LISTEN UP: Arnold Scaasi is known to spin a yarn or two, but at Monday night's Literacy Partners gala he had plenty of reinforcement from A.J. Jacobs, Chris Matthews, Azar Nafisi and Ann Patchett, who read some of their favorite passages, which in some cases were their own. Liz Smith, who along with Parker Ladd and Scaasi cohosted this year's shindig, couldn't resist ribbing Matthews, who she noted some people call "The Great Interrupter." But she seemed to have a change of heart after he read from "The Great Gatsby." "I didn't know you were such a romantic," Smith said. Nafisi urged the 750-person crowd to fight for the rights of readers. And Patchett, who was unabashed about her bee-master status at her local Tennessee spelling bee, encouraged attendees to go back to "the podunk places that made you" to pay respect. Smith described Jacobs, whose recent body of work called for living a year by the Bible, as "the craziest man in the world." Jacobs talked about some of the ramifications of his quest. Be fruitful and multiply? He had twins. Don't shave the corners of a beard? "I spent a lot of time at airport security," he said. Thou shall not covet, gossip or lie? "I live in New York and work in media, so that's 60 to 75 percent of my day."
Apart from the laughs, the event honored Julia and David Koch and raised $1.2 million for Literacy Partners.