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'This is no 'feel-good' philosophy, obviously. It will cause anguish, anger, fear, and hopelessness in the majority of those who understand it. Many will not even dare read it; many others will be forbidden to read it. Still others will dismiss it a priori, in the 'ostrich' approach, as irrelevant, unfounded, inaccurate, presumptuous, frivolous, or gratuitously aggressive. But to an enlightened few, it will mean the real salvation: salvation from living under the burden of blatant lies and tortuous but meaningless rules of conduct demanded by fraudulent imposters." -- Horacio Hanson, in describing his new novel, There Is No Creator, Religion Is a Fraud -- What Now? Hanson is one of 239 local authors, his work one of 287, to be featured this month in San Diego's Thirty-Ninth Annual Local Authors Exhibit at the downtown public library. Hanson's title is not the biggest buzzkill of the bunch -- the winner of that contest is Richard Carlson, with I'm in the Tub, Gone: A Collection of Authentic Suicide Letters. Carlson, a former police officer, presents suicide letters (as they were found, complete with errors) that compel the reader to wonder how life could have gotten so bad and how desperate someone must become in order to end it all in such a horrific way.

The library held an open reception for this year's exhibit on Saturday, January 29. That night, the Local Author Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Jackson J. Benson. Benson, a professor who taught 20th-century American literature at San Diego State University from 1966 to 1997, has written or edited 15 books, including Looking for Steinbeck's Ghost, Hemingway: The Writer's Art of Self-Defense, and Wallace Stegner: His Life and Work. Benson's newest book, The Ox-Bow Man: A Biography of Walter Van Tilburg Clark, is among those featured in the exhibit.

After Benson's accolade, the library shined the light on everyone -- each of the 239 names were read aloud and authors were individually awarded medals. The books themselves were encased in glass boxes throughout the room. Many seemed to be grouped by genre -- a difficult task given the variety of titles. There's E.M. "Bud" Hamilton's fictional, psychological suspense novel, Inner Voices (you're not the only one). A good portion of authors wrote about local history: Jim Graves, president of the El Cajon Historical Society, with Those Graves Boys of El Cajon 1921-1929; Margaret Eggers's Mining History and Geology of Joshua Tree National Park, threatening to overlap with the science category; and Jack Scheffler Innis with San Diego Legends: The Events, People, and Places that Made History. In this book, Innis gives 20 chapters to San Diego Bay legends with titles like "The Legend of La Loma," "They Hang Boat Thieves, Don't They?" and "Cabrillo Not First to Arrive in San Diego."

Two books about Tijuana that I'm curious about are Tales from the Tijuana Jails: Corruption in the Belly of the Burro, volumes I and II, by Sam Warren. There are other books that look interesting like Born to Rock: Heavy Drinkers and Thinkers by Todd Taylor and Exaggerated Gender Signals by Gabriela Anaya Valdepena (a collection of poems). In the world of things we need to know in order to survive, Jeanne Jones has added another cookbook to her prolific pile of accomplishments (over 30!) -- this one is called Cooking from the Cupboard: Meals in Minutes from Your Pantry. I know there must be something I can do with 13 packets of Top Ramen, 6 cans of Hunt's tomato sauce, and a jar of martini olives.

The exhibit also features children's books, one of which is How to Trick or Treat in Outer Space, written by Kathleen Krull and illustrated by her husband, Paul Brewer. For those who are not quite yet children, Sheila Wolf (a.k.a. Mama Gums, beloved dental hygienist since 1971) presents the title most likely to be mocked by teenagers -- Pregnancy and Oral Health: The Critical Connection Between Your Mouth and Your Baby.

Other subjects include the instructional (from how to pronounce words in other languages to how to hypnotize yourself if you're a woman), sports, and self-help. There are a few science and evolution tales for preteens, and a bundle of God/miracle/Biblical lessons/prayer books for kids of all ages. Personal memoirs, business, travel, nonfiction...something for any category I can think of.

The books will be available for viewing through February 28. After that, library visitors who are interested in a title should inquire at the information desk, as it is possible that some titles will not be part of the library's permanent collection. -- Barbarella

Local Authors Exhibit at the Central Library Sunday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays, noon to 8 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Through February 28 Central Library 820 E Street, downtown Cost: Free Info: 619-236-5800 or www.sandiego.gov/public-library

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