At the end of a thoughtful post complaining about a particular book, Bardiac admits that despite her reservations, she asked the visiting author to sign her copy: "I'm torn," she says, but "Hey, if I could get my Shakespeare text signed, I totally would!"
Which made me wonder: which author, living or dead, would I most like to ask to sign a book?
I have books signed by Anthony Doerr, Scott Russell Sanders, Bill Bryson, and Tim O'Brien, who seemed flattered that I was teaching "The Things They Carried." (If you locked those four authors in a room together, what would they talk about?) I have a book signed by my very talented colleague and a few visiting authors of varying talent levels. I have clearly spent too little time in the presence of greatness, because that's about it.
I'd love to have Toni Morrison sign my copy of Paradise and explain the answer to the riddle posed by the opening line, but that would defeat the purpose of the book, and if Hone Tuwhare signed a copy of his poem about the bronze Maori warrior, it would make me feel like one of the tourists the poem denigrates, the ones who seek "authentic" souvenirs of indigenous people in order to enhance their own hollow identities.
If I could get Derek Walcott, James Joyce, and Homer together, I'd like them each to sign the others' works, and then I'd like to see them all put out to sea in a beautiful pea-green boat.
If I had any books by Jim Harrison, I would ask him to sign them with an apology for all his clumsy syntax. (Sorry, Jim!) Likewise, I'd ask Ralph Ellison to sign Invisible Man with an apology for all the other books he never wrote.
I would ask Robinson Jeffers to chisel his name into a stone that I could use as a paperweight to hold open my copy of his Selected Poems to the page containing "To the Stone-Cutters," and I would ask Kurt Vonnegut to scratch his name on a stack of cannonballs covering my copy of Cat's Cradle.
I would ask Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson to a mutual book-signing just to see what they would say to each other, and I would make Shakespeare and Virginia Woolf share pens. The list could go on: Salman Rushdie, Gwendolyn Brooks, Charles Chesnutt, James Wright (whose name could be writ in water, provided the water came from the Ohio River). And one of these days I'd like to sign my own name in a book.
But first I'll have to write it.