Friday, May 2, 2008

I love you, Augusten Burroughs!

Early this week I went to a book signing for Augusten Burroughs at Barnes & Noble. I did not want to go. I don't have anything against Augusten, I just haven't read any of his books. I'm aware of the popularity of "Running With Scissors" and I know he faced a bit of controversy over the truthfulness of the account of his crazy family. So why did I go? Well, a BFF who shall remain nameless, is rather enamored with Augusten and wanted me to go for emotional support. I wanted to go to the gym that night, and was also in the midst of an intense facebook mafia game, but when a BFF says "I need you," you go.

So the place was packed when I got there. I soon realized this was going to be a VERY BIG DEAL. BFF made the smart choice of waiting in line to get her book signed instead of waiting in the standing room only area which was closer to him during his reading/Q&A session. It saved us greatly on time later, even though we couldn't see him very well for the first hour of his talk. From what I gathered from Augusten's speech, most of his books are funny, but this latest one, about his psychopathic father, was not funny at all. I would agree that being chased around the woods by your knife-wielding father, sounds about as funny as The Shining. It also seems like the audiobook is a much cooler experience than the normal hardcover version of his latest work.

So around 8:30 or so when the speech part of the event is over, he starts signing books. I notice several people have 4 or 5 books for him to sign. This seems like a bit much. Although BFF has actually made Augusten a care package filled with things she knows he likes. Yes, BFF is THAT into Augusten. As the line is moving, i hear the girls behind us talking and wondering "what do i say to him? What do i SAY to him??" They then rehearse the exact phrasing of the two sentences they will get to utter in his presence during the time he signs their books. I find this type of behavior bizarre, but it also reminds me of a talk i had with someone at my office last week.

My fellow employee had to go into Forbidden Planet NYC looking for some Pokemon trading card memorabilia. He was struck by what he thought was the "weirdness" of comic book fans. I assured him i was a comic book fan and i am (relatively) well-adjusted. I tried to explain it's like any art form, and while some of it is crap, the medium can produce some very worthwhile product as well. I feel no shame in my enjoyment in comics and graphic novels. And i don't care if people get so wrapped up in it that they wear costumes to comic con. They're not hurting anyone. But co-worker looks down on it, because he doesn't understand.

I look at the people in line to meet Augusten, like my co-worker looks at costumed comic con-ners. I don't really understand why someone would get so worked up over this author. But they certainly did. Perhaps that's what all fans look like to people who don't share the same interests. I don't think it's much different for someone to paint their faces in the color of their favorite teams, than it is for a guy dressing up as a storm trouper to attend a convention. From the outside it looks crazy, but on the inside it makes total sense.

So tonight I preach tolerance toward fans of things of which you are not a fan. Don't totally write people off as crazy and weird just cause you don't understand their passions. It takes all kinds. Getting back to Augusten, we finally saw him around 9:30pm. BFF gave him the care package and he really liked it. BFF hilariously then feels unworthiness roll over her and tried to explain why nothing in the bag is as good as she wanted it to be. Augusten doesn't care. He writes "I love you."when he signs her book and it makes her day. I joke with her that she will paw at the cover the book and profess her love for him while lying in bed. She thinks she won't do that, but i know her well over the years, and think she might. She's a very big fan. And i have to say, that care package was pretty cool.


Donna T said...

Great post! I just saw Augusten in Philly last night and posted a blog about it too... It was cool that you supported your BFF and perhaps discovered a new author in the process!

Anonymous said...

I love him too. I missed the Barnes and Noble event, but I'm going to see him at Bryant Park.