Saturday, September 30, 2006
Sanctioned Book Buying!!
The location: the National Mall, Washington, D.C.
The event: the annual Library of Congress National Book Festival. 70 of the most well-respected and widely-read authors, poets, illustrators, and historians, all gathered in one confined area for hours of book-signings and readings -- pure nirvana for book lovers like myself.
It's also one of the rare occasions where book buying is an acceptable indulgence (a.k.a. I can buy books and the missus won't really mind; in fact, she bought some today). I can say that there's nothing more interesting that watching the tens of thousands of folks who come out for this event, lugging their briefcases, suitcases, shopping backs, or purses -- just about anything in which to carry one, two, or ten books -- and the authors that they are so intent on meeting and getting a quick scribbling from. At the same time, you meet some really interesting folks while you're waiting in line for your face time with the author of the moment (today, I waited for signatures from Doris Kearns Goodwin, Robert Remini, and Bob Woodward) and learn a little of what drives their love of books and literature.
It was another great event, although I wasn't able to attend any of the lectures for all of my time in line (the schedule was arranged so that no sooner had I gotten one book signed than I dashed off to get into another line). My wife and daughter spent some quality time with Elmo and about 500 of his friends, enjoyed arts and crafts in the PBS tent, and spent time in line waiting to meet Clifford the Big Red Dog -- only to have the little one curl up in a scared little ball when she realized that Clifford wasn't little like on TV, but rather close to 7 feet tall!
I have to say the biggest disappointment was probably Woodward, although I was glad to get a signed book. He arrived 20 minutes late for his hour-long signing, left before even a quarter of the hundreds who had lined up to see him had a chance to get their books signed, and then held court in a 40-minute moderated discussion in which he couldn't talk about his latest book on the Bush Administration (because of an arrangement with "60 Minutes") -- much to the chagrin of the folks who came because of that specific topic. A friend of mine and I who had gone to hear his lecture gave up and left after about 10 minutes because the crowd in the tent was so large, and the speakers were turned in such a bad direction, that no one could hear him. He was surrounded by nearly a dozen private security officers and mounted police officers as he traveled around the Mall, and really never struck me as being happy to be there with folks who appreciated his writing (in fact, I thought he looked bored with the whole thing as I went through the line, and I only saw him smile the first time as he was leaving after his talk).