Recently, I joined three of my bookish friends, Kwesi, Maria, and Rollie, for the book signing of a young adult author. The author’s name escapes me now. Lauren Oliver? I am sorry. Regular readers of this blog, which I am confident must be at around five or at most ten, must know that I am not keen at this genre. I will explore it soon, but that is not the point.
Why was I there? These three didn’t want to go with our other bookish friends to watch Hunger Games. I cannot be counted to shell out money for something that I am not too interested to watch despite the presence of people that I like. Besides, people are supposed to sit and watch and not chitchat while watching a movie in a cinema, no?
So I just joined the three for the book signing of someone I am not familiar with. Besides, I quite approve of this. There’s a feeling of elation when you meet an author that you are particularly fond of and have your copies of his or her books signed. I am not so sure what the rabidity level of these friends’ fanaticism is for the author, but still, I tagged along.
The book signing was held at the same venue where Junot Diaz held his last year. I am not a huge fan of Diaz, but a Pulitzer Prize winner visiting Philippines does not happen frequently. Besides, the venue is so near our office. I could walk my way there, so this opportunity is something that I can hardly miss.
I noticed a difference: a young adult author can draw more people than a literary one. I was baffled when my friends were assigned line numbers. This was something not distributed during the Junot Diaz book signing. We were just asked to register and get a seat. And there were seats enough for people who were on time.
A worse occasion was the Edward P. Jones book signing. There were seats for everyone, even stray shoppers. And a heartbreaking observation: less than ten people lined up to have their books signed.
This has its pros and cons. A crowded book signing consumes more time and energy than necessary. Besides, all you can get from it is some chitchat with the author. I could imagine a hi, hello, what’s your name, you want our picture, sure, thanks, happy reading. I don’t know how the fleeting minutes of my friends’ respective turns turned out, but they must have been spent in a rush.
With Junot Diaz and Edward P. Jones, I had a real conversation. The one with the former might just be a pivotal conversation, because after the hi-hello-I’m-Junot (and it was only this time that I found out that his name is pronounced as Juno, like the moon or the movie), he asked me what my name is and what I did. I didn’t want to say what I did for my living because most of the time, people get intimidated. But I couldn’t think of anything else, and how could I intimidate this published author?
So I told him I was a technical writer. He looked at me. I was flustered. Oops, now he’s going to ask me if I like what I did. He asked me if I liked what I did. I answered his question about my job honestly, albeit hesitantly, so I might as well be completely honest with him. No. It’s quite boring, but I need a job. Let me tell you something, why don’t you start writing about what a crazy day today is. Are you going to do that? Uhm (a piercing stare, expecting me to really do it like he was some successful distant elder cousin), uhm, yes. Have a nice day, Angus (a more expectant stare). You too, Junot. Thanks.
I ran off. Junot, I may not write about what a crazy day that day was, but I will write something and I will hunt your head down and force you to read it.
Now, let’s go to the latter. These two actually took place just a few days apart, so you can just imagine the literary high that I got. With Edward P. Jones, it was a little quiet. The audience is not too participative. Heck, I could tell that half of the people were just people who happened to be killing time in the venue, which was a book store.
And when we were asked to line up, each person had more time to talk to the writer. He’s a little quiet and maybe timid, so I had to think of something to extend my few minutes with him. So when it was my turn, there’s the usual hi-hello, and then he flipped through my copy because it was a little battered. He was looking for marginalia, which I am not guilty of, and I told him that the only writing that he could find there were my initials and the date that I bought it.
He was pretty impressed, me having bought that copy five years ago. So when I saw his shy smile, I ranted about my favorite character in the novel. I told him how Luke’s death broke my heart. And then he went on about Luke, explaining that his death was necessary to break all the lies that were going on in the novel. I never thought of it as that, and I apologize for spoiling this detail in the novel. I can’t help it. And then, as a side comment, he said, Hmm, it’s been a long time since I talked about Luke. Thank you, Angus.
I ran off. During these two occasions, I didn’t dare look back. I don’t know why, but I just sped off with my heart beating wildly with joy. There’s something about authors writing your name on the title page and signing it.
Really, the book’s content will still be the same, and it wouldn’t make you understand the novel more or less. But admit it; authors are celebrities in their own rights. A signed book is sure to increase its value in due time. But surely, we don’t get our books signed just so that we could sell them in the future, no?
Oh well, maybe some do that. At least not me. I had Oscar Wao and The Known World signed because I loved them. I considered buying new copies for the signing, but that would be different. I want the copies that I read to be the ones signed. It’s like an affirmation, like this here, Angus, read this book and understood it to the best of his abilities and hopefully loved it, I therefore affix my signature on the title page as a symbol of his great love for literature.
I only have four signed books in my library. So what is the fourth one?