Thursday, August 03, 2006


For months I tried to ignore those orange TimesSelect links on the NYT page. If everyone else gets along just fine without it, why can't I? Punish the Times for their wrongheaded attempt to charge readers for web content. Ignore them until they give up.

Well so much for that. We subscribe to the paper so there isn't any extra charge. And I wanted to read Douglas Coupland's blog (I'm skipping the link; if you have TS you can find it easily enough).

Today Coupland is writing about the book tours and readings.
I've been to only a few book readings other than my own. The reason is that once I hear an author'svoice reading his or her own work, I can never read that author again without that voice replacing my own inner narrator's voice. I love Margaret Drabble, but it's so hard to read her now. I heard her read from "Radiant Way," and that was over 20 years ago, but I can't shake her voice, and it's a very nice voice, too. I once went to a Michael Chabon reading, and he pronounced the word, "saxophonist" to rhyme with "sarcophagus." and to this day, if I read his stuff, a voice in the depths of my subconscious shouts out every 10 seconds Saxophonist! Saxophonist! Kurt Vonnegut is one exception to this rule. I can't imagine reading him without his signature doomsday croak bouncing about my cranium. The best live reader in the world, bar none, is Irvine Welsh. In person he's almost mute, but put him on a stage and he electrifies, and his profanities sound more like onomatopoeias than profanities. The New York Times won't allow me to offer examples.
This is an odd position for an author to take--you might like hearing me read, but if I were you, I wouldn't. I like going to readings, not only because I like hearing authors' voices, but also because I am interested to see authors in person. I feel at home hanging around bookstores. I am curious to see who turns out for these things. There's always some kind of surprise: an unexpected huge crowd or a cluster of alternakids or grannies. It's good to know that there are others out there and to participate in a public gathering. And I'm always happy to be entertained for free. The thing I reallly don't like about readings is the overeagerness of the audience to laugh. People laugh at stuff that's not at all clever or funny at these events. At the more literary ones, some people laugh at the mere mention of television programs and consumer products. This is tension-defusing laughter: it seemed this event might be all serious; what a relief that it's not. But it's still irritating.

I don't see the point of waiting around for an author to sign my book. I don't usually buy books at these signings, but if I did that signature would add no value to my reading experience. And I don't get excited by the thought of meeting famous people one on one. Who gains from this exchange? The author might rather be elsewhere. If they seem cheerful it often comes off as an act and if they don't you feel like they're doing you a favor. I would much rather hear an interview with an author on npr than meet him or her when I get to the front of the bookstore line.

Now for the good part.

Video! Pelé signing books with the grace you would expect of him.

Better yet! Book signing gone wrong.

And more! Ali G: "People has been reading books for millions of years..."


Setting off for Canada tomorrow, so posting here may be light for a week or so.


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