Thursday, November 1, 2007
The Steinbeck Center’s director of marketing and communications, Amanda Holder, recounts a memorable evening of years past: “I went to a dinner party attended by Thomas Steinbeck [son of John Steinbeck]. He wrote Down to a Soundless Sea, stories about Big Sur. The dinner wasn’t fancy, but it was special. It was at Ed Ricketts’ Lab.”
That affair, steeped in local significance, was a fundraiser for the Steinbeck Center and CSU Monterey Bay. Called the Author’s Table, the event, now in its sixth year, combines the nourishment of a dinner party with the literary exchange of a salon.
Literary salons—intimate and intellectual gatherings at the homes of distinguished people—once flourished throughout Europe. Most famous, perhaps, is that of Gertrude Stein where she hosted Picasso, Hemingway, Fitzgerald and others. Closer to home, Henry Miller hosted salons that attracted artists, writers and celebrities from all corners.
The Steinbeck Center and CSU Monterey Bay collaborate on the Author’s Table, which consists of a 200-person champagne reception/luncheon at CSU Monterey Bay’s University Center paneled by six of the Author’s Table authors; a VIP opening reception for all 15 authors at Pasadera Country Club; and Monday evening dinners at the homes of notable local hosts, each starting at 6pm, each attended by one author, all open to the public.
“The dinner parties are usually preceded by a cocktail hour,” says event coordinator for the Author’s Tables, Tia Gindick. “The author will sometimes collaborate with the hosts to do a presentation or Q&A. The hosts go all out.
“We wanted to reach a broad audience. [The Author’s Table] is accessible and special because for $65 there’s a champagne reception, a lovely luncheon, portable umbrellas with the Author’s Table logo as a gift, all done with a sense of style.”
Attendees choose their dinner by weighing author, host, and location. “These are amazing houses,” says Gindick.
Music writer and photographer Robert Greenfield, who has written about Jerry Garcia and Bill Graham, is guest author at the Carmel Valley home of a rock ‘n’ roll photographer (suggested attire: “What you’d wear to a Rolling Stones concert”). Wine writer Dan Berger is the guest author at the winemaking family home of Rosella and Gary Franscioni in Gonzales. Award-winning SoCal Latino journalist and author Al Martinez graces the dinner table of Susie and Charly Franklin, amid their collection of Los Angeles art.
Author Ngugi wa Thiong’o, born and raised in Kenya, was imprisoned for his books but now teaches writing and literature at UC Irvine. His dinner party takes place in the home of Marti Myszak in Seaside among African art and views of Monterey Bay.
The settings of the dinners range from casual to semi-formal to creative, with 10 to 25 people in attendance.
“We rely on the generosity of a lot of people,” says Gindick. “The hosts pay for the dinner parties. The hotel rooms are donated. The authors take a stipend instead of their usual fees; some make their own travel arrangements.”
Money raised goes to the reading and writing programs of both institutions. But, says Gindick, “The Author’s Table is more than just a benefit…It gets people thinking, reading, becoming aware of authors they might not have heard of before. It puts emphasis on an old-fashioned activity—picking up a book.”
THE AUTHOR'S TABLE begins 11am Sunday, Nov. 4, with a luncheon at CSUMB’s University Center, followed by a VIP opening reception at Pasadera Country Club in Monterey. The dinners take place 6pm Monday, Nov. 5, at various locations. $65/Sunday luncheon; $150, $300, $500/Monday private dinners. 582-3017, 625-8190, csumb.edu/authors or steinbeck.org/artcal.html