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Literary fundraiser for wife of author Charles Bock

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HILLEL ITALIE | February 7, 2011 12:41 AM EST | AP

NEW YORK — No one was worrying about football at Public School 122 in Manhattan.

"I'm delighted not to be watching the Super Bowl," author Wesley Stace, otherwise known as singer-songwriter John Wesley Harding, told a gathering of some 200 writers, musicians and friends Sunday night at the "World's Most Literary Rent Party Ever!"

The event was a fundraiser on behalf of Diana Colbert, wife of "Beautiful Children" novelist Charles Bock. Diana Bock has been diagnosed with leukemia and is being treated at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

"We are paying three grand a month for health insurance," Bock told The Associated Press, "and I'm going to go broke this year unless something changes."

Bock received high praise for "Beautiful Children," a debut published in 2008, but not enough sales to cover the bills. So friends Jonathan Franzen, Richard Price, Jonathan Safran Foer and others pitched in for an evening of auctions and entertainment, without updates on the fortunes of the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV.

Novelist Mary-Beth Hughes, one of the organizers, said the goal was to raise $30,000, in part from a sellout crowd that purchased 200 tickets at $75 each. No one cared that the event was held at the same time as the Super Bowl, although Hughes was relieved the local New York Jets lost to the Steelers in the conference finals.

"We did get scared about the Jets. We even had an area set aside where we would have put a television set," she said.

Guests contributed not only their money and time, but their talents, however unliterary. Among the services for auction: a pie baked by "Then We Came to the End" novelist Joshua Ferris; your laundry done by "The End of Alice" novelist A.M. Homes; a song written by "Ice Storm" novelist Rick Moody; or a promise to have your dog walked by short story writer Amy Hempel, "even in a blizzard," the author said.

One of the night's hottest items: lunch with conductor Lorin Maazel, father of author and event co-organizer Fiona Maazel. Moody put in an early bid for $300 and said he was willing to pay more.

"This is the chance of a lifetime," said Moody, who was one of Bock's teachers at Bennington College. "I don't know where the lunch will be, but I'm sure Maazel has very high standards."

Ninety minutes of performances, under blue and orange spotlights, featured music from Harding, readings from National Book Award finalists Mary Gaitskill and Jim Shepard and a brief, precocious set of songs from Moody and singer Claudia Gonson of the Magnetic Fields. Harding and fellow musicians closed with a cover of Neil Young's "Heart of Gold," then turned over the stage to Bock, steady, but emotional as he thanked attendees and noted his wife was in the hospital.

"She is the one person who would have (most) enjoyed this evening and would have enjoyed seeing you most of all," he said.


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