Chabon Pushes to Fund Berkeley Libraries

Forgive me for not knowing about Berkeley politics. I’m so used to Michael Chabon and his wife writing about Barack Obama that I’d almost gotten used to all politics being national.

Not so, apparently. Today, the Daily Californian carries an op-ed by Chabon pushing for Berkeley voters to vote yes on Measure FF, which would provide $26 million to renovate, expand, and update the city’s branch libraries.

“I know it’s tough to ask people to foot that kind of a bill during hard times,” Chabon write. “But it’s precisely during times like these that the value — a value not measurable solely in terms of dollars-of our public library system is greatest.”

According to Chabon, Berkeley’s libraries are in desperate need for funding. “They are old, outdated, in some cases unsafe,” he writes. “Most of them have not been renovated since the 1970s. Their interiors are overcrowded and tired, and they have suffered the thousand natural shocks that Bay Area structures are heir to.”

Read the entire op-ed here.

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Ayelet Returns to Blogging

She’s back.

More than three years after abandoning blogging, Ayelet Waldman unveiled a retooled blog on Friday.

“Well, after years of not blogging, I find myself suddenly with something to say,” Waldman says in her first blog post. After months of campaigning for Barack Obama, Waldman’s new blog in its first two days seems to be focusing largely on that experience.

A bit of news: Waldman says she’s going to the National Women’s Leadership conference in Chicago on Oct. 10-11, where both Barack and Michelle Obama will be in attendance, along with an assortment of politcal experts. “If you don’t know what the Bush Doctrine is, say, and you want to know, it’s a great opportunity,” Waldman says.

Ayelet Overwhelmed By Books for Obama

A funny thing happened to Ayelet Waldman. About a week ago, she e-mailed five friends asking for some books for a fundraiser for Barack Obama. The e-mail went viral, though, and now boxes upon boxes of novels by the likes of Stephen King, Tobias Wolff, Lisa See, Jodi Picoult, Jonathan Lethem, and Dave Eggers, among others, have arrived.

The books were intended to be auctioned at a private fundraiser in San Francisco, but because Waldman has received so many, she now expects to auction them at other Obama fundraisers too. Details are not yet available, the LA Times reports.

(Side note: The article notes that Waldman’s next book will be a memoir entitled “Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities and Occasional Moments of Grace.”)

Chabon’s Take on the Conventions

I apologize in advance, but I simply did not realize until today that Michael Chabon was podcasting the Democratic National Convention for The New York Review of Books. The first podcast, on Aug. 27, covers “Hillary Clinton, the new face of the Democratic party, and the mood in Denver.” The second, from Wednesday, is a review of Obama’s performance and Chabon’s take on Sarah Palin.

“The increasing diversity of America, which has always been a fundamental part of America, is so clearly reflected in this party, and I think it really makes you see what a perfect candidate to lead the party Barack Obama is,” Chabon says in one podcast. (Props to the UK’s Telegraph for transcribing the quote.)

A written account is coming soon, according to the Telegraph.

While we’re going through Chabon-related political news that I was oblivious to this week, Ayelet Waldman spoke with Forward about the convention experience. “It was like a Grateful Dead concert in the ’70s,” Waldman said. “Wherever you were you had instant best friends.”

Oh, and I also neglected to inform you that Waldman was blogging about the convention for New York Magazine. They’re still worth reading today, though. (Or at least that’s what I’ll tell myself today to make up for not telling you two weeks ago.)

Chabon Discusses Palin, Alaska

Michael Chabon, asked if John McCain was smart or stupid picking Sarah Palin for vice president, said “the answer is probably both more pathetic and more chutzpadich than either [choice] would imply.”

In a humorous interview with Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic, Chabon, who backs Barack Obama and whose Yiddish Policemen’s Union took place in Alaska, discussed his views of the state and the election. Alaska, he said, is “crazy beautiful” but also a “dark place, and not just because it was literally dark much of time.”

“Also, I found it (the place, not the people) hostile, and not just in the sense that wilderness is generally said to be hostile,” Chabon said. “I kept thinking of that bit from Twin Peaks, where the sheriff says, ‘There is something very, very strange in these old woods. Call it what you want, a darkness, a presence.’ Almost everything humans have built there is unbelievably ugly. That might have something to do with the air of resentment given off by the underlying terrain.”

Asked if Obama had placated elderly Jewish fears about his potential election, Chabon said he wasn’t sure.

“The Israeli government, as you know, has squandered billions of shekels to date on one ill-starred placation program after another, with results that have been uniformly disappointing, leading it to issue the famous finding: You just can’t alter a kocker,” Chabon said. “But if anyone can do it, Obama can.”