I absolutely do. It’s not an empty gesture; it can boost a book’s meaningfulness. Plus, making connections and
friends is a huge – and fun – part of all of this publishing stuff, and I’ve found that that
simple act of personalization is a great way to say thank you.
Seems like people who “don’t give a shit” about authors’ autographs generally argue that authors are just people like me and you and everyone we know, but to me, authors are like the ultimate celebrities. They perpetuate something that I live for.
I like it if they are my friend and they write a nice message, like when Mike Young crossed off “Feathers” on his title page and replaced it with sequins. I feel like the book object then becomes an artifact or document or archive of community.
I used to look at autographs as an implied hope the person would die, and that it’s a strange uncomfortable thing to ask for. But I’ve come around. Buying the book at a reading is a nice thing, a way to show support for the person coming out, and lots of writers really depend on it.
I was afraid of getting my copy of Some Trees wet in the rain, so I brought Houseboat Days to have Ashbery sign, which I sort of regret.
While Diane Wakoski was signing my copy of The Butcher’s Apron, I was like, “It’s great to finally meet you; you’re one of the first poets I read that I was really excited about,” and she shot me this look that said, “Spare me the bullshit, asshole.”
I don’t care about autographed books, for the most part.
I once went to hear JM Coetzee read in Seattle. There was some parable, later it was part of Elizabeth Costello, I think… part of it had to do with a Jesus who did not want to be touched (which I know is a thing, not Coetzee’s own coinage, noli me tangere). My friend whispered to me that Coetzee was the one who didn’t want to be touched. Unusually for me, this time I stood in the autograph line, I had him sign the new book and also an old hardback of In the Heart of the Country. He reacted with a sort of barely perceptible flinch; I felt ghoulish, forcing him to turn the older book into a rarity.
I don’t remember what the then-new book was. All my books are in storage; if I can ever afford to ransom them, they’ll probably be mildew and dust by then.
I fell in love with a guy, he wasn’t into me (claimed he wasn’t into dating & younger guys but I know this isn’t true since he immediately proceeded to date a guy not much older than I was) but anyway I thought we’d at least stay friends, I mean this was the guy who’d come over to my apartment at like midnight when we’d just known each other on Facebook & for going to each other’s school & for liking the same kind of books, this was the guy I visited in his little web development closet office on campus almost every day for a few weeks, well he stopped talking to me altogether, completely cut off communication, I was angry and grief-stricken, still get upset about it sometimes, irrationally.
But then he moved to New York and mailed me an apology signed copy of DC’s The Weaklings!!!
I don’t generally want or care, and have probably missed all kinds of opportunities to have it done; however, when the signature and inscription is personal, like the one I got from Vollmann inside Whores for Gloria, complete with what he said was a portrait of me (which strangely made me look not only female but also quite whorish); or the kind one I have by Stephen Graham Jones on a manuscript I looked at for him. Those admittedly mean a lot.
when i was like 19 i had lorrie moore sign SELF-HELP not on the title page but at the beginning of the story “how to become a writer,” because i imagined this would transfer to the book sort of totemic power.
amy hempel signed my copy of Reasons to Live, which I had bought used, which she already signed for someone else named Mark. i wasn’t going to show her that, just present a page, but then i figured there was no way around it and she wrote: “But really for Alan, with real best wishes -Amy Hempel. (we hate Mark).” then she crossed out Mark’s name on the previous page. i loved her even more.
I love getting a copy of a book I adore autographed, or a book I hope I’m going to adore because I’m a fan of the other’s previous work. I’m a total fangirl when it comes certain writers, so it means to me what an autograph from Justin Beiber (that’s how you spell his name, yes? I don’t know) would mean to a 14 year old girl. I remember literally squealing when Eve Ensler signed my copy of The Good Body when I was 18. She talked to me for about ten minutes after because I was the last person in line, and she gave me a hug. I swooned.
I go to a reading with a friend who knows the writer and my friend leaves for a minute so I’m standing next to the writer in question holding the writer in question’s book, which I’ve bought because maybe we’ll all be friends now, and for lack of anything else to say I’ll ask him/her to sign the inside. Which after the writer graciously has flourished my name and some expression of generalized goodwill I’m asked how it’s going, and oh, you’re a writer, too, anything I’ve read?, as if to say, Are you the same guy from the past ten cities.
–This has happened so many times I’ve stopped feeling it.
In high school, I saw Ken Kesey read, and, at the time, he was my hero. I brought a copy of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest that was the special movie edition, with Jack Nicholson’s face on the cover. Ken spent probably most of the Q&A talking about how he had sued to try to stop the movie being made, written a much better version of the script, and refused to ever see the movie. I could either not get my book signed, or present him with the image of everything that he was against, and I did that. He was nice about it. So was my brother, whose copy of the book it was until Ken Kesey signed it “For Chad.”
A few years ago, my mom went to The Strand and asked if they had any 1st edition hardback Dave Eggers books—my favorite writer at the time. The lady in the store said, “No, sorry.” Then she started to walk off, then said, “Well, we do have one, but it’s signed. Would you want it anyway?” I guess she figured I would want to have it signed myself. I also stole my ex-girlfriend’s signed Final Solution by Michael Chabon, but she stole my dignity, and pride. Win some lose some, I guess.
There’s this great scene in one of Updike’s Henry Bech stories where Bech finally meets the guy who always asks for a signed copy of his books when they come out. He’s really excited, so he asks the “fan” can I see one or two of the books I sent you over the years and the guy says yeah why not. So he opens a big cardboard box with like hundreds of books by Bech and Roth and Mailer and all those great writers and the guy says to Bech this is gonna be worth a fortune when you’re all gonna be dead.
I have a copy of James Tate’s Absences which isn’t autographed. He was my god (still is, though there are others) when an undergraduate. The night he read on campus I forgot though and got superhumanly loaded with friends. When I remembered he was reading, I figured I was too drunk to walk to the auditorium. Two friends of mine helped me get there because they knew how much I loved him. We sat in the back and I cried through most of the reading. Afterwards my friends said I should go up to get my book signed, but I said I didn’t want to be so tacky as to go up there still too drunk to stand up straight. So I didn’t. And that’s fine, since whenever I see that unsigned book I think of my cool friends who basically carried me there because they knew how much he meant to me.
the first and last time i got really excited to get autographs from an author was bret easton ellis. i was young, like 16, and like a true fanboy, i brought all of his books to get signed. right before he started signing my books my friend asked him if we could have some of his vicodin (he’d hurt his leg). ellis got really defensive. i was just looking at his face, probably grinning half shit-eating, half enamored. he signed my books and then booked it the fuck out of there.