May 31 2012

On Book Signings…

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I’ve decided that book signings are becoming annoying.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy seeing an author speak about his/her books, maybe doing some readings, talking to people, and then signing things. In fact, I love it. But the audiences are becoming tiresome.

It seems the audience always contains the one guy who has to be confrontational. Maybe this is more the case in regards to non-fiction, than fiction (though truthfully, I think the guy with the stack of F. Paul Wilson books at that signing I went to should have known -if he was as big of a fan as he claimed- that Wilson really doesn’t like talking about the film version of The Keep). When I saw Huston Smith a few weeks back, somebody challenged him about Buddhism being a “worthy” religion because Buddhists in Japan supported Emperor Hirohito in WWII. As if Smith (or anyone) should immediately say “Ya know, you’re RIGHT! I guess I’ve been mistaken about the value of Buddhism all this time. Because those pesky Japanese in WWII…you’re right. I’ll call my publisher and have them destroy my book, and then we can go out and burn some temples! Goddamn Japs!!”

No religion has a clean slate. None. But I can say there are things about them that people get benefits from. Even if I’m not at all religious, nor a believer in any of them.

But fine, people are entitled to their opinions.

Tonight, was even a little more absurd, however. To refresh everone’s minds, I saw Gary Lachman tonight. Gary used to be Gary Valentine of Blondie, and he’s published two books recently,Turn Off Your Mind: The Mystic Sixties And The Dark Side Of The Age Of Aquarius, and A Secret History Of Consciousness. Tonight’s author / audience member scuffle came from when Gary was comparing the occult/pagan interests of the 60’s (up to and including the “New Age” movement, and some of the “health” movements currently) to pre-WWII Germany, and the emphasis onvolkisch things, and getting back to nature, and dietary stuff (quite an interesting parallel, I thought), and casually mentioned that Hitler too, was a vegetarian.

At which point some yahoo in the audience takes offense, saying that this was an urban legend, and that he had DOCUMENTED PROOF, DAMMIT that this wasn’t true, and that Hitler ate meat!

Gary graciously handled it, explaining that his sources had said otherwise, but he was willing to look into it.

My question comes in at “Who cares?”

Is this such a big deal what Hitler may or may not have eaten, that you have to triumphantly stand up and try to shoot someone down in the middle of a talk they’re giving? Does this guy feel better now, because he knows something the hot shot uppity author doesn’t? Fuck man, write your own book! Or don’t you think a tome on Hitler’s dietary habits would sell? Maybe you could call it (forgive the multi-levelled pun) Mein Chow?

I guess I just don’t see the point. The author is here to meet readers (and admittedly, to hustle his/her book). Discuss it afterwards. Or wait until the Q&A period! Think Alex Trebek, and phrase it in the form of a question! Do you really think the audience is going to collectively stand up, throw their books at the author, lift you on their shoulders, singing your praises, and buy you dinner?

If you’re going to debate something with an author, make it worth fucking while. Hitler’s dietary habits, or a group of Japanese Buddhists swept up in nationalism just aren’t worth the fights. Fuck, go take on someone like Ann Coulter, or Rush Limbaugh, or Bill O’ Reilly. Go prepared. But even then, wait until they’re done. Take notes. Listen to them. And even then, argue something worthwhile.

The thing is, I’ll probably go to more of these. A lot of authors I like seem to either live out here, or come out this way pretty regularly. I just wish the discourse was above the level of Star Trek Convention (“yes, but in episode 39, your character specifically said [x], which was contrary to what your character said later in episode 43!”)

Lest you think otherwise, I did have a good time tonight, and got both of my books signed. Gary answered my question to my satisfaction (“I’m currently working on my Master’s in Consciousness Studies, so I’m quite interested in both of your books, and couldn’t help but notice that a lot of the people who got involved in the occult -of which I have an interest myself- wound up going mad, or were just crap people. I’ll be the first to admit that Crowley was no saint. My interests are in trying to salvage the good and the meaningful from the systems, primarily, and seeing how they can be used. Do you think the failures that you’d noted were due to the systems themselves, or the personalities of the people involved? In a way, the book almost reads like ‘VH-1’s BEHIND THE MAGICK'” Answer: “Ultimately, both, and that a lot of people don’t ground themselves when looking into the occult, or spirituality, and that there is a reason that most of these systems strongly urge people to be of at least a certain age before getting involved, so they understand life first. These systems sound great, but without an underlying structure, they can run amok.” or something to that effect. I was satisfied with his answer).

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