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Literary lions link through library

Katie Lee will be part of the East

Katie Lee will be part of the East Hampton's annual Authors Night Event on Aug. 11, 2012 at Gardiner Farm, 36 James La., East Hampton Credit: Eugene Gologursky

Normally, the East Hampton Library's star-studded Authors Night runs like an easy read, the result of years of practice and a reflection of the event's importance -- the one-night event raises about 10 percent of the library's $2 million annual budget.

All it takes is erecting tents, bringing together well over 100 of the nation's top authors for cocktails, and finding hosts to open their home for dinner with a select group of writers, ranging from Robert Caro to Dr. Ruth Westheimer.

But this isn't a normal year.

There is no way to fit the big white tents behind the library, because that space is nothing more than a big hole in the ground, a construction site for a new children's wing and community meeting room.

And, after finding out last year that there were too many writers -- guests had trouble getting around all the tables, and some authors complained they could not get to their colleagues -- the list of writers has been trimmed from 176 to 125.

"There were just too many people. It restricted the guests too much," explained library director Dennis Fabiszak.

As Saturday's event approaches, those problems have turned into opportunities.

Bill Gardiner is letting the library pitch its tents on a 3-acre waterfront lot he owns on James Lane, making it the first time in six years that all invitees will be able to park near the event.

Even with fewer authors, more literary lions will be prowling the grounds. More than half the writers at Saturday's event have been on The New York Times bestseller list for at least four weeks this year.

For people who attend, the chance to buy a book or two and have it signed by their favorite writer -- and to rub elbows with them over a glass of wine -- is well worth the $100 ticket. Tickets to the dinner party start at $350, although patrons can spend up to $2,500. And, the hosts who open up their homes for dinner parties make up their own Who's Who of the Hamptons, from publisher Mort Zuckerman to food writer Florence Fabricant.

Author Talia Carner of Bridgehampton looks forward to the Authors Night program each year because it gives her a chance to walk around and talk to others about the craft of writing. "For me, there is no other event like this one," she said.

There is a special bonus, she says. "They seat us alphabetically. I get to sit next to Robert Caro," Carner said.

Caro, who has twice won the Pulitzer Prize for biography, said he enjoys the event because he gets to talk about his work with serious readers, who appreciate the self-imposed exile of writing.

And he, too, has a tradition. Caro and his wife, author Ina Caro, never sit at the same table during Authors Night. "It's good to have two of them to spread around," Fabiszak said.

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