December 6th, 2011 / 5:12 pm

ToBS R1: ‘curating’ a reading series vs. crossing off typed name & signing your name below it in yr book

[Matchup #20 in Tournament of Bookshit]

‘curating’ a reading series

pros: you will have something to do, you will have a legitimate reason to talk to and meet writers you like, you will be able to promote writers you like which may distract you from shit-talking writers you dislike

cons: ~90% of readings i’ve been to have ‘seemed bleak,’ you will quickly ‘run out of’ readers to ask to read, you might feel pressure to promote the readings so it won’t be awkward when the audience is small, you might feel pressure to introduce every reader with enthusiasm and to appear happy/excited that they’re reading for your series, you will be in positions where you might have to either ignore or reject certain people who want to read for your series


crossing off your typed name and signing your name below it in your book

pros: you will seem ‘professional’/’like a real writer’ to some people, you won’t need to think about what to do in signing situations

cons: you will convey to some people that you’ll do something that is meaningless or whose meaning/purpose is based in something you might not know anything about and that might be outdated or no longer relevant which may cause some people to think you do the same thing in your writing which may make them feel less interested in reading your writing

Tao Lin

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WINNER: ‘curating’ a reading series

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  1. alex crowley

      curating a reading series is fun. if you encounter any of those “cons”, then you’re doing it wrong.

  2. Sara Crowley

      For ages I have been asking authors who sign their books in the bookstore I work in why they cross out their name and sign and not one of them knows. Julian Barnes doesn’t do it, by the way, instead he signs a tiny school boy signature way up at the top of the page. 

  3. Jonathan Safran Foer

      I don’t cross mine out but maybe they hire someone to. Hmmm. Never thought of it. Almost like a kaon. 


      Because of the quotes around ‘curating,’ I read this one as really about using the word ‘curating’ instead of saying ‘running’ or ‘organizing’ a reading series. I do not like the word ‘curating’ used in this way in the same way I dislike the following phrases: ‘with the likes of’ (instead of ‘with’), ‘very full flight’ or ‘extremely full flight’ (instead of ‘full flight’), ‘playing their album in its entirety’ (instead of ‘playing all of their album’), and so on. 

  5. Leapsloth14

      It seems an obvious gesture. It’s a metaphor and artifact. You are crossing out the manufactured, printed name, and replacing it with a ‘real’ signature, from your brain to hand to pen to page. It’s an affect, but the WHY seems pretty obvious. You eliminate the mass-produced name and replace with the you-right-now-produced name. Seems like nothing to rail against to me.

  6. William Owen

      I was at the gym 30 minutes ago preparing to leave as the Michael Buble’ Christmas Special was starting, bought milk on the way home, ate a banana and drank some water then I read this post, and ‘curating’ will now forever be associated with Michael Buble’ for me. It was a word I like. It does feel like the polish has come off it. I hear tell people curate their tumblr’s now.

  7. Anonymous

  8. Bradley Sands

      I had a shtick going at a recent writing convention where I crossed out the name in my books, signed underneath it, and wrote something like “Only important writers cross out their names while signing their books.”  I’m probably going to restrict the shtick to that convention.

  9. Samantha

      Lovely little explanation. I wasn’t aware people thought it was an affect. I learned it from my mentor.

  10. Laura Carter

      I actually agree with what Jim Behrle said about curating a reading series—people think of you as a “curator” and not a writer. It is fun, though. There is also pressure to have a crowd and this can be troubling, because oftentimes it is not your fault if no one shows, or only a few show.

  11. deadgod

      ‘curating’ strips of meat vs. crossing out printed title of book & writing title of classic below it in yr book

  12. deadgod

      –but it’s the explanation for any autograph. 

      Crossing out the printed version might seem, to unusually dogmatic authenticity supporters, to be only a pro-authenticity affectation.  (After all, all the other words first written in that order by the author aren’t being crossed out and hand-written underneath, maybe the first draft was itself typed on some machine, etc.)

  13. deadgod

      That’s a marvelously curated comment.

  14. deadgod

      –b-b-but . . . scorning valid, enjoyable, and even edifying activities is fun.  If you argue against silly-assed scorn, then you’re being serious wrong.

  15. Frank Tas, the Raptor
  16. deadgod

      Have noisy fun, Wise and Mighty One.  Out to two (probably) bars to drink well, laugh heartily, flirt badly.  Middle name:  Par-tay . . .  Too much?  Bah.

  17. Frank Tas, the Raptor

      No such thing. Charm them lay-days!

  18. alan

      “you will have something to do”! I love that. Great reason to do something. Can be applied to any activity, btw.

  19. Sara Crowley

      I do understand that, my amusement is that when I ask the writers they don’t know, they do it because it is done. There’s no need to strike out the printed name, we can see that there’s a real signature too.

  20. Samantha

      “Marjorie Maxfield, a national etiquette expert, writes: 

      Crossing out the last name on personal stationery, or a Christmas card is a commonplace with CEO’s, the socially prominent and those in-the-know. It says,” We know one another quite well” This savvy writer knows his etiquette, and continues a long-standing tradition in his well-mannered life.”

  21. Guestagain

      in the other pros text “you won’t need to think about what to do in signing situations” so, having something to do and you won’t need to think about what to do, basic basic usefulness and potential discomfort being removed or avoided, it’s very funny

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  25. deadgod

      As I suggest, an affectation of authenticity–not a less authentic autograph for that, and only a dogmatist would insist that that’s all the gesture amounts to.

      You’ll note that the quote you take from the thread and the anticipatory Tom Ford exemplification of it in the blogicle feature crossing out the “last” name; in other words, ‘just “Tom” to you’.  –similar but not identical to a book-signing transaction.

      The last comment in the thread strikes the deconstructive note:  by emphasizing the “personal […] rather than political” nature of the communication, that makes the gesture “political”, no?

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  27. John Sakkis

       I like Alice Notley’s attitude on the word “curate.”

      This was my favorite “Vs.” of the entire list (because I’m looking in the mirror), and my least favorite explication so far…

      Mittens Romney had it, should have been about these ‘”     ‘”…

  28. alex crowley

      no, I know. those are valid “cons”. I co-run a new(ish) series and it’s seriously fun, but if things start heading in that stale direction, it’s time to turn it over or shut it down.

  29. Samantha

      I hadn’t thought about it too much, true. In that it was just a tradition I followed, something I learned (copied) from my mentor. Although I have noted to myself feeling a certain pleasure in striking through the printed name before signing. So, no, I don’t think it’s ‘meaningless’ in the least.

      If you look at the other examples at the Details blog, only a few of the designers do this – most of the Italians. In many cases it’s not through the last name specifically (maybe the miss manners americanification of it) it’s rather a floating line – the gesture of the strike-through. Maybe it’s an Italian thing? One commenter says “I was astonished yesterday when I saw all the crossed name. I’ve never seen this before. It is not customary in Germany.” Can’t seem to find much on the net about this ‘tradition’. One commenter on the blog says “This has been done since the beginning of time.” Hmn. I think you’re right about the last comment – by saying it is a personal rather than a political gesture puts it squarely in the realm of the political.

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