As the previous 13 “Authors Nights” have shown, book-minded and celeb-conscious summer folk will want to be anything but “far from the madding crowd” (apologies to 18th Century poet Thomas Grey and to 19th Century novelist Thomas Hardy who took his Madding Crowd title from Grey’s Elegy), when East Hampton Library presents its annual premier literary event on Saturday, August 11.
And “premier” it is, for authors as well as attendees. Nelson DeMille, a regular at Authors Night, calls the library bash “the largest, most well-attended, and most elegant authors’ event” he has ever been to.
The number of attendees who mill around at the book-signing cocktail reception, nibbling on delicious hors d’oeuvres and drinking wine, or who also go the private-home dinner parties afterward, is probably equal to the number of writers who hope to get invited to the star-studded media event in the first place. Only about 100 writers make it to the expansive white tent, however, where they get to sit in alphabetical order, copies of their latest works displayed alongside catchy come-ons.
The alphabetical arrangement sometimes makes for strange bedfellows, but that’s part of the fun, as fiction and nonfiction genres jostle and well-known names share table space with new authors. It’s a see-and-be-seen scene. And a select one.
Library director and Authors Night co-chair Dennis Fabiszak and East Hampton Library Board president and Authors Night co-chair Sheila Rogers rely on a volunteer selection committee to assist — a “great bunch of voracious readers who stay current on new titles, authors, and publishing trends,” Fabiszak noted.
“We don’t have a hard list of criteria, but in general, we try to diversify our list to make sure Authors Night truly has something for everyone,” said Rogers, adding, “There’s a wait list — just like any popular party!” It’s grown more popular each year, “one of the largest library-author events of its kind in the country.”
So how is Authors Night 2018 different from the others? For one, the venue has been moved to a new location: the “555” Field (on Montauk Highway) in Amagansett, east of the IGA. Also, this year’s live radio host for the on-air author interviews on WPPB 88.3 FM, the local NPR station, is none other than The Independent’s own Bridget LeRoy, subbing in for regular Bonnie Grice.
Consistency counts, however; enough famous names who generate long book-signing lines, and affable authors eager to be chatted up about their work, past and present. Attendees can also count on an appearance from Authors Night founding honorary chair and great supporter of East Hampton Library, Alec Baldwin, who will be on hand with his wife, Hilaria Baldwin, both signing recent publications.
Of the 100 participating authors this year, more than half are new faces, said Fabiszak. These include Pulitzer Prize winners, celebrities, debut novelists, New York Times bestselling writers — among them Lee Child, author of the popular Jack Reacher series; A.J. Finn, whose debut thriller The Woman in the Window topped the bestseller list for months; Emily Jane Fox, whose Born Trump is still causing a buzz, not to mention David Itzkoff, author of the Robin Williams biography. “And we’re looking forward to having Ndaba Mandela, Nelson Mandela’s grandson,” the director added. All will be featured at the dinner parties.
There are also returning authors to look for, among them Robert A. Caro (with Vol. IV of LBJ), Tom Clavin, Elliott Erwitt, Florence Fabricant, Jules Feiffer, Wendy Goodman, Helen Harrison, A.M. Homes, Michael Isikoff, Steve Israel, Geraldo Rivera, Gretchen Rubin, Jill Santopolo, Nathan Turner, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Chris Whipple, and many more — all listed on the website along with brief descriptions of their books on the website.
Of course, there are the aforesaid dinner parties, this year topping out at 25 guests and taking place at “lovely homes throughout the East Hampton area,” Rogers said.
How to choose? “Those who purchase dinner party tickets review the options and select five potential dinners, in order of preference.” Then, shortly before the event, “we notify them about which dinner they’ll be going to,” a surprise that is always part of the fun, she said.
It should be noted, not incidentally, that the dinner hosts underwrite the costs for their dinner, with 100 percent of proceeds benefiting the library.
Ticket prices are $100 for the Authors Reception only, and begin at $300 for the dinners (the purchase includes entry to the book-signing reception). Tickets may be purchased at www.authorsnight.org, by calling 631-324-0222, ext. 7, or by stopping at the East Hampton Library.
Dinner party tickets should be purchased by Thursday, July 26. Tickets for the book-signing cocktail party are also available in advance and at the door on the day of the event. The cocktail party runs from 5 to 7:30 PM. The dinners start at 8 PM. The festivity runs all night.