What are the odds that three of the country’s best writers would live in Berkeley – yet never have had a joint public appearance?
That oversight was corrected in a September fundraiser to benefit 826 Oakland - a new youth writing program, where the three Michaels – novelist Michael Chabon, best-selling nonfiction author Michael Lewis and food guru Michael Pollan – shared a stage for the first time.
We at Children's Fairyland had a special reason to be thrilled by the event. Not that I’m counting or anything, but Pulitzer Prize–winning Chabon (for “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay”) and Hollywood hot property Lewis (“Moneyball,” “The Blind Side”) both have mentioned Children’s Fairyland in their work.
I’ll get to the third Michael in a minute.
Chabon lives in Berkeley, but his new book, “Telegraph Avenue,” is set in Oakland. (After all, you can’t live in Berkeley and not know and appreciate Oakland. We’re wilder, more diverse and never dull.) The book is a richly detailed saga of love and struggles in our gritty city. I loved the book, and was both impressed and amused by all of the references to Oakland landmarks that weren’t explained in any way: Merritt Bakery, Fenton’s, Eli’s Mile High Club, the Black Cowboy Day Parade, Crossroads, Smart and Final, Skyline High, Mountain View Cemetery, Frog Park, Genova Deli, Nolo Press and the Broadway Shuttle.
And on Page 193 - Children’s Fairyland.
Here’s the setup: After learning that their neighborhood’s funky vintage record store may be forced to close, community members rally at the shop to save it.
“Solemn, smiling, puzzled, or with a beneficent swish of Glinda the Good,” writes Chabon, “each Concerned Person put down his or her alphanumerics, then passed along the clipboard and the souvenir pen from Children’s Fairyland that was tricked out with pink and purple tinsel as a magic wand …”
The sentence goes on for two pages. When you’ve won the Pulitzer, you get to do such things. Elsewhere in the book, there’s a 15-page sentence, and it’s brilliant: A sweeping aerial view of Oakland like you wouldn’t believe.
Now, Fairyland does not currently offer a pen of the type Chabon describes, but if readers demand it we would certainly consider the retail opportunity.
Michael Lewis, whose recent article about President Obama in Vanity Fair has been widely discussed, made far more than a passing mention to Children’s Fairyland in a book he published in 2009. In “Home Game, An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood,” Lewis gives a hilarious account of a sleepless (but fun) night at a Fairyland summer sleepover.
And what about the third Michael?
Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto” put him right up there with Berkeley’s food diva and activist Alice Waters as an icon in the international eating real movement. So far, though, he hasn’t seen fit to mention Fairyland in any of his published writing. And frankly, we’re a little miffed.
Does Pollan know about Fairyland’s organic garden, the free-ranging chickens that provide us with eggs, our impressive compost operation, our partnerships with Plum Organics and The Bread Project? Sure, we also offer cotton candy and rectangles of popcorn of a color one couldn’t call naturally occurring; but if eaten in moderation, and on only on memory-making visits to our park, they make more sense.
So here’s my request.
Dear Michael - (if I may get personal – I did after all buy a not-inexpensive print of your Eater’s Manifesto that I’m having framed for my kitchen): Could you please sneak Fairyland into your next book? It’s kind of a status thing for us at this point.
We at Fairyland Farms say that there’s a carton of fresh eggs and veggies from our garden in it for you …
Editor's Note: The writer is the executive director of Oakland's Children's Fairyland, a great OL friend and amazing Oakland resource and destination.