Monday, April 28, 2008

Wolff at the Door

I shook Tobias Wolff's hand on Sunday. He was signing books at the L.A. Times book festival. I didn't know that he would be signing books at the festival, but I happened by and there he was. Unlike those autograph freaks that traipse around ULCA schlepping their rolling suitcases full of first editions,  I didn't have a copy of Wolff's new anthology of stories OUR STORY BEGINS on hand. No matter.  Author autographs have never really done it for me. I went to an Antiquarian Book Fair once and spent (indecipherable) hundred dollars on a few books - A Book of Common Prayer signed by Didion on the end matter page (!),  A copy of Philip Roth's The Breast and Sontag's Against Interpretation.  So what happened? I got all precious and kid-glovey about it. I never cracked the books open or read them. Now they were totemic artifacts- they were signed! But what's the use of a book if you can't read it, I ask you?  That's when I stopped worrying about first editions, Mylar covers and author autographs - none of those things enhances a book's value.  

Anyway, back to Wolff - I reviewed his book in the Weekly and I was truly blown away by it. It's just genius writing. So I walked up to the great man and I shook his hand.  His writing is recompense enough - the handshake was all I needed.  

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