But it's this post on Margaret Atwood I want to address. Condalmo doesn't like the Long Pen, comparing it to a photocopier. He writes:
I would never in a hundred years line up for a photocopy of a signature from any author. For an author to agree to participation in such a "author appearance" or "book signing" ("event", "reading", "respectful interaction with readers") makes me much less likely to feel any interest in that author's writing.
Like Rhian (see the comments of that thread), I disagree with him here--it's autographs themselves that are something of a scam, not the Long Pen. I'm not a terribly popular writer, and I'm always delighted when somebody actually is interested enough in my stuff to want me to sign it. But I have to say, even then, I don't really like doing it.
Most people ask a writer for an autograph because they liked the reading or book, and want to commemorate their having talked with the author. I've asked for lots of autographs this way, and people generally seem happy to to provide them and say hello.
But every medium-sized city on up has at least one Weird Dude (always a dude) who has like multiple copies of your book, with acrylic wrappers on the dust jackets, and wants you to sign them all. "Just your name," they say, with a tiny bit of desperation. As if, should you write, "To Weird Dude, good luck with your search for a girlfriend! Best wishes, J. Robert Lennon," you would ruin everything.
And you would, because they are not trying to commemorate a pleasant human interaction. They don't give a crap about your book. They barely look at you, in fact! No, they're squirreling away your stuff in the unlikely event you become super famous, and then they'll get to make a huge profit selling the signed editions on eBay.
The Weird Dude really brings to light the whole problem with autographs...the fact that a story is ephemeral, and takes a different shape in every reader's mind, and that this is the entire point. That a story is a seed for the individual imagination. That the physical book is not the important thing--let alone one's contact with the author.
Now, I don't mean to demean every autograph seeker, here--most people just like the book and think it's fun to meet the author. I'm one of those people. But I don't really ask for autographs anymore (the last one I asked for, and probably the last I will ever ask for, was Alice Munro's, beside the buffet table in the green room at the Toronto International Book Festival, because hell!, Alice Munro!!), because they seem a little bit gross to me now. The story should be enough. The story is enough. In fact, it's more than I have any right to ask for, and yet I get to have it anyway.
It isn't that Condalmo's wrong, per se, but he is missing the point that author autographs overall are just kind of pointless. And if you're as famous as Margaret Atwood, you could spend your whole damned life sitting at a pressboard buffet table gazing up in exhaustion at the Weird Dude, and why not make something that can obliterate that experience from your life?