Saturday, September 24, 2005

New Yorker Festival Book Signing

This weekend is The New Yorker Festival . Normally, I like to attend an event or two, but the tickets have become so pricey and hard to get, it is easier to go to the free events, like the book signings, which are held at Barnes & Noble, Union Square, which acts as the Festival Headquarters.

I visited today, opting for three authors: T. Coraghessan Boyle, Mark Strand, and Michael Chabon. T.C.B. has two new mcollections of short stories out. He is one of my favorite authors and he is one of the best practitioners of the short story writing today. Among living writers, I think Lorrie Moore may be the only other name I can come up with who crafts short stories better than "Tom". Wait, throw Alice Munro in there as well.

Anyway, I stood in line and Tom stood, as his style, while signing. He is a bit eccentric, in that he likes to stand in front of the signing table and look at or down at people while talking with them. Since he is taller, it's usually looking down. Anyway, he signed multiple items for me, the new books, a copy of his novel Drop City, a paperback copy of an earlier novel, Budding Prospects, and then I asked him to sign a story of his in an anthology called Getting it On; A Condom Reader. The problem is that Tom does not like to sign uncorrected proofs, on principle, and this copy was a proof. I said, "I know you won't sign proofs, but this is one that's an anthology and I'd love it if you'd inscribe your page to me." He looked at the cover for a second and handed it back to me, saying, "I'm not going to sign this one." I wasn't quite sure if it was because it was a proof, or because of the book itself. But I didn't mind. I asked him if I could take a picture with him, and a B&N employee obliged us by taking the shot. It is the photo accompanying this posting.

The next signing was at 1:00 PM and it was 11:30, so I ran uptown a bit to my office and dropped all the T.C. Boyle books to lighten the load. Next came Mark Strand, and it was a beautiful day, so I walked back to 17th Street for the next event, as opposed to taking the train.

When I arrived back at B&N, there was a huge line. Lucky for me, the line was for Ian McEwan, whose novel Saturday has grabbed rave reviews, and whose star has risen significantly since I first saw him in NYC seven years ago at another, smaller B&N. The line for Mark Strand, who has a new anthology out (100 Great Poems of the Twentieth Century), consisted of three people. I made 4, and shortly thereafter, a guy named Tony made 5. Strand was my big attraction, as a collector of poetry, and I came loaded with stuff for him to sign. And a mixed bag it was indeed. I had him sign the new anthology, a copy of his book Chicken, Shadow, Moon & More, Rembrandt Takes a Walk (a children's book he co-wrote with the New York painter Red Grooms), the anthology he co-edited with Charles Simic (Another Republic), his contribution pages in America's Favorite Poems (ed. Robert Pinsky), The Best American Poetry 1994, Preferences (ed. Richard Howard), an old 92nd Street Y anthology, and a Paris Review in which he was interviewed on "The Art of Poetry." Also, I had him sign the dustjacket he illustrated for Charles Wright's Appalachia. When I approached Strand with the stack of books, he seemed tickled by the teetering pile and remarked "It looks like you have my whole life story there."

The guy behind me, named Tony, was chatty, as we waited before Strand showed up. We talked poetry and collecting. He told me how, just last year, in an undisclosed bookstore he picked up four different first editions by the poet Elizabeth Bishop. Each one was marked "1st edition, signed, $8." Nice haul, stupid bookstore. The cheapest signed Bishop anywhere on the web begins at $450.00.

Afterwards, I struck up a conversation with a couple from Princeton who owns a bookbinding business. Not only do they bind books, especially Princeton theses, but they are avid collectors (two rooms worth!). We chatted about numerous things, including the Princeton Creative Writing Faculty. Many of whom they see in town. "We just ran into Paul Muldoon at the local deli the other day. He's so down to earth!"

They joined me in line to see Michael Chabon, whose The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, is phenomenal and another of my Top 20 books. Chabon signed only three things for me, his latest The Final Solution: A Story Of Detection, a paperback uncorrected proof of his young adult book Summerland, and his contribution in Nothing But You : Love Stories From The New Yorker. The line for Chabon was long, but nothing compared to this year's media circus for Stephen King. Papparazzi, rabid horror-genre fans, general mayhem. B&N only gave out 150 wristbands for 150 people to get items signed. One guy, according to a B&N employee, arrived at 4:00 PM on Friday to get in line.

All in all, a successful day of meeting the authors and having books signed. No sign of Doppelgänger, but I did see people with more books than me, so I'm not the craziest collector out there.

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