UC Berkeley

Tickets in Berkeley scarce for Joyce Carol Oates’ talks

Joyce Carol Oates: a popular draw for Berkeleyans.

As soon as word leaked out that Joyce Carol Oates, one of the country’s most prolific and respected writers, would be appearing at the Berkeley Public Library 9th Annual Authors’ Dinner, tickets were snatched up.

The event, the major fundraiser for the library, generally sells out, but often not until right before the gala dinner in early February. This year, the Berkeley Library Foundation sent out a “Save the Date,” notice in December 2010. Before it could send out a formal invitation in January, all but four seats to the dinner were gone, according to Linda Schacht Gage, a director of the foundation.

“This has never happened before,” Gage wrote in an email. “I am not sure it was entirely because of Joyce Carol Oates, because the list of authors is really great. This was both a blessing and a curse as we have so many loyal Authors Dinner folks from years past who expect to get the invitation but we couldn’t invite them to something they couldn’t get a ticket for!”

Oates lovers still have a few chances to see the author, but they will take a bit of scrambling. There are still tickets available to the reception before the library dinner, said Gage. Oates is also scheduled to deliver The Avenali Lecture tonight at Sibley Auditorium at UC Berkeley. Titled “The Writer’s (Secret) Life: Rejection, Woundedness and Inspiration,” Oates will begin her presentation at 6 pm.

Tickets are free, and will be handed out starting at 5 pm at Sibley – which means students will probably start lining up early in the day.

Oates will also participate in a panel discussion on Friday from noon to 2 pm in the Maude Fife Room, 315 Wheeler Hall. She will be joined by Vikram Chandra and Dori Hale of UC Berkeley’s English Department and Wendy Lesser, editor of “The Threepenny Review” literary magazine. Anthony J. Cascardi, director of the Townsend Center, will moderate. No tickets are required for that event.

Oates is living in Berkeley for a few months. Her husband, Charles Gross, a professor of psychology at Princeton University, is a visiting scholar for the semester at the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute at Cal.

Oates has written more than 50 novels, as well as poetry, plays, novellas, short stories, essays, book reviews and magazine pieces. She is also The Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of Humanities at Princeton.

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  • Anonymous

    These folks care so much about the library that they couldn’t even provide a free seat or two for library staff as they have in past years. Oh, that’s right, we’re the little folks.

  • Tim C.

    @ anon, don’t fret too much..it’s really just an expensive circle-jerk for the most part.

  • max

    Jeez, what sourpusses. The Library Foundation helps raise money to support the public library–that’s what this is about. And I think many staff volunteer their own time to help, which allows them to participate in the event, meet the authors attending, and enjoy the celebration of a pretty nice library. I guess that doesn’t include “anonymous”. Evidently some people prefer to just sit and throw stones.

  • Victoria

    The BPLF Library Author Dinner has grown over the past nine years because of the generosity, goodwill, and enormous support of the authors, theirs generous publishers, a hardworking and and dedicated committee that spends six or more months putting the dinner and the auction in place, and dozens of library employees who donate time to make this a truly beautiful event. On top of that it are blessed with the support of dozens of businesses and vendors. I would like to point out that in the past nine years the BPLF Author Dinner has hosted almost 300 authors from the greater Bay Area; some of them household names, many of them emerging literary voices. We have had Nobel Laureates, National Book Award Winners…scientists to poets, chefs to first time novelists. In this economy the $100,000+ that the dinner raises is nothing to take lightly. We are delighted to have Joyce Carol Oates with us in Berkeley. The dinner is built on the wealth of authors we have in our midst and that in turn helps to build the future of the library…for All to use.

  • Friend of Libraries

    Anon has it all wrong. Library staff volunteer to help for the evening. This year they will receive dinner, book bags, the opportunity to join in the reception with the authors, books signed by the authors, the reception food and drink. In year’s past all have enjoyed this opportunity without complaint. They are the first people we go to when there are unfilled seats at the dinner…to see if they’d like to be guests of the Library Foundation. As for the “circle jerk” referred to by Tim C….. if you believe that bringing wonderful authors to our library, honoring them for their contribution to the literary community in Berkeley, thanking them for their time and celebrating one of the great community library systems in the country…the Berkeley Public Library…..if you believe all of that constitutes a “circle jerk”…then you have a very bitter and narrow minded view of the world. I doubt you’d enjoy the Goldman Environmental Prize event or the end of the season celebration of the local Little League team.

  • Richard Friedman

    Tim C. seems to be an expert on “circle jerks”.

  • DC

    Isn’t it a fundraiser, with a goal of raising money for the library? If so, those seats should go to paying attendees. I’m sure there are lots of volunteer opportunities for library employees to get involved and maybe attend part or all of it. Now if this were a public-interest event open to all at minimal cost, and seats weren’t made available to library employees that would be different, but it isn’t. It’s an event for the purpose of bringing in funding.

  • shorty

    Gee…and I was hoping it was because of one simple fact…..she is an awesome writer, unmatched.

  • Mike Z.

    I think the point made was that there are plenty of very privileged people in Berkeley who like to hob nob with the so-called literati. In some cases, they authors are merely famous, and not that great. The dinner is very expensive, and it’s an opportunity for those with money to feel important around “important” people. Mr Friedman’s comment is pretty sophomoric as well as vaguely defensive.

  • Friend of Libraries

    Mike Z…curious. How expensive is it? You must have been to it.