Starting Saturday night, nearly two dozen intimate dinner parties will be thrown around Sag Harbor. People will hoist glasses of wine and dine — more likely than not — with people they’ve never met, at a home they’ve never been to. In fact they probably won’t even know the evening’s host.
Saturday, and the following two Saturday’s, marks the fourth year the John Jermain Memorial Library has organized One For the Books, a series of dinners to raise funds for the library’s capital budget. Binding the dinners together are, appropriately, books. And each dinner has at its heart a book selected by the host that will be the subject — or at least one of the subjects — of the evening’s conversation. Guests, in fact, know nothing about the dinner itself; only that they have chosen to dine with others who have an interest in a given title.
And, with a recently approved bond that will put the library well on its way to a restored and expanded building, guests this year will have good reason to celebrate. In TK, residents in the Sag Harbor school district voted to approve a TK bond which will pay for the restoration of the 100-year-old building that is sorely in need of rehabilitation. Its roof leaks and is crumbling to the point where scaffolding now stands above the entrance so patrons are not threatened with falling concrete. The bond will also allow the library to double in size, creating more room for the collection, and provide space for public programming.
“The first year we did this in 2006 it was a significant decision for the library to do a fundraiser,” said Gail Slevin, who is helping to organize the evenings. Noting that, at the time, the future of the library was far from clear, with the community divided over whether to build a new facility at a site adjacent to Mashashimuet Park, or to expand on site. “It was a decision to bring the community together over the library as an institution.”
That series of dinners, and subsequent ones in 2007 and 2008, brought people together in a relaxed and fun atmosphere.
“I think it helped open up the dialogue,” said Slevin. “It brought people together who did not agree with the future plans of the library, but agreed on the importance of the library in the community.”
Those dinners also helped raise about $70,000 to help the library meet a propsed $2 million in additional funding that library director Catherine Creedon said will augment bond money to provide furnishings and other necessities for the new facility.
There is a broad selection of books around which the dinners are planned this month: Colson Whitehead’s “Sag Harbor” and Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice;” Julia Child’s “My Life in France” and Stephanie Meyer’s “Twilight.” Even Nancy Drew is on the menu.
And tickets are hot. As of press time, about half the dinners had been filled.
“The one I wanted to go to was Nancy Drew,” laughed Slevin. “But it was already sold out. I had even bought a new copy of ‘The Secret of the Old Clock’.”
A group of women who had been out to lunch together started talking about Nancy Drew and decided they wanted to go, said Slevin.
“They bought seven tickets,” she said.
While many dinners are already spoken for, plenty still have open seats. Among those this weekend are Brooks Hansen’s novel “John the Baptizer,” a fictionalization of eth lie of John the Baptist, and Malcolm Gladwell’s political manifesto “Outliers: The Story of Success,” and Bernard Schlink’s “The Reader,” the novel from which the Academy-award winning film starring Kate Winslet was made.
All of the dinners for October 17 are sold out, but on October 24 guests can choose from Jose Saramago’s Nobel Prize-winning “Blindness,” Charles W. Thayer’s “Bear’s in the Caviar;” “Sum: Forty Tales From the Afterlives” by David Eagleman; “The Cost of Living: The Early and Uncollected Stories” by Mavis Gallant; “Rogues’ Gallery: The Secret History of the Moguls and the Money that Made the Metropolitan Museum” by Michael Gross; “Shanghai Girls” by Lisa See, and Fritz Haeg’s “Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn,” among several others.
“It’s a little bit of a surprise,” said Slevin of the formula that has made the dinners so successful. “You meet people you don’t know, but you have something in common — a particular type of book.”
To make reservations for One For the Books, call 725-0049, extension 44.