(what can I say … it’s the end of the year and I love lists)
#1 Seeing Michael Moore accept the John Steinbeck Award
The award is for artists who capture “the spirit of Steinbeck’s empathy, commitment to democratic values, and belief in the dignity of the common man.” I had no expectations, and it ended up being so entertaining, so endearing, and so poignant, I felt like I’d cry. Michael read with such depth of feeling from Cannery Row and The Grapes of Wrath. It was heartbreaking to hear how the passages he chose spoke – sadly – to today’s troubles in the United States.
And if Thomas Steinbeck looked any more like his dad … Wow.
#2 Attending the Aimee Bender reading
Man is she charming. I’d never read any of her work, but by the time she was finished reading that Potato People short story I was ready to buy her books. What a quirky mind she has. I’m looking forward to The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, which has been waiting on my shelf for at least a month.
#3 Visiting the Robinson Jeffers Home: Tor House
Admittedly, it was my fourth visit. But this time it was evening, and I was with non-literary friends. It was heartwarming to see how fascinated they were with Robin and Una’s life story, as well as his poetry, even though they’d never even heard of him. If you have a chance to visit this place, don’t pass it up.
#4 Having lunch with Ayelet Waldman
We met at one of my favorite San Francisco restaurants – Betelnut – for lunch. I’ve appreciated Ayelet’s work – and admired Ayelet as a person – ever since she was raked over the proverbial coals on Oprah (and everywhere, really) in 2005 for that teeny little essay where she said she loved her husband more than her children. She was absolutely crucified, but she did not back down one bit. I was so proud of her and I didn’t even know her.
#5 The Tobias Wolff reading
It was a small gathering, and he didn’t talk very long (a disappointment) but all these months later I still think of the short story he read about a man and his dog. Simple, powerful prose, well-read by the author. A treat.