Author, author! Author?

We were in an excellent near-the-doctor bookstore, BookCourt, as a reward for having made it through yet another yearly checkup. It was a golden afternoon. All was well: the kids were healthy, we'd had some ice cream, the only problem was: which book to buy? My two collaborators were working hard. Diana had one book in hand and was asking the very nice gentleman who worked there about another, when she spied yet a third prominently displayed on the wall. "Oh! Wait! I want that one!"

Very nice gentleman who worked there: That one?

Diana: Yes! Those are really funny!

VNGWWT: Are you here for the reading?

Me: What reading?

VNGWWT: That author is going to be here in 15 minutes!

Me (being embarrassingly motherly): Did you hear that, Diana? He's going to be here in 15 minutes! Do you want to stay for it!? (Why the chirpy enthusiasm when it wasn't even a book I knew? I have no idea. It's some freaky mother thing, like lower testosterone.)

Diana, with shrug: Nah. I just want the book.

VNGWWT (very cheerily): Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha….

And off she went.

What does it all mean? Why the lack of interest? I have no memory of any readings when I was a kid, the author's actual existence as a real live person never fully was clear to me. The book itself was everything. And sometimes I wonder about the (what feels to me) more current obsession with the author. It seems like an offshoot of the overall obsession with celebrity culture, though of a gentler, nerdier sort.

But then again, the authors may very much like being known, maybe for them it's a wonderful new development, this focus on the producers of the work as well as the work itself?

And maybe it doesn't matter: some kids are more focused on the author, others more on the book, and everywhere in between.

What about you guys? Do you care about the author? Or you with Diana on the general,, "Nah."?


10 thoughts on “Author, author! Author?

  1. I am fascinated by authors. I love to hear about their writing process and how the words form on the page and become whole other worlds. I am a nerd though. And this, I think is an adult obsession of mine. I love to hear their interviews on the radio and I have gone to one or two author visits, but not many. I don’t re-arrange my schedule unless it is a favorite, like Judy Blume or Chris Van Allsburg. But if I was in a bookstore? And an author was going to be there in 15 minutes? And I had time? I would have put my butt in a chair…fast.


  2. I love seeing authors. Even if it is not my favorite I always find something interesting or learn something. My 8 year old has the chance to see Brian Selznick and she said no. She just wanted me to buy her Wonder Struck. I am struggling with this. Reading your post today was like an instant connection with you moment. So interesting these children are with such opinions.


  3. What would have happened if you’d said “15 minutes? No way am I waiting around. Let’s go, Diana.” Mine’s still susceptible to reverse psychology, but I’m guessing Diana’s more cagey. I think I’d have loved to have met authors when I was younger but would have been too shy to approach.


  4. I’ve wanted to be an author since I was a little kid, so I’m pretty sure I was always a little obsessed. On the other hand, I think for me, it depends on the interest. Sometimes I read things that don’t sound interesting because I like the author’s work. Sometimes I’m just interested in one book that sounds good. It may be that this just wasn’t someone she cared deeply to see/meet.
    I also hate crowds, so I tend to not do the reading thing unless I’m really, really in love with that author.


  5. I like Susan Woodring’s reponse to Atwood’s quote:
    I like meeting authors because I like knowing the person behind the book, just like I enjoy meeting artists and actors and musicians. I’m never disappointed at meeting a boring old human rather than an artistic god. It reminds me of Emerson’s essay, “Circles” – “You admire this tower of granite, weathering the hurts of so many ages. Yet a little waving hand built this huge wall, and that which builds is better than that which is built.”


  6. Sorry – I don`t have French accents on this keyboard – it is pate as in pate de fois gras, not plate. Admittedly this is made OF duck and not BY duck, but well…


  7. I think that, as a kid at least, I didn’t really think about the authors of books: they were just entities that existed independent of creation, had always existed … it almost took something away to see them as things made by ordinary people. The one exception would be Piers Anthony, whose books I read all of when I was a tween, even though I vaguely sensed that he was a misogynist. (I tried reading one the other day and, well… it’s a lot harder to appreciate his work now, imaginative though he is.) He used to write author’s notes in the backs of his books, interesting, quite detailed and often personal, and often in depth about the creative process as well, so it was impossible not to think about his role in creating what I’d just read. I believe I actually wrote to him and received some kind of letter back. But it was only because he’d inserted himself into the works.
    These days, I suppose it’s part of having “critical thinking” drilled into me in college… I think about “the source” all the time, especially since my tastes run more to non-fiction now. Sadly, the older one gets, the more one thinks about how bias and imperfection ends up in writing. On the other hand, that makes good works of literature and writing all the more impressive.


  8. I have been interested in knowing about the author since the time in childhood when I realized actual people wrote books… But I think there is more general interest these days because of the need for authors to shoulder much more of the burden for their books’ publicity – to put themselves out there. With blogs, websites, Facebook, etc. authors are present in a way they never were before. I can even think of an instance where I knew the author before I read any of her books… I followed a link to Sarah Dessen’s blog years ago and read for a long time before every cracking the spine on one of her YA novels.


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