From The Guardian:
I’m not sure when the vogue for authors signing their books in bookshops and at literary festivals began, or when it accelerated into orthodoxy. Sometime in the 1980s perhaps? I have few memories before then of seeing authors hunched at a table in the back of a bookshop, signing books.
When I first saw a writer doing this, I was immediately seized by an unsettling combination of desire, envy and cynicism. What was the point of such a fatuous exercise? Of course authors can sign their own names! And – by the way – can I have three copies inscribed to myself, my wife, and my daughter?
But this relatively modest request masked the genesis of my feeling: it was just dandy having a few signed books, but what I really wanted was to be the author behind the desk, besieged by admirers.
. . . .
It was only with my next couple of books that I began to see that a signing life is not necessarily a happy one, and that for every few pleasant experiences, there is also likely to be a humiliating one. These humiliations – I have resisted a weaker word – are of various sorts. The worst, probably, is when you perform for an audience at a literary festival, retire afterwards to the signing area, and no one comes. There is plenty of space in front of you for an orderly queue, the same as those for the other authors sprinkled about, signing away. Only no one fills it.
. . . .
What is hideously embarrassing, though, is when you recognise the person who has asked for a signature, but cannot remember their name. They remember yours!
. . . .
“How would you like it signed?” I ask, opening the page, and lifting my pen.
“Oh, just to me.”
“Remind me how to spell your name, will you?”
Link to the rest at The Guardian