The scene: my first ever book signing.The author: Richard Ford.
Waiting patiently in line, I was carefully switching my copy of The Sportswriter between my hands so it didn't get too sweatsoftened as I pondered the stomach tightening question: Should I try to speak to him, and if so, what should I say/ask? As soon as I decided that I would launch myself into a dialogue with RF, my heart stumbled in my chest as I thought of all the possibilities. Something insightful, something he'd take interest in. It was at the time he'd written that mini-memoir on Raymond Carver. That clinched it. As I reached the end of the line, I slowly approached the great (but short, and with a bad James Taylor haircut) writer. I handed him my tepid paperback. As he finished signing, he handed my book back, and we shook hands. At that moment, a question began to cascade from my mouth. "I've always thought it interesting how when you began writing your prose was quite clipped and reduced. A lot like Carver's. But as you have progressed, you've become a lot more expansive and I can't help but think of how Carver's did too, in stories like "Elephant"." The whole time I was speaking (and trying to work out how to stop), our hand "shake" continued. We were locked in a struggle of wills. As I blathered on, his windexblue eyes fixed more intently on mine. He wouldn't let go. "No. No. It's nothing like Ray's. You're crazy". All I could do was nod. I couldn't speak because I just wanted him to let go of me. "No. That's crazy. Our stuff is nothing alike." I managed to wrench my hand free and slink away. As I turned to look over my shoulder, an army of his fans' eyes looked at me like I was crazy.
― David Joyner (David Joyner), Thursday, 19 February 2004 08:52 (sixteen years ago) link
― All Bunged Up. (Jake Proudlock), Thursday, 19 February 2004 09:26 (sixteen years ago) link
― SRH (Skrik), Thursday, 19 February 2004 10:30 (sixteen years ago) link
― scott seward (scott seward), Thursday, 19 February 2004 13:05 (sixteen years ago) link
throw me A bone, obv.
― scott seward (scott seward), Thursday, 19 February 2004 13:08 (sixteen years ago) link
Here's mine (exerpts from an email I sent out directly after)...
David Sedaris is signing/reading at Plymouth State College in NH. I got into town way too early and walked to a bar for some drinks. Then I go back to the Arts Center and see people standing in line to have books signed. So I'm waiting and I'm wondering what the hell these people ahead of me are talking to him about. I mean, they're saying such stupid shit, like, "I named my cat David. You know, after YOU," and "So how's Hugh? You like living in France? Is the food nice?" People, you don't know him, just get him to sign your book and MOVE ON. So I finally get up there:
ME: Hi.DS: Hi, what's your name?ME: Amy.DS: (writing 'To Amy' in the book, then looks at me. I smile back.) Okay, so I can say this because I'm a homosexual... but you are a total fox!ME: (i can feel my face growing very hot) Thanks.DS: (writing 'A fox in...') Where are you from?ME: Vermont.DS: Where in Vermont?ME: Hartford.DS: H-A-R-T-F-O-R-D?ME: Yes.DS: (writing 'Hartford', then signs his name) You know you're a fox, right?ME: Aw, thanks, that's nice of you to say. I've been feeling really down lately.DS: Oh, what, did someone just break-up w/you?ME: No. No one. See, that's the point.DS: (blinking at me a couple times)ME: Er... thanks for this. (i grab my book and run, my cheeks on FIRE).
And let me tell you, that book is one of my most prized posessions.
― Vermont Girl (Vermont Girl), Thursday, 19 February 2004 13:55 (sixteen years ago) link
― MikeyG (MikeyG), Thursday, 19 February 2004 14:36 (sixteen years ago) link
― Vermont Girl (Vermont Girl), Thursday, 19 February 2004 14:44 (sixteen years ago) link
― Jordan (Jordan), Thursday, 19 February 2004 14:52 (sixteen years ago) link
George Elliot Clarke has thick square glasses and look (and sounds) like a computer geek in person, but he's so friendly it's ridiculous.
Sheila Heti was shy, and seemed genuinely surprised that anyone had actually read her book before the reading. She gave me this cool promo poster that was supposed to go to bookstores only.
Hal Niedzviecki was really cool and personable. I spen about a half hour showing him around campus and talking to him about the sorry state of contemporary CanLit. We shared a good laugh about Margaret Atwood being included in George Bowering's collection of cutting edge postmodern Canadian fiction.
Elizabeth Hay, who had just won the Governor General's Award (sort of a Canadian Booker Prize, but not quite) and she was so quiet and demure I thought she would break if I said more than two words to her.
Eric McCormack is a loon; I had two or three classes with him, which were all great fun.
Leon Rooke has this great, booming voice and an amazing sense of humour. We both know the editors of The New Quarterly fairly well, so we had a decent discussion, mostly about the readings (I met him at a writer's festival) and the journal.
Stephen Henighan I've only corresponded with, because I had some questions about his book and, I mean, why not? If you teach at a university and your e-mail address is public, don't expect interested parties not to use it. The discussion (about his assertion that Carol Shields' novel The Stone Diaries was "free trade fiction"--written to appeal to American audiences in order to sell more) started out fairly congenial, until I started to challenge him. I was really successful, perhaps too successful. Anytime he couldn't refute my arguments he just said "you'll understand when you're older" and then broke off the correspondence.
I corresponded with Harold Bloom the same way I corresponded w/ Henighan. Bloom was amazingly polite, responded to all my points and queries politely, and with respect, and when there was nothing left to say, the correspondence ended.
I met Sandra Sabatini at a reading; I was the last one in line to have my book signed, and she became so fascinated with my name and how I got it that we wound up talking (about me!) for almost a half hour before she left.
― August (August), Thursday, 19 February 2004 15:27 (sixteen years ago) link
― Jerry the Nipper (Jerrynipper), Thursday, 19 February 2004 15:37 (sixteen years ago) link
Richard Powers was at the University of Illinois when I was there (he might still be down there, not sure) and he subbed in for a couple of my creative writing classes one year, and came to speak to a film class I was taking that dealt with artificial intelligence- talked about Galatea 2.1, and kept grinning about being a character in his own book. Completely normal, down to earth guy, friendly, etc., but obviously smarter than anyone you've ever met. I had to read one of my stories for the creative class at one point, and the thing was just horrible. I couldn't even read the story out loud for the class, it was so bad; I had a friend read it for me. And Powers was great- very generous, and somehow acknowledged the fact that the story "needed work" without being condescending or making me feel bad about it.
― tl (tom), Thursday, 19 February 2004 16:47 (sixteen years ago) link
All of a sudden, the woman in line next to me grabs my arm and says, "I just read that article about you!" I turn to her, confused, and she starts babbling on about how she knows the person who wrote the article and how I don't look much like the photo, but she could just tell it was me because I had on the same shirt, on and on and on. By the time the surprise wore off, I turned back to Rushdie only to see him handing my book back, eyebrow raised, and security grabbed my arm and led me away.
If I ever see that woman again, I will knock her out.
― Jessa (Jessa), Thursday, 19 February 2004 16:49 (sixteen years ago) link
― SRH (Skrik), Thursday, 19 February 2004 16:51 (sixteen years ago) link
― MikeyG (MikeyG), Thursday, 19 February 2004 16:53 (sixteen years ago) link
SRH: Where have you seen a picture?
― Vermont Girl (Vermont Girl), Thursday, 19 February 2004 18:23 (sixteen years ago) link
― Øystein H-O (Øystein H-O), Thursday, 19 February 2004 18:48 (sixteen years ago) link
― August (August), Thursday, 19 February 2004 21:19 (sixteen years ago) link
― BabyBuddha (BabyBuddha), Thursday, 19 February 2004 21:32 (sixteen years ago) link
― tokyo rosemary (rosemary), Thursday, 19 February 2004 21:39 (sixteen years ago) link
― tokyo rosemary (rosemary), Thursday, 19 February 2004 21:40 (sixteen years ago) link
― tokyo rosemary (rosemary), Thursday, 19 February 2004 21:42 (sixteen years ago) link
In college I had a professor whom we'll call http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1877946907/qid=1077228659//ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i1_xgl14/002-8330373-9496835?v=glance&s=books&n=507846 and said-professor and I clashed like oil and faeces. I wrote an exceedingly strange sex-scene in one novella and he told the class that I wrote with an informed authority on the subject. Then he turned to me, laughed, and said "It's amazing how long good sex will keep a bad relationship alive."
― Atila the Honeybun (Atila the Honeybun), Thursday, 19 February 2004 22:16 (sixteen years ago) link
Apologies for the incorrect attribution. I'll be more careful in future.8)
― David Joyner (David Joyner), Thursday, 19 February 2004 22:27 (sixteen years ago) link
D: Leonard Garment, James Ellroy, STEPHEN HUNTER
― mookieproof (mookieproof), Friday, 20 February 2004 04:26 (sixteen years ago) link
― tom west (thomp), Friday, 20 February 2004 04:43 (sixteen years ago) link
― The Second Drummer Drowned (Atila the Honeybun), Friday, 20 February 2004 05:00 (sixteen years ago) link
haha, please elaborate Jerry!
― J.D. (Justyn Dillingham), Friday, 20 February 2004 06:35 (sixteen years ago) link
re: Lethem - he seemed to be a very charming and interesting guy. He didn't seem any more eccentric than your standard ageing indie kid (we talked a lot about the Go Betweens), but who knows?!
― Jerry the Nipper (Jerrynipper), Friday, 20 February 2004 11:12 (sixteen years ago) link
It was funny to see that my hero was, really, a stereotypical culchie at heart.
― accentmonkey (accentmonkey), Friday, 20 February 2004 13:31 (sixteen years ago) link
And SRH found the picture of me over at Yankee Pot Roast. I'm not telling where because I want you to look around the site; it's really funny.
― Vermont Girl (Vermont Girl), Friday, 20 February 2004 13:53 (sixteen years ago) link
And why should he resent being compared to a singer-songwriter? Perhaps he would be more interesting if he were one of those.
The bloody old sausage.
David Thomson failed to give me total satisfaction on the need for more puritanical attitudes in contemporary American parenting.
But he did say he was... "moved".
― the bellefox, Friday, 20 February 2004 16:16 (sixteen years ago) link
― MikeyG (MikeyG), Friday, 20 February 2004 16:31 (sixteen years ago) link
― Not MikeyG, Friday, 20 February 2004 16:41 (sixteen years ago) link
Obviously I was pointing a gun at him and making him sign all the books on my shelves at the time.
― the flickfox, Friday, 20 February 2004 19:21 (sixteen years ago) link
― pepektheassassin (pepektheassassin), Wednesday, 25 February 2004 00:22 (sixteen years ago) link
― pepektheassassin (pepektheassassin), Wednesday, 25 February 2004 00:26 (sixteen years ago) link
― Ann Sterzinger (Ann Sterzinger), Wednesday, 25 February 2004 02:50 (sixteen years ago) link
― Phil Christman, Thursday, 26 February 2004 18:36 (sixteen years ago) link
most authors i get rather shy about talking to. Eugenides was a bit abrupt when i met him. sharon olds and zadie smith i couldn't talk to.
― eleni (eleni), Friday, 27 February 2004 18:54 (sixteen years ago) link
― Jordan (Jordan), Friday, 27 February 2004 18:57 (sixteen years ago) link
He may have been cross with you because he was into dub very early -- listing "Garvey's Ghost" as one of his ten favorite records of the 70's, for example. And being a big supporter of Burning Spear and, yes, Augustus Pablo, as well. The first place I heard of "King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown" was a Greil Marcus mention in the early 80's.
Of, course, critics tend to be crotchety bastards, so there's that, too.
― Not That Chuck, Friday, 27 February 2004 19:02 (sixteen years ago) link
― Chuck Tatum (Chuck Tatum), Saturday, 28 February 2004 19:42 (sixteen years ago) link
― Chuck Tatum (Chuck Tatum), Saturday, 28 February 2004 20:05 (sixteen years ago) link
Most embarrassing meeting of an author: I went to an event with Zadie Smith and JSFoer at Housing Works, and Salman Rushdie was the moderator/introducer. The two youngins were signing books afterwards, and Mr. Rushdie was sitting in the middle of them, sipping a Corona out of a bottle. I found myself standing in front of him, and embarrassingly asked him to sign my journal. I think I insulted Zadie as well by asking if her success at such a young age has aged her at all.
Gorgeous amazing author whom anyone would love more after meeting him in person: David Mitchell (*melt*)
Author with whom I think I accidentally flirted: Victor Erofeyev (it's hard to eat the cherry out of your drink without looking like a flirt, no matter who's standing in front of you)
Brief encounters with authors in elevators and revolving doors: John Updike (who smells like my grandfather), Norman Mailer
Extremely nice authors I've had the pleasure of meeting: Jonathan Lethem, Judy Blume, Arthur Phillips
My favorite moment, though, has got to be seeing Sherman Alexie make a girl cry. And he was completely right to do so.
― zan, Friday, 10 February 2006 18:21 (fourteen years ago) link
― s1ocki (slutsky), Friday, 10 February 2006 20:29 (fourteen years ago) link
― Redd Harvest (Ken L), Friday, 10 February 2006 20:50 (fourteen years ago) link
the 2nd time i met him he was also really nice. we chatted for a while & i gave him my dvd & he promised to watch my movie and get back to me!!
(he didn't but i forgive him)
― s1ocki (slutsky), Friday, 10 February 2006 20:53 (fourteen years ago) link
― cracktivity1 (cracktivity1), Saturday, 11 February 2006 07:37 (fourteen years ago) link
― Fred (Fred), Tuesday, 14 February 2006 01:21 (fourteen years ago) link
There is an author who sometimes stands just inside Ottokars and asks me if I ever read crime fiction. I always say no and scurry away, but next time I will say yes and see what happens. I suppose he will try to flog me his book.
― PJ Miller (PJ Miller 68), Tuesday, 14 February 2006 10:57 (fourteen years ago) link
― Thomas Tallis (Tommy), Thursday, 16 February 2006 22:45 (fourteen years ago) link
― Casuistry (Chris P), Thursday, 16 February 2006 22:51 (fourteen years ago) link
― Forksclovetofu (Forksclovetofu), Friday, 17 February 2006 01:21 (fourteen years ago) link
― youn, Friday, 17 February 2006 02:08 (fourteen years ago) link
― Freud Junior (Freud Junior), Friday, 17 February 2006 04:34 (fourteen years ago) link
― Casuistry (Chris P), Friday, 17 February 2006 08:15 (fourteen years ago) link
― Aimless (Aimless), Friday, 17 February 2006 17:15 (fourteen years ago) link
Judy Blume lives here, on Martha's Vineyard, and I know a couple of people who've worked for her as landscapers and house-cleaners. She's horrid. Absolutely loathsome to work for. I've seen her do her personable-writer schtick for the public, too. A brilliant performance, apparently.
― Beth Parker (Beth Parker), Saturday, 18 February 2006 02:36 (fourteen years ago) link
― Casuistry (Chris P), Tuesday, 21 February 2006 17:13 (fourteen years ago) link
Not a meeting as such, but on the theme of wishing you hadn't learned more about an author ... I was so disappointed to read this interview with Sebastian Faulks in last week's Sunday Times. I've only read On Green Dolphin Street of his and knew nothing about him (except that he never gets feted like McEwan, Barnes, and all them) but I enjoyed it very much, largely because it dodged all the things that are wrong with every other Great British Author - exercises in style, writing about each other, the sort of ignorant clever-cleverness that doesn't actually produce anything new or interesting to say. Basically, I liked Faulks because he didn't seem to care about that, he just seemed interested in people. But now I learn he appears to attend the same dinner parties and to have the same self-absorbed, vacuous thoughts as all the others. [i]"...You can’t solemnly say — as Philip Roth might say, ‘I’m going to write about a family of glovers in Newark’ — ‘I’m going to write about a family who make luggage in Leicester.’ People would just laugh.” Get lost. And the pictures are horrible too.
On a more positive note, I met David Simon last night and he was very impressive indeed. Confident and engaging in conversation; has really thought about things and so has interesting stuff to say (and doesn't stray from it into nonsense); and then took loads of time at the end to chat with hundreds of people.
― Ismael Klata, Sunday, 30 August 2009 21:39 (eleven years ago) link
I've relayed this elsewhere, but...
Back when I worked in a bookshop, I got Alasdair Gray's agent to get him to come in (as he was passing through) and sign my copy of the Anthology of Prefaces, which had just come out and which I had brought in first edition - very handsome it is too.
Anyway, when he came in, it was rather busy and I was rushing around a bit, eventually managed to duck out from behind my desk and speak to him.
'Hello young man.' (or whatever)'Er, yep, hi.''So, I hear your a fan of my work.' (as indeed I was then, and I'm sure I would be now if I ever read any, although with slight reservations about a certain parsimony about his prose - a touch of the Scottish schoolmaster perhaps)'Yes, yes I am.''What is it you like about it?''Er,' I said. 'Er.'
Then I stared for a bit, sweating, mind revolving like a dead planet.
'Er.''Would you like me to sign your book.''Yes,' I said, rather gauchely handing it over, like an awkward rube.
And he did. And then he left. Presumably to relay the contents of our gay repartee to his Caledonian confreres. Me and my f'ing peasant mind.
And just to second what IK said - David Simon, thoughtful and interesting person, who takes care about what he says without being exclusively pedantic or knowing. Just came across really well.
― GamalielRatsey, Sunday, 30 August 2009 22:23 (eleven years ago) link
While drunk at a publisher thing (I was working in a bookshop and had managed to get an invitation), I charged up to David Malkouf, full of bravado and sure I was going to be witty and have a chat, but realised I had nothing to say.
Me: * Um *Malouf: Er. Hello?Me: (blathering) Iloveyourbooks!Malouf: Oh, thank God. I thought you were security, come to chuck me out.
― When two tribes go to war, he always gets picked last (James Morrison), Sunday, 30 August 2009 23:52 (eleven years ago) link
ALSO: J M Coetzee lives about 5 minutes walk away from me, and when I walk past his house with his dog, I sometimes see a Nobel-winner's underpants flying in the breeze (from a clothesline, not the man himself). At a neighbourhood gathering, I offered him some vegetarian food my wife had made (given that she and I are both pro-animal-right vegetarians, i thought this might give me an in to make intelligent conversation with him, rather than drooling fanboy stupidity), but it was full of coconut, and he's allergic to coconut, so instead I almost killed him.
― When two tribes go to war, he always gets picked last (James Morrison), Tuesday, 1 September 2009 23:50 (eleven years ago) link
that's pretty nice of you to walk his dog
― where we turn sweet dreams into remarkable realities (just1n3), Wednesday, 2 September 2009 02:29 (eleven years ago) link
Long ago, when I was 21, I asked Lorrie Moore to dance with me at a zydeco show, but she rebuffed me.
I met Coetzee and Derek Walcott around the same time, and they're like the two severest men on Earth.
― Squash weather (Eazy), Wednesday, 2 September 2009 04:58 (eleven years ago) link
Er, my dog, I meant. I can't type.
― When two tribes go to war, he always gets picked last (James Morrison), Wednesday, 2 September 2009 07:35 (eleven years ago) link
ismael klata obviously this is the choice bit of that interview
Faulks turned to the Koran for his research, and was appalled: “It’s a depressing book. It really is. It’s just the rantings of a schizophrenic. It’s very one-dimensional, and people talk about the beauty of the Arabic and so on, but the English translation I read was, from a literary point of view, very disappointing.
“There is also the barrenness of the message. I mean, there are some bits about diet, you know, the equivalent of the Old Testament, which is also crazy. If you look again at those books of the law, Leviticus or Deuteronomy, there’s a lot about who you are allowed to sleep with, and if a man had lost his testicles he wouldn’t enter into the presence of God, that is just terrible. But the great thing about the Old Testament is that it does have these incredible stories. Of the 100 greatest stories ever told, 99 are probably in the Old Testament and the other is in Homer.
“With the Koran there are no stories. And it has no ethical dimension like the New Testament, no new plan for life. It says ‘the Jews and the Christians were along the right tracks, but actually, they were wrong and I’m right, and if you don’t believe me, tough — you’ll burn for ever.’ That’s basically the message of the book.”
I ask if he had talked to many British Muslims before beginning to write. “I didn’t, actually, no. I read some books and I’ve got a few Muslim friends, but I thought I’d get it better from books and from reading the source.”
― thomp, Wednesday, 2 September 2009 08:42 (eleven years ago) link
That's what I meant by the vacuity of the Great British Authors, I suppose - that the guy's identified an important subject and gone to considerable trouble to research it, and has come up with nothing new or insightful to say about it. I'm reading a pop book about the old testament just now which looks at exactly the same points, except that the author displays some curiosity as to why the book might be like that - and consequently displays a thousand times more insight, understanding and warmth than any of these guys could ever come up with. Yet who are considered the important thinkers, and who's the hack?
― Ismael Klata, Wednesday, 2 September 2009 09:46 (eleven years ago) link
i think someone needs to assemble for the sake of british authors a list of other things that young british muslims do that aren't "debate whether to become terrorists"
― thomp, Thursday, 3 September 2009 05:35 (eleven years ago) link
security grabbed my arm and led me away.
― Jessa (Jessa), Thursday, February 19, 2004 4:49 PM (sixteen years ago)
I don't get why security taken you away.
Great thread. More please.
― Robert Adam Gilmour, Friday, 31 July 2020 01:18 (two months ago) link
Westlake seems like the worst in the thread.
― Robert Adam Gilmour, Saturday, 1 August 2020 01:01 (two months ago) link
i can't think of many authors i've met -- we have a big local book festival here so i've gone to listen to quite a few authors read, but haven't really had any profound interactions with anyone. i did get to chat with rick perlstein for a few minutes as he signed my copy of nixonland, which was pretty cool. i also met george saunders very briefly after he did a reading here. very nice guy. so, no horror stories!
― (The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Saturday, 1 August 2020 03:02 (two months ago) link
Embarrassing story: Umberto Eco was doing a signing at The Strand here in NYC. After he signed my book, I smiled and said "Grazzi", one of the three Italian words I know. At that, he uttered about five sentences to me in Italian. I just smiled and walked away, looking and feeling like a complete moron.
― lukas, Tuesday, 18 August 2020 23:56 (two months ago) link