Camping out for Clinton

by Micah on July 8, 2004

Bill Clinton did a book-signing in Washington, DC, today. When I got to work this morning, fans were lined up around the block of the 12th St. Barnes & Noble. As they did in New York, hundreds of people camped out the night before. They were under the mistaken impression that it would be hard to get in the next day. At 6:00pm, I walked down the street from where I work to see about all the hoopla. Turns out they were still letting people through the door. I hadn’t bought a copy yet, so I thought I was out of luck. You were supposed to buy one the night before to get in the next day. But five minutes later, and sans book, I was given one those magic wrist-bans, the much-publicized credential that entitled me to the purchase of one—and only one—book, to have it signed, to a speedy presidential handshake, and to the feeling that I’d just experienced a windfall. I certainly wouldn’t have camped out for a book signed by President Clinton. Unlike this fan, I also wouldn’t have camped out for “Paul McCartney, Dolly Parton, Mikhail Gorbachev, Mother Teresa, Frank Gifford.” Which makes me wonder: is there any signed book worth spending the night on the sidewalk? Yeah, maybe I would have camped out for a signed copy of the first edition of A Theory of Justice. Frank Gifford?

{ 12 comments }

1

Chris Marcil 07.08.04 at 5:31 am

I don’t even think Frederick Exley would’ve camped out for Frank Gifford.

2

Cb 07.08.04 at 5:41 am

Gore Vidal, yes.

3

jdw 07.08.04 at 6:48 am

The problem is, it seems to me there’s something unavoidably dorky about getting autographs in general, and waiting in line to get them in particular. So to get a book signed by somebody cool — like Gore Vidal — means you’d have to look like a dork in front of him. And the cooler the signer, the worse it would be to dork it up in front of him.

That said, if Phillip Larkin were still alive, I’d steal one of his books from the library and wait in line for weeks to get him to sign it.

Kinda apropos of nothing: a friend of mine got the Mothers of Invention to sign his birth certificate, which I imagine will at some point lead to his being considered a non-person or in jail for defacing government property or something, but I’ve always thought it was pretty cool.

4

Jeremy Osner 07.08.04 at 1:28 pm

Well… if Pynchon were signing copies of Gravity’s Rainbow I reckon I would camp out for it. Or: Dylan signing copies of Tarantula. Also I would camp out to get a book signed by Vonnegut but I think I would not have to.

5

Nabakov 07.08.04 at 2:48 pm

I’d stay up for an autographed copy of the Bible.

Should be good for a few bucks on e-bay.

6

Nabakov 07.08.04 at 2:51 pm

I’d stay up for an autographed copy of the Bible.

Should be good for a few bucks on e-bay.

7

Paul 07.08.04 at 3:04 pm

And the cooler the signer, the worse it would be to dork it up in front of him.

That’s the real dilemma of book signings. It hasn’t stopped me from asking for autographs, but it has stopped me from camping out.

8

harry 07.08.04 at 6:32 pm

Norman Geras’s cricket books are autographed…

I’d have camped out for the first Just William by Richmal Crompton, or the first Jennings Goes to School by Buckeridge. Otherwise, nothing, not even TofJ.

9

PG 07.08.04 at 6:37 pm

But you wouldn’t have known at the time of Theory of Justice’s release that it would become the Bible of post-WWII political philosophy. John Rawls was not a rockstar when Theory was first published, although there’s no reason not to have camped out at his Harvard office five years ago to get his autograph then.

10

David W. 07.08.04 at 7:17 pm

Well, I’m quite impressed at how soon the Exley reference was noted!

I’d definitely camp out for a George Orwell signing, myself. Sigh. (I’m currently reading Ian Slater’s recently reissued The Road to Airstrip One, and recommend it highly to anyone who is an Orwell fan.)

11

Anno-nymous 07.09.04 at 1:03 am

I couldn’t care less about a book signing. But Bill Clinton is, I think, the only living person whose hand I would be proud to shake. Mostly because other people I admire aren’t really the hand-shaking type, I suppose.

12

fyreflye 07.09.04 at 8:35 pm

Seeking autographs of famous people, whether camped out for or not, is the sort of retrograde primate behavior we should all be struggling to rise above. This kind of irrational irrationality deserves a sharp rebuke on B & W, if not elsewhere.

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