Monday, March 30, 2009

Glam and Glitz at the Library

Who needs a Hollywood red carpet to feel like a celeb? Experience the heady buzz of being fĂȘted at the Newton Free Library's Annual Spring Fling instead ...

You hardly recognize the library. The lobby is festooned with spring colors, flowers, and glittering lights. Caterers from Baker's Best weave through the crowd, holding trays of scallops, satay, and something that looks like spanakopita. The Jane Potter Jazz Trio is playing where the copy machine usually stands.

You're greeted with hugs and kisses by a group of beaming trustees and librarians and ushered into the art gallery. The person assigned to care for you through the evening drapes you with a personalized nametag, and introduces you to the seven other honored guests.

You shake hands, wondering: Are discarded outfits strewn across their bedrooms? They appear relaxed and well-coiffed, so you decide it's just you who stressed over what to wear.

"Want something to drink?" your caretaker asks, and rushes off to bring you a cranberry spritzer.

Your husband arrives, and you mingle with the guests and bid on the tempting choices in the silent auction -- beautifully-wrapped baskets stuffed with Red Sox tickets, spa packages, gardening consultations, or other goodies, each with an appropriately-themed book on a stand beside them.

Posters of you and the other authors adorn the walls. You try not to linger too long in front of yours, but secretly hope to take it home after the event to show your parents. You spot the Mayor, the State Senator, alderman, neighbors, and fellow parents on the PTO. Members of the press include David Dahl of the Globe and a reporter from the middle school's prize-winning newspaper. To make you feel even more at home, friends from church arrive to surprise you.

The reference section of the library has somehow morphed into an auditorium, and your caretaker seats you and your husband in the front row. Library Director Nancy Perlow, elegant in heels, pearls, and flowing chiffon, welcomes everybody and introduces the Honorary Chair, Tom Ashbrook, host of NPR's On Point. He confesses his overdue fines to the crowd, describes the library as a shrine, and in a few pithy phrases underlines the privilege of living in a town where books and authors are revered.

Next, Beth Wilkinson, the chair of the trustees, introduces William Novak, an author, editor, and comedy scholar who has collaborated with the likes of Muhammad Ali and Nancy Reagan in creating memoir. Mr. Novak, who has interviewed you before the event, proceeds to enthrall the audience with introductions to all eight authors and books.

He starts with salient details about the writing of five works of non-fiction, Paris in Boston (Jack Dzamba), A Great Idea at the Time: The Rise, Fall, and Curious Afterlife of the Great Books (Alex Beam), What's Wrong With My Dog? (Jake Tedaldi), New Rooms for Old Houses (Frank Shirley), and The Tenacity of Unreasonable Beliefs: Fundamentalism and the Fear of Truth (Solomon Schimmel). You're not surprised to learn that Mr. Novak is also a kaleidoscope aficionado, because he makes your mind spin and expand with new ideas and thoughts.

Next comes fiction. You wait your turn with a bit of trepidation as Mr. Novak introduces Xujun Eberlein (Apologies Forthcoming). But you forget your nerves as you're drawn into a short story about life during the Cultural Revolution, something the author experienced firsthand. When your turn comes, all you have to do is stand and receive applause -- Mr. Novak does the hard work of conveying your life, vision, and story to the audience in five minutes.

Then, last but not least, he introduces Andre Dubus III, and reads an excerpt from The Garden of Last Days. You're sitting near Mr. Dubus' wife, and learn that the two of you share something in common -- she, too, has a celebrity crush on the actor Ben Kingsley, who starred in the adaptation of her husband's novel, The House of Sand and Fog.

The evening ends with the signing of books, the consumption of tiny ice-cream cones, sipping cappuccinos decorated by an artist-barista, laughter, and good conversation.

As you leave, your feet, unused to high heels because mostly you're home writing barefoot, are in pain. But your heart is soaring, because you realize that your vocation is held in high esteem in your town. And tomorrow, unlike those Hollywood starlets, you get to slip a comfortable sweatshirt over your introverted, eccentric, unglamorous self, and do the work that you love best -- writing the next story.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is wonderful, thank you for this glowing commentary on our annual Spring Fling. Hats off the the Spring Fling committee for putting together such a fantastic event and to this year's authors for their literary contributions.

Ellen Meyers Library Director of Programs and Communications

tanita davis said...

Sounds absolutely wonderful, pinchy shoes and all.

Anonymous said...

I had a great time and was very impressed by all.
Kudos to the Library staff and Spring Fling Committee.

Nancy Brown said...

What a lovely account of the evening! Thank you for spending time with us - We thoroughly enjoyed having you.

Sandy Butzel said...

This wonderful synopsis of your Spring Fling experience makes all the hours put into the event worth it. Thank you!

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