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San Francisco Gate

Wednesday, April 9, 2003
After hours with SF's literary luminaries, plus Barry Zito, Giant Value, McSweeney's the Believer

by Beth Lisick, special to SF Gate

The term "embedded journalist" took on new meaning for this columnist last Friday night as I snooped around the San Francisco Main Library after hours eating a canapé and drinking a glass of wine as part of the the seventh annual Library Laureates Dinner. Organized by the Friends and Foundation of the San Francisco Public Library, the 40-year-old nonprofit that funds library services not included in the city budget, the benefit dinner brought together writers of poetry, fiction, children's books, biographies, memoirs, mysteries and cookbooks, along with a host of patrons and bibliophiles, for an evening of completely legal after-hours rabble-rousing in the James Freed-designed Civic Center building.

Natty fiction writer and Guggenheim fellow Paul La Farge arrived with his date, poet Tarin Towers, a swinging ringer if there ever was one, who was sporting a faux-fur hat with ears on top of a Baroque-y cyberpunk getup, while "Path of Minor Planets" author Andrew Sean Greer brought his original high school prom date (along with a photo of the two of them on the night in question -- the late '80s never looked so good.) Lawrence Ferlinghetti mingled around the atrium as poet Reginald Lockett made his way across the floor with an elegantly worn leather satchel of poems, and Friends and Foundation co-founders Marjorie Stern and Mig Mayer chatted with City Librarian Susan Hildreth.

Literary co-chairs Daniel Handler, the creator of kids'-book sensation Lemony Snicket, and S.F. poet laureate devorah major, both City natives, played up the rivalry of their neighborhood library branches, West Portal and Richmond respectively, as "Moosewood Cookbook" author and health-food revolutionary Mollie Katzen was inundated by fans reminiscing about potlucks of days gone by. How long do you refrigerate the chickpeas when making homemade falafel?

After a dinner of grilled quail, honey-roasted figs and potato-fennel gratin by Paula LeDuc Fine Catering, each author addressed the tables in his or her room. From my spot in the lively James Hormel Gay and Lesbian Center, choreographer and children's-book author Remy Charlip charmed the crowd with his story "Fortunately" and revealed the fact that his colorful Nehru jacket once belonged to his ex-lover, the late composer Lou Harrison, and the aforementioned Greer, holding court with a group of attentive gentlemen, conducted a surprise giveaway of his novel after borrowing and unintentionally mutilating my lipstick in a S.W.A.K. maneuver that had the room glued to his every move.

We all shuttled out at the end of the night, some grabbing centerpieces or getting last-minute autographs in the lobby, and all looking a little dazed after a party among the stacks.

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