A heavyweight lineup of literary happenings canvas the county this fall.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Maybe you’ve heard. Literature is on the ropes, out-hustled by the mighty Internet, hampered by a mediocre education system, cornered in the ring by mangled text messaging, and pummeled by electronic media and movies. But the next couple weeks present a slate of literary events that make the “decline of reading” look less like it’s favoring a standing eight-count and more like it’s staging a rope-a-dope.
We start on Sept. 17, the date by which to make reservations for Sept. 24, when Carmel author and artist Belle Yang (pronounced “young”) will speak at Rancho Cañada Golf Club about her immigrant journey from China to the U.S., a story she mined in the children’s book Hannah is My Name and the award-winning documentary My Name is Belle. Next year she’ll publish her first non-fiction graphic novel – a perfect synthesis for the auteur – titled Forget Sorrow: An Ancestral Tale, which can be sneak-peeked on her website, www.belleyang.com. Call 624-0111 or 375-8865 for reservations to the $23 luncheon, sponsored by the American Association of University Women.
In September 2007, the Marina Library moved to its current pastoral setting atop Locke Paddon Park (190 Seaside Circle, 883-7507). The new building is well designed, larger, cleaner, and stocked with amenities – more computers, café seating, conference rooms, fireplace. Check it out Sept. 19: That’s the day of their Fall Book Sale fundraiser, from 10am-4pm. Donated books include Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella, a multi-volume Undiscovered Universe and a new book by Jane Green. But donations are streaming in so supervising librarian Lori Chen says, “I don’t know what’s coming.” And isn’t that part of the treasure-hunting allure?
Later that same day… down in the emerald forest of the Henry Miller Library, the third installment of the recently revived literary journal, Ping•Pong, is set for its West Coast Launch Party, 3pm to whenever on Sept. 19. Editor Maria Garcia Teutsch and company have assembled a 116-page volume of unrestrained fiction, non-fiction, poetry, art, photography and miscellanea by avante-garde and award-winning creators from Iraq, Japan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ireland, Big Sur and elsewhere. Two of them – contemporary poet Alan Jude Moore, who flies in from Dublin, and poet and blues harmonica player Kim Addonizio – will read at 6pm, preceded by a ping-pong tournament at 3pm, a wine-and-cheese reception at 5pm, and interspersed with music by Zachary Watkins and big-screen projections of figure photography by Massimo Conti. “We want Henry to be proud of us,” says Teutsch, “and we want to publish the next Anaïs Nin.” The event is free and the journal is $12, available at www.henrymiller.org/ping_pong.html.
Go to www.carmelauthors.com for founder and organizer (along with his wife Cindy) Jim McGillen’s informational voice-over/slide show presentation that heralds the coming Carmel Authors and Ideas Festival – like Ping•Pong, in its third installment. A literary symposium of lectures, break-out sessions, signings and informal mingling at the storied Sunset Center in Carmel, it runs Sept. 25-27, bringing in its mighty tow a cadre of authors who, combined, have won several shelves of prestigious awards. They include Greg Mortenson (Three Cups of Tea), Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love), P.J. O’Rourke (Give War a Chance), Pulitzer Prize-winning Stanford History Professor David Kennedy and about 30 other luminaries and breakout authors. The inspiration they impart doesn’t come cheap – tickets are $550 per – but McGillen’s Carmel Ideas Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, makes discount tickets available to educators, invites 1,400 local students to attend a full Friday preview, and works with aspiring attendees to ensure that price alone doesn’t prohibit a healthy level of diversity in the crowd. 626-6243.
Diversity in the county’s literary scene is a theme across town in Salinas as the three branches of the Salinas Public Library celebrate their 100th Anniversary 1-5pm Sept. 27. A century already? Don’t be so surprised. Since October 2008 the libraries have been commemorating their centennial with the first year of the two-year Salinas Stories program, covering local history from Native-American tribes to the Depression, Japanese internment to United Farm Workers protests. The birthday party (with the “biggest cake Salinas has ever seen,” says library director Elizabeth Martinez) marks the start of the second year of Salinas Stories, looking ahead to the future as the “City of Letters.” They’ll preview the concept at a Sept. 26 Dinner in the Stacks at Steinbeck House with Jimmy Santiago Baca, Michael Blake, the state librarian and other dignitaries; spaces are limited, but Martinez says they are seriously considering “expanding” it. 758-7454, www.salinas.lib.ca.us for more.
Riane Eisler lives locally and acts globally – literally. “I live [on the Peninsula] because it’s beautiful,” she says. “It’s terribly inconvenient for me because on Tuesday I’m speaking at the U.N. and I have to drive to San Francisco.” (Not something you hear every day.) There, she will address the assembly on her new theory of “Caring Economics,” which posits that the broken system of material capitalism be replaced by a Nordic-looking “human capital” exchange. Locally, the historian, attorney, systems and social scientist, activist and author of many books including The Chalice and the Blade – now in 23 languages – will speak at Community Church of the Monterey Peninsula 3-5pm Sept. 27. Her latest book, The Real Wealth of Nations, is a force in the conversation and policies surrounding issues of economics, health, democracy and education. “People say my work offers them lenses,” she says. Nobel Peace Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu goes further, saying that The Real Wealth of Nations is as “practical as it is hopeful” and “gives us a template for the better world that we have been so urgently seeking,” while Gloria Steinem calls it “revolutionary.” Eisler’s Sept. 27 talk serves as the inaugural Community Colloquium, a series of presentations modeled after the salons of the past that co-creator Rev. Wayne Martin, Eisler and others hope will make “intellectual stimulation and local interaction” a more common occurence. To wit: the event is free. “The church is a lovely place,” says Eisler, and on her visit, will house a powerful, global message.
Artist, author and Center for Photographic Art board member Denise Sallee will talk about and sign her latest book, Daughters of Time, at Pacific Grove Library 6-7pm Sept. 30. The tale follows three young women from three distinct eras – 1880s Mississippi, 17th century England, and 13th century Spain – as each summons their personal reserves of strength and connectedness to Earth to deal with societal and spiritual conflicts. The past made real. “Young readers will instantly be drawn into their adventures and empathize with the girls’ determination to be true to themselves,” writes Mara Freeman, author of Kindling the Celtic Spirit. Sallee knows well the task of kindling people’s spirits through books: She was once the local history librarian for Harrison Memorial Library in Carmel.
It looks like reading, in Monterey County, is back for another round.