Wednesday, November 6, 2013

In Which I Make J.D. Salinger Turn Over in His Grave

Last Friday night, I had the pleasure of signing books at Otto’s Bookstore in Williamsport, PA. I was invited by the owner, Betsy Rider, after she read THE CAGED GRAVES. (Betsy also wrote a review for the local paper and did radio spots on my upcoming visit.) I wish I could say I was responsible for the crowd that came into Otto’s on Friday, but the fact is, First Friday in Williamsport is a community event worth seeing!

On the first Friday of every month, the citizens of Williamsport head downtown to celebrate the arts. Stores stay open late to host local artists, authors, and bands. I was seriously impressed by the amount of foot traffic the store got on a Friday night in November.

Otto’s is an interesting store, too. Although for a long time they believed the business had been around (in multiple locations and under a couple different names) since 1877, Betsy and her son recently discovered ledgers proving that it actually dated back to 1841, making it one of the five oldest book stores in the country. It was actually in business at the time Sarah Ann Boone and Asenath Thomas were buried in those caged graves. My fictional heroine Verity might have shopped there! Catawissa is only 45 miles away, and Williamsport would have been easily accessible by train.

Because Catawissa is fairly local to Williamsport, a number of the people who came into the store on Friday had already visited The Hooded Grave Cemetery, or were planning to visit after they read my book. One lady brought photographs she had recently taken there. A mother and daughter stopped by who used to live right down the road from the graves.

But I’ve got to tell you why I owe an apology to J.D. Salinger. A young man came into the store, walked up to me, and asked where he could find The Catcher in the Rye and The Great Gatsby. I explained that I was an author signing books and not a store employee, and pointed out one of the staff members. A little while later, he came back to my table, removed his purchased copy of The Catcher in the Rye from his bag, and asked if I would sign it.

I gaped at him. “You want me to sign it J.D. Salinger?”

He shrugged. “You can sign it as yourself.”

I offered to sign one of my bookmarks instead, but he really wanted the book signed. When I admitted I felt strange doing that – and that I’ve never even read The Catcher in the Rye, he offered me The Great Gatsby instead. I lowered my voice to a whisper. “I hated The Great Gatsby when I read it in high school,” I admitted.

He lowered his voice too. “Then you should probably sign the other one.”

So I did. What else could I do?

23 comments:

  1. I love it! Salinger wouldn't object, I'm sure.

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  2. What a great story! That's too funny. I hope he at least bought one of your books, too.

    And "The Catcher in the Rye" is actually a good book -- and now there's a unique, one-of-a-kind collector's edition floating around out there with a Dianne Salerni signature. ;)

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  3. Oh man, This is a great story. I'm intrigued by this young man for sure!

    Williamsport, Ottos and Betsy sound amazing. So glad it went so well!

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  4. That is so strange! I wonder why he wanted you to sign those books so much, rather than a bookmark or something! Sounds like a cool event :)

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  5. Sounds like it was a great event. Interesting story.

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  6. That's hysterical. And so logical, if you didn't like one, better sign the one you didn't read (or write)!

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  7. I think that is hilarious!

    It must be fun to do a book signing in the first place, but to have *that* happen is unique:)

    Maybe is was Salinger himself...

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  8. So fantastic to think that maybe your heroine DID shop there! I can't think of a more perfect location for a signing ...

    Hmm, possibly this young man is a student, who realizes the importance of having a great author's signature - on anything. Maybe one day, he will tell people of the experience and show off his amazingly valuable signed book, that he'll never sell. <3

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  9. Thank goodness! I never thought I'd meet any reputable author who didn't like Gatsby. I hated that book, and so many others considered "classics." That customer was very weird though. I wouldn't have signed, but you were a real sport about it! :-)

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  10. I read The Catcher In The Rye back in high school... not for school, but for me. It was a wonderful story. J.D. Salinger had a wit that I appreciated. The protagonist was a teenage boy "finding" himself. The one line I remember with clarity was this: "You have the sensitivity of a toilet seat." All of these years later and it still cracks me up.

    Ironically, I think Salinger would appreciate you signing his book and the scene at the store. Yeah, I think he was like that.

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  11. Signing someone else's book. That's a weird request. I guess you could think of it as an autograph notebook...

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  12. I'm jealous of everyone who's gotten to see the caged graves! I wonder if there's any in IN...And what a neat event night! =)

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  13. What a hoot! And I love hearing the history of the bookstore, too. Kudos to Otto's for being around so long.

    (And I actually loved both The Catcher in the Rye and The Great Gatsby in high school.)

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  14. What a fun place to have an event! You've never read Catcher? I hated THAT one when I was in high school, and again when I read it a few years ago. But most guys seem to like it. The Great Gatsby is hard for me because I really don't like any of the characters- but I think it's an interesting statement about human nature and our society.

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  15. How strange. But now that lad has a unique copy of the book - unless you start signing lots of copies of Catcher in the Rye, of course!

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  16. That is a bit odd he wanted you to sign another author's book, but I think you handled it well. And I liked Catcher In The Rye, too but never read The Great Gatsby.

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  17. Oh I'm so glad you shared that with us, great story. I really wonder why he wanted that book signed.... But how funny, I hated the Great Gatsby in school too but I've always been afraid to admit it, lol!

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  18. LOL! THAT IS AWESOME. Oh my goodness... *wiping tear* I don't know, maybe you should write a fanfiction version of the book in honor of this incident, eh? ;)

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  19. HA! That's hysterical. I LOVE that the young man wanted you to sign his book, any book. Too, too funny.

    But ACK! How could you hate Fitzgerald??? OK, done. Just because I loved all his books... But you should read "Catcher in the Rye" at least once. The voice in there is terrific.

    Now that I think about it, that young man should've bought a copy of YOUR book, doggone it. Maybe next month. (And you can sign J.D. Salinger's name in it.)

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  20. I am cracking up! That is the best story ever. I even had to read it to my husband who laughed as well. Thank you for the laugh! Seriously needed that. :D

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  21. I am cracking up! That is the best story ever. I even had to read it to my husband who laughed as well. Thank you for the laugh! Seriously needed that. :D

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  22. Oh my gosh - that is hysterical! I would love to see that signature. How very...odd and funny!

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  23. Hi Dianne .. what a funny encounter - there's a story there I'm sure?!

    But great that there were lots of people walking around - I hope you got a few sales .. or more than a few. Also how interesting that people were going to make a point of seeing the caged graves ..

    Really interesting ... I took some photos of caged graves and 'parcloses', which I'd never heard of before - they're in medieval churches in East Anglia .. I'd better do a post soonish for you ..

    Cheers Hilary

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