'Authors Under the Stars' — where literary heroes and
their fans meet
By Lou Fancher Correspondent Contra Costa Times
The Walnut Creek Library Foundation's 4th annual "Authors Under the Stars" gala on March 23 promises to be a celestial love matchup, where star authors orbit stellar readers in a book-centric galaxy.
It's a strictly two-way literary love affair--made evident by the identical responses of David Talbot (author of best-selling "Season of the Witch" and founder of salon.com) and Brian Copeland ("Not a Genuine Black Man: My Life as an Outsider" and multimedia host/comedian extraordinaire) in interviews one month before the event.
"You read my book?! That's great!" they exclaim.
It's either a sad commentary on reporting (journalists don't read the books they are writing about?), or these guys just love readers.
And even if the names of the evening's other heavy hitters are not as instantly recognizable, the library foundation appears to have cast a spell on the Bay Area's bookie cosmos. A bevy of cookbook, mystery, memoir, essay, cartoon, fiction and nonfiction authors will sip, sit and storytell at the reception, silent auction, and dinner.
Paying tribute to Maurice Sendak and hinting the library's second floor will be "where the wild things are," Executive Director Kristin Anderson said over $50,000 was raised last year and she hoped support for the library's programs would be even stronger this year.
Talbot's latest book involved oodles of hours on the San Francisco Public Library's sixth floor, a place he called "a holy temple, a sanctum" and "a great treasure trove of city history."
Linked libraries were his digital playground, he said, allowing him to research and write his book in a mere 18 months. Now, completing a book about a key figure in the Kennedy assassinations and planning another about former CIA Director Allen Dulles, Talbot said his head is "entirely in the world of spies and spoofs."
But there's no mystery to how he feels about Silicon Valley tech workers encroaching on his beloved city.
"All the tech workers are moving into San Francisco and squeezing out working families, artists and fringe characters," he said. "It's in danger of becoming all about big money."
His "Season of the Witch" is titled after a 1960s song and reflects the period's dark, murderous, "Summer of Love" dichotomies.
"A 2013 song would be 'Money, money, money, money ... ' you know that (O'Jays) song?" Talbot asked. "I'm not saying they're all greedy. There is a high social consciousness in young people around health issues, but that can be just making your own bubble a lot nicer to live in."
Copeland grew up in a sort of bubble, after moving in the 1970s with his family from Oakland to San Leandro and discovering he was part of the city's then 0.01 percent nonwhite population.
Creating a hit comedy show and writing a gut-busting, tear-jerker memoir was how he delivered his social commentary on racism, repulsive fair housing violations and civic responsibility.
"Nothing is off limits," he said, about comedic subjects, "except the age of the Holocaust and AIDS. If I could find anything funny about them, I'd touch it. But really, they're just dangerous ground."
Which doesn't mean he won't explore material he said would "never get on broadcast television in 2013 because networks are too afraid to tackle social issues."
Surprisingly, Copeland sees the racial war's end game coming.
"America is becoming a minority majority nation. As we truly become a melting pot and taboos vanish, that's when we'll see the end of this bigotry," he said.
Positive steps in literature and television are those he said we now take for granted.
"It was a huge deal in 1967 on Star Trek, when the first interracial kiss happened. It was a fire storm. Now, you can read Jonathan Kellerman's books with Milo Sturgis, a gruff, overweight, mustard-on-his-tie police detective. Milo is gay and it's mentioned, but it doesn't matter," he said.
What does matter, he insisted, is "retaining the employment system of librarians" and filling shelves with hard cover books you can hold in your hands.
"E-books are convenient, but it's not the same thing," he said. "And without the head librarian at San Leandro, who knew every book on the shelf--or where to get one that wasn't there--the genuine black man project would never have become what it did."