More than 250 people crammed into the Berkeley Public Library the other night, dressed in sequins and silk, denim and well-worn suits. They were there to celebrate authors - the books they write, the worlds they create, and the libraries set up to futher their existance.
Berkeley and the Bay Area must have one of the highest concentrations of writers in the world, and this benefit showed the incredible variety of people who labor away to get their words in print. There were a few "hot of the moment" writers, such as Andrew Sean Greer, the author of "The Confessions of Max Tivoli," and Karen Joy Fowler, who wrote "The Jane Austen Book Club." But there were others who have written fantastic books, like David Mas Masumoto, who writes about growing organic peaches and grapes in California's Central Valley and Elizabeth Partridge, the granddaughter of famed photographer Imogene Cunningham and the author of "This Land Was Made for You and Me," a children's biography of Woody Guthrie.
As a person who gobbles up books -- I read the San Francisco Chronicle and New York Times book reviews each week and then rush to my computer to reserve ones that sound good from the library -- it was great fun to mingle with the authors. I sat at the table of Alice Medrich, the noted cookbook author whose old chocolate store, Cocolat, is still talked about in Berkeley. Alice had called up many of her cook friends and arranged for them to donate desserts to the event and those at her table got to hear her thoughts on the explosion of new chocolate stores in the Bay Area. People approached her throughout the evening to tell her how much they enjoy cooking her chocolate treats.
The Berkelely Public Library's budget was cut by $300,000 this year, and the benefit made a small dent in that deficit. But as the host, TV reporter Bill Schechner pointed out, what ocould be more perfect than an evening devoted to books, authors and the library.