Author’s Night at East Hampton Library started 10 years ago and has become a hot-ticket literary event. A benefit for East Hampton Library, Author’s Night gets bigger and better each year—it has grown to 100 participating authors, with 1,000-plus attendees. All proceeds go directly to the library. Advance publicity invites folks to “meet and mingle.” “Cruise and crunch” would be more like it, since Author’s Night tends to get crowded before it even opens. Founded by honorary co-chairs Alec Baldwin and Barbara Goldsmith, and now headed by Event Co-Chair and President of East Hampton Library Sheila Rogers, this grand outdoor party of literati and glitterati draws both famous and emerging writers. The writers are arrayed in alphabetical order, each with a stack of donated books for sale.
It’s “prom night for the bookish set,” says best-selling author Wednesday Martin (Primates of Park Avenue). “There is a certain giddy thrill about speaking with people who are there to learn a little more about you and your work. It’s kind of like speed dating.” Rogers notes that the planning committees always wonder how they’re going “to surpass the prior year’s event,” but they always do. No surprise, she says, given the “quality and variety of authors and the generous hosts who open up their beautiful homes [for dinners] to the library’s supporters, many of whom they’ve never met.” Rogers is referring to the dinner party fundraisers with select authors (reservations required) that take place in private homes after the main event.
Library Director and event Co-Chair Dennis Fabiszak points out that East Hampton Library, unlike other libraries which are supported mostly by taxpayer money, has been—since its founding in 1897—able to rely on private donors. Donations account for approximately 60% of its construction costs, including architect and permit fees. This is a phenomenal achievement that has made the Library’s new Children’s Wing, including the Baldwin Family Lecture Room possible, along with eight major renovations. This year, Fabiszak is looking to raise $250,000 to complete the last project in the library’s construction plans: a special room for Young Adults so that students in grades 9-12 will be able to have their own space, their own librarian, their own computers and age-appropriate materials.
It’s not just about money, however. East Hampton Library also attracts large numbers of hardworking volunteers. These include the Event Committee Co-chair Maureen Egen, who wrote up descriptions of all 39 books by Author’s Night dinner party authors. This year, attendees have the chance to share a meal with Mimi Sheraton, Jules Feiffer, Robert Caro and Wednesday Martin herself—just to name a few.
So how is Authors Night 2015 different from its predecessors? Though the event is mostly a “celebration of an enduring love of books,” as author and an honorary chairman Tom Clavin remarks, this year’s event will be the first since the passing of Tom Twomey, a passionate champion of the library who at various times served as President and as Chair of capital campaigns. Expect some tributes to this beloved friend of the Library at the event. This year’s event also features a unique selection of books, says Fabiszak, noting that he and the selection committee looked for relevant books and books by Hamptons writers. Interestingly, a preponderance of books this year are nonfiction.
Yes, it’s the age of electronic communication and social media, and “it’s easy to forget about the pleasures of an actual physical book,” as Martin observes. But the pleasures are there and distinct: the heft of a book, “the way it fits in your bag, the places it goes with you, the way it becomes your companion throughout the days as you read it.” And its “physical beauty is something special, too.”
Authors Night and the Free Children’s Fair, Saturday, August 8, 4 Maidstone Lane East Hampton. Reception 5–7:30 p.m., dinners with authors at 8 p.m. (reservations a must). The reception is $100, the dinners start at $300. For more info email [email protected].