San Francisco Fundraiser for Tattered Cover Draws Big Crowd

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A crowd estimated at between 450 and 550 packed A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books in San Francisco on January 11 to raise funds to help pay the legal fees of Denver's Tattered Cover Book Store, which has challenged a court order requiring it to turn over information about a customer's book purchases. The event raised $10,000 for the bookstore.

Bestselling author Lemony Snicket (in background at podium) reads to a packed house at the recent fundraising event for the Tattered Cover at San Francisco's A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books.

Bestselling authors Lemony Snicket, Michael Chabon, Dave Eggers, and Dorothy Allison were among more than a dozen writers and illustrators who were present to sell autographed books and to pose for pictures with their fans in return for contributions. Eggers even auctioned the shirt off his back. (It was one of two he had designed for the event.)

Neal Sofman, the owner of A Clean Well-Lighted Place, reported that it was one of the biggest events ever held at the store.

The $10,000 raised will be donated to the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE), which has taken the lead in organizing national support for the Tattered Cover. ABFFE will use the money to help pay the bookstore's legal fees.

In her remarks, Allison said that she believed that the Tattered Cover was fighting for an almost sacred principle. "This [bookstore] is our church ... where we are responsible to no one but our own consciences," she said.

Customers crowd the cash-wrap at A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books to buy autographed copies of titles signed by author Michael Chabon (center) and the other writers who joined in the fundraising event for Tattered Cover.

The Tattered Cover fundraiser was organized by Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket), who proposed the idea to Wendy Sheanin, the events coordinator at A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books. When Sheanin and Sofman responded enthusiastically, Handler sent out an e-mail to a large group of Bay Area writers. The response was so strong that Handler had to turn down a number of authors because of space and time limitations.

Soon publishers and other bookstores in the area were calling to volunteer help. Books were donated by Random House, HarperCollins, Ten Speed Press, VHPS, Little Brown, Chronicle Books, Penguin Putnam, University of Nevada Press, and McSweeney's. Green Apple Books provided some of the staff for the event.

From Denver, Tattered Cover owner Joyce Meskis expressed deep gratitude to everyone involved. Meskis said the fundraiser had accomplished something that was even more important than raising money by "demonstrating our solidarity in supporting the freedom to read."

The other participating authors and illustrators were Susie Bright, Laura Frazier, Caroline Paul, Karl Soehnlein, Mollie Katzen, J. Otto Seibold and Vivian Walsh, Ayelet Waldman, Louise Rafkin, Gail Tsukiyama, Sylvia Brownrigg, and Howard Junker.