Jonathan Lethem, Dave Eggers, and Thomas Keller

Just a few quick notes from the events I’ve attended recently.

I attended Thomas Keller’s talk at Kepler’s on the 10th. He didn’t bring any food to sample, but he did an excellent round of Q&A. I always ask chefs where they like to eat when they’re down along the Peninsula. Unfortunately, Keller didn’t really have an answer to the question. However, he did note that he stopped at In & Out for a burger during the drive from Napa Valley to Menlo Park.

Earlier this month I saw Jonathan Lethem interviewed at a City Arts and Lectures event in San Francisco. I just decided to go the day of the event; fortunately, someone standing outside the Herbst Theater at 7:55 gave me a free ticket. (I paid him $5, anyway.) At the signing session afterwards I ran into local authors Robert Mailer Anderson and Stephen Elliot. Anderson was decked out in a long leather coat, which he (jokingly?) claimed to have purchased from Sotheby’s. During the interview, Lethem noted that he does most of his writing between May and September. And do you know why? Yes, it’s because he writes while listening to the broadcasts of Mets games on the radio. So, during baseball season, he’s guaranteed to write for three hours a day. Sounds like the perfect life to me.

Another cool piece of information that I took from the event was that when Lethem first moved to Berkeley, he lived on the north side of campus and thought that that little block of Euclid beginning on Hearst was the big downtown area. If you’re familiar with Berkeley, you know what I’m talking about.

And, speaking of the Hearst/Euclid intersection, I just got home from an event at the North Gate building, which is located right there. UC Berkeley’s graduate school of journalism sponsored a talk by John Prendergast entitled “Darfur: How to Respond to Genocide.” Prendergast was lucid and funny and inspiring and just flat out good. He is Special Adviser to the President of the International Crisis Group, and he served under President Clinton during his second term in office. At least that’s the info I got off of Berkeley’s page. If anyone can recommend or pass along any writings by him, please do so. Unfortunately, this being Berkeley, some members of the audience took the liberty to just go off. One guy spent about five minutes just asking a question. Another spent just as long criticizing Prendergrast for not going far enough and examining the “root of the problem.” Oh, well, like I said that’s what you get in Berkeley. The last time I attended a J-School event there was in October when William Kristol debated Mark Danner. As much as I disagree with his politics, I have to admit that Kristol kicked Danner’s ass. Anyway, throughout the debate, people in the audience kept heckling Kristol. Finally, toward the end the UC police took one of them away in cuffs and everyone cheered. A couple years ago I saw Azar Nafisi read at Cody’s and an Iranian woman in the audience just started attacking her for suggesting than Iran oppresses women. Yup, Berkeley.

Back to tonight’s event: Prendergast was introduced by Dave Eggers, who teaches at the J-school and sat alone in the front row diligently taking notes during the seminar. As many of you know, Eggers is working on a biography of one of the “Lost Boys” from Sudan—parts of which have appeared in The Believer.