” Garth Sundem will dish out some fresh brain candy. Note, however, that Sundem isn’t just any old übergeek, and his offering isn’t any old brain candy. It’s a book from Three Rivers Press, actually titled Brain Candy: Science, Paradoxes, Puzzles, Logic, and Illogic to Nourish Your Neurons. Though it might sound like one of those gimmicky books you find in peoples’ bathrooms, it’s more like a collection of interesting facts about the brain itself. With these facts comes a host of techniques the brain-conscious reader might consider putting to use in order to get the most out of their body’s thinkingest organ.

This fits neatly with what’s currently in popular science writing vogue: As scientists further understand the workings of our gray matter, it’s only natural that everyone else wants a piece of the knowledge, too. Some of the issues Brain Candy promises to address—“Brainwashing friends and family,” “How to keep your chocolate-starved mind from sabotaging your diet”—might seem a bit goofy, but you could never accuse them of over-technical inaccessibility, and that, when you’re taking about one of the universe’s most complex objects but one that nevertheless exists in all of our skulls, could have been a pitfall. Sundem’s appearance happens at 3 p.m. For details, call 682-6787 or visit chaucersbooks.com.

AMERICAN ROAD HEROISM: Also scheduled to visit Chaucer’s is Brad Herzog, a man who’s written a memoir some have called “On the Road meets Eat Pray Love.” Surely he’ll take the time during his appearance to clear up any bizarre mental images that phrase will have conjured. In the most basic sense, Turn Left at the Trojan Horse’s narrative follows the author’s cross-country journey to his college reunion in Ithaca, but it’s also imbued with the stuff of classic literature. “Classic literature” meaning very classic literature: Though his was a time before college reunions, you’ll recall that Odysseus of The Odyssey was on his own quest to Ithaca, as well. When you pass through towns like Troy, Oregon, and Iliad, Montana, along the way, let’s just say that comparisons become inevitable.

Any long solo trip inevitably becomes a space for reflection, and Herzog’s, with all its resonances in antiquity, arrives at one question: What is the heroic ideal? Perhaps that sounds too grand or a bit hokey, but if an experienced travel memoirist like Herzog can’t handle it, who can? His previous books have seen him wend his inquisitive way through America, from Alabama to Michigan to Wisconsin to Maine to the set of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? by all means of conveyance, Winnebagos included. His undoubtedly packed itinerary will bring him to Chaucer’s on Tuesday, September 14, at 7 p.m.

NO-PROSE ZONE: On Saturday, September 25, at 1 p.m., the Mission Poetry Series’ second season begins with a free, three-poet reading at Clare’s Place. Haven’t heard of Clare’s Place? Then you’ve certainly heard of its location: It happens to be the library and conference room of the Mission Renewal Center on the grounds of the Old Mission (2201 Laguna St.). A trifecta of accomplished readers will form the seasonally inflected presentation, titled September Voices: Three Poets for Autumn. You’ll hear from Barry Spacks, Santa Barbara’s first Poet Laureate; Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, Poet Laureate of Colorado’s San Miguel County; and widely published Ojai poet Robert Peake. For more information, call 682-4713.

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