The peculiar practice of signing books must be familiar territory for regular readers of the books blog. Sarah Weinman’s change of heart provoked heartfelt comments both for and against the custom, with very few shades of grey in between. But the discussion always assumes the book is signed by the author. And I don’t mean with Margaret Atwood’s LongPen.
Last week children’s author Mary Hoffman wrote on her blog about a recent bookshop signing session, which had her signing a copy of Horrid Henry, by Francesca Simon, because the young customer was very insistent. And I suppose it makes sense, really. A child doesn’t necessarily know why you have a book signed, but if there’s a signing going on, then they won’t want to miss out.
I remember having dinner with Roddy Doyle right before a reading, and I asked him whether he had any preferences for the signing afterward (there was an hour long line up), such as not wanting to sign too many books, etc. “No, no,” he said. “I’ll sign anything. It doesn’t even have to be mine.” Then there was the phase I wen through about 10 years ago when everyone kept mistaking me for Mark McGwire. It was a span of about 6 months when I was wearing contacts and had short hair and a goatee. People tried to buy me beers, strangers patted me on the back and asked what I was doing in town, and kids kept asking for autographs.Â Now I’m not a small dude, but I’m no Mark McGwire. At first it was fun. Then it got annoying and a little sad, so I grew out my beard. One particularly shy kid of about 10 or 11 had his mother come over and ask for an autograph. She was holding a baseball card. “My son wants to know if you’re Mark McGwire,” she said. “No,” I said. “But do you want me to sign it?” She looked back at the kid and nodded. So I signed it with a squiggle. I hope he’s not a collector and never finds out.