This weekend was a bookish kind of weekend. Went to the Boston Book Festival in Copley to hear John Hodgman in a Q&A with Tom Perrota. John, as usual, was sharp and witty. Embarrassingly, I'd never heard of Tom before. Worse, I'd only heard of the films that had been adapted from his books. Both authors were entertaining.
After the session, we slogged our way through the rain to gander at the booth tents set up in Copley Square. As you'd expect, several book publishers and booksellers were there. And then, probably not what you'd expect: Brigham's Ice Cream and Legal Sea Foods. Now, Green Mountain Coffee, also an exhibitor, I'd expect; we always see writers and readers bending over books, paper and computers at coffeehouses. But ice cream and chowder? Of course, they both had the longest lines at their booths because they put one of society's favorite words before their wares: Free.
And the book theme carried on last night, when I went to Harvard Square to hear Margaret Atwood read from her new book "The Year of the Flood". I was nervous because I'd read somewhere that this was to be a 70-minute "dramatic" reading, including musicians. Richard saw it as an eye-rolling opportunity and encouraged me to go. And because she's my favorite author, I did.
And it wasn't so bad. Her reading introduced the book's main characters and personas, and set the scene for what could happen to Earth if humans continue to f*** everything up.
For the most part, the reading was sane. Atwood was lovely with her wild, curly gray hair, and she shared her wit and intelligence -- especially in the Q&A.
But I did get some eye-rolling exercise when she played (from a CD player) three hymns that were inspired by her book, written by her agent's spouse or friend. She prefaced them by saying the hymns were "peppy," and then proceeded to sway a bit and lightly sing along, swinging her arms. Her accompaniment was fine. She's nearly 70 and has earned the right to be a fruity, carefree older lady.
But the hymns themselves? Well... I'm not sure if they were supposed to be a piss-take. I think the 2 ladies sitting next to me thought so; the pew (we were at First Parish Church) was shaking because they were silently laughing so hard. However, these were the same ladies who said at least 3 times before the reading started that they thought they were getting a copy of the book because they paid a $25 entrance fee. This is despite the fact that Harvard Book Store said everywhere -- on the ticket order form, on the tickets themselves, on signs at the Church, and in the introduction -- that the $25 fee goes to environmental charities and you don't get a copy of the book.
Anyway, aside from a few brown-nosing, "isn't Margaret Atwood great when she sways" sort of appreciative giggles (me included!), no one seemed to think the hymns funny, idiotic or unusual. Personally, I thought the songs were awful. The singer sounded too much like that egomaniac douchebag James Taylor. In other words, I will not be buying the CD that complements the book. And it better not automatically come with the book -- that's a sure sign that the music is so crap that they have to give it away.
And no, I didn't buy the book last night and have Atwood sign it. I've decided in the past couple of years that there's something not-quite-right about owning signed book copies. First, if you're a serious book reader (and I'm assuming you are if you're collecting signed copies), you've probably got a long, wish-to-read list, so what's the likelihood you're going to re-read this book? Second, you're going to die someday, and what are the chances that your beneficiaries will like the books you like? They're likely not going to be worth much, considering how many authors sign countless copies of their books these days. At least 100 copies of "The Year of the Flood" went out into Cambridge last night alone! I think it's incredibly gracious that authors offer this service. I'm sure they do it because they need to build their fan base, but what a pain in the hand it must be.
That said, I've only recently come to this realization. Meaning, I have to figure out what to do with the signed books I have. There's a Margaret Atwood, an Amy Tan, a Maya Angelou. Any takers?