What’s in a signature?

Yesterday I went to the library. I picked out two books for myself: The Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead and The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green.

I noticed on the latter’s cover it had a little round “sticker” on it that said “Signed Edition” and, sure enough, when I cracked it open, Green’s autograph was right there. And it was in green!

I’d never run across a signed book in any library! At bookstores, sure, but never a library. I thought it must be a mistake. I accidentally returned my own book to the library once. Maybe someone else had done the same? But then I noticed he left an “explainer” on the purple page opposite his signature.

“I signed with some kind of Sharpie while sitting on the edge of the couch in my basement,” Green wrote. “This sheet of paper was then bound into your copy…”

Oh! So that’s how they do it.

He said he hopes his readers experience the same joy he feels whenever he comes across a signed book.

That’s nice.

I always thought authors signed their fully intact books. I had no idea they could just sign a large stack of pages, similar to how famous actors autograph their headshots. Green’s way is much more efficient than what I had imagined and I must say it’s smart marketing. When I saw “Signed Edition” on the book, at the library, I immediately grabbed the book.

I like Green’s writing but I’m not sure it was joy I felt when I saw his signature. In fact, his autograph and explainer triggered that nagging feeling I get when I’ve been manipulated. Of course, there are worse forms of manipulation than being nerdily coerced into checking out a library book. And I am hopeful that I will love his essays so much that I don’t mind. We shall see.

I do want to say that I know the “moment” Green is wishing for his readers and I’ve had one that I doubt will ever be topped.

Last year, my son Angelo (then 11 years old) had a doctor appointment. On his way out, the nurse said something like, “Help yourself to a book.” She motioned to a cart filled with used books. He chose a copy of Blubber by Judy Blume. He showed me his treasure when he got home and I was delighted to see he chose a Blume. Then I was shocked to see that Blume herself had signed it! I was in disbelief, but I looked up her signature and it is a perfect match.

My son and I read the book together and the tattered copy is prominently placed in our living room. I look at it nearly every day the same way I look at the Omar Odeh and Alice Klock art we have on our walls — with wonder, introspection and a touch of sadness.

I adored Judy Blume’s writing when I was young and all of my kids have read several of her books. My 15-year-old son Sam just walked by, peeked at what I was writing and said, “Judy Blume? Oh she has some good writing and good characters,” and walked away.

We have a Little Library in our front yard and most of our books go in there when we’re done with them. But not the Blume. I feel selfish about this. I know I should put it back out into the world so someone else can feel the same euphoria that all of us felt when we saw Blume’s autograph. But I can’t let go. What if I have grandchildren someday? One of them might want me to read it aloud to them.

I’m keeping it.

Thanks for reading. -Connie

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