Jorge Luis Borges imagined paradise as a kind of library, and on August 11 many of us in the Hamptons had a tiny glimpse of paradise at the East Hampton Library Authors Night benefit. The well-attended (upward of 1,500 people) annual fundraiser gathers 130 or so authors to sign their books under a tent, followed by a number of private dinners with various authors as guests of honor. Hamptons magazine hosts the largest of these dinners, and for three years running I have been privileged to open my home and personal library on this night to an extraordinary group of people: authors and book lovers, and of course, party lovers. Guests tell me they are captivated by the evening—they often use the word “magical”—and I don’t argue. I’m quite sure no one enjoys the spirited conversations and the glamour of the evening more than I do.
We at the magazine love the written word, too, so supporting the East Hampton Library has considerable meaning for us. Unlike most public libraries, East Hampton is funded primarily by private donations, rather than taxpayer money, so Authors Night truly benefits our community. That’s the reason so many acclaimed authors participate and so many prominent residents host the dinners.
Ali Wentworth, who signed her book Ali in Wonderland: And Other Tall Tales at the library event and was a featured author at the Hamptons party, says, “Authors Night was like some magical Fellini film in a field of dreams. One minute I’m giggling about sex with Dr. Ruth Westheimer and the next I’m eyeing Martin Amis with admiration.”
There were so many books to celebrate over dinner. There was fiction: Between You and Me, the new novel by The Nanny Diaries team of Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus. Scott Annan, author of Aimbitious: A Life of Enlightened Self-Leadership, brought a bit of practical wisdom to the table, and Robert Klein, author of The Amorous Busboy of Decatur Avenue: A Child of the Fifties Looks Back, brought his uncommon humor. There was even some show business: Stewart F. Lane’s new book, Jews on Broadway: An Historical Survey of Performers, Playwrights, Composers, Lyricists and Producers. “In an age where everyone is downloading books,” Lane commented, “authors don’t get to see their readers face-to-face and hand them a book. At the East Hampton Library Authors Night, I get to meet people who still like to hold paper books in their hands, and there is something very special about that.”
The night also offered life (and lifestyle) defining moments with Jennifer Gilbert, who recently published her personal narrative, I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag: A Memoir of Life Through Events— the Ones You Plan and the Ones You Don’t. “The Authors Night event was just magical,” Gilbert said. “Cocktails in the idyllic setting of an incredible library, then dinner in a tent honoring select authors. It had such a warm and thoughtful vibe. I kept pinching myself because I was actually one of them!”
It was not only writers who represented the arts—actor Alec Baldwin, whose foundation is the major benefactor of Authors Night, attended the magazine party with his recent bride, Hilaria.
I can’t say how close we might have come to that imagined paradise of Borges, but I am sure that in some intuitive way all these individuals who love reading and writing brought about the magic and allure of the evening. Of course there was not enough time to finish all the conversations—but that’s what a happy and memorable party is all about.
Movie Night: Stop by the East Hampton Library for Barbara Ferris in Interlude on September 4 or The Scapegoat, starring Alec Guinness, on September 7. Special Thanks: To the night’s sponsors Brunello Cucinelli, Ci?‚roc, Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, Aston Martin, and Barrymore Wines Book Club: Works by Authors Night honorees are available at East End BookHampton locations. Visit: East Hampton Library,159 Main St., East Hampton, 324-0222