Joyce Carol Oates: a popular draw for Berkeleyans.

As soon as word leaked out that Joyce Carol Oates, one of the country’s most prolific and respected writers, would be appearing at the Berkeley Public Library 9th Annual Authors’ Dinner, tickets were snatched up.

The event, the major fundraiser for the library, generally sells out, but often not until right before the gala dinner in early February. This year, the Berkeley Library Foundation sent out a “Save the Date,” notice in December 2010. Before it could send out a formal invitation in January, all but four seats to the dinner were gone, according to Linda Schacht Gage, a director of the foundation.

“This has never happened before,” Gage wrote in an email. “I am not sure it was entirely because of Joyce Carol Oates, because the list of authors is really great. This was both a blessing and a curse as we have so many loyal Authors Dinner folks from years past who expect to get the invitation but we couldn’t invite them to something they couldn’t get a ticket for!”

Oates lovers still have a few chances to see the author, but they will take a bit of scrambling. There are still tickets available to the reception before the library dinner, said Gage. Oates is also scheduled to deliver The Avenali Lecture tonight at Sibley Auditorium at UC Berkeley. Titled “The Writer’s (Secret) Life: Rejection, Woundedness and Inspiration,” Oates will begin her presentation at 6 pm.

Tickets are free, and will be handed out starting at 5 pm at Sibley – which means students will probably start lining up early in the day.

Oates will also participate in a panel discussion on Friday from noon to 2 pm in the Maude Fife Room, 315 Wheeler Hall. She will be joined by Vikram Chandra and Dori Hale of UC Berkeley’s English Department and Wendy Lesser, editor of “The Threepenny Review” literary magazine. Anthony J. Cascardi, director of the Townsend Center, will moderate. No tickets are required for that event.

Oates is living in Berkeley for a few months. Her husband, Charles Gross, a professor of psychology at Princeton University, is a visiting scholar for the semester at the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute at Cal.

Oates has written more than 50 novels, as well as poetry, plays, novellas, short stories, essays, book reviews and magazine pieces. She is also The Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of Humanities at Princeton.

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Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman...