Paul Auster came to Madrid on Thursday. He's one of my favourite contemporary authors. I quite enjoy going to book signings and I really hate the fact that Spain doesn't seem to be into that kind of thing. Although the turnout on Thursday might change the game a little. I once queued for Javier Marías during the Madrid Book Week. He's one of the only Spanish writers I actually enjoy reading. I don't know why it is, but I can't stand the way Spanish authors write. I am yet to find someone who can blow me away. And I've tried, believe you me!
So, Thursday afternoon, I finished my word count for the day and decided to head off to the venue. Paul was outside when we arrived and we walked inside to try to snatch a photo of him before the event. Good job we did because although it cost me an angry glare, it also meant we got to be some of the last people who were allowed to queue inside. I know Madrid isn't Siberia, but waiting outside in the cold for two hours at 8pm isn't the coolest way I can think of to spend an afternoon.
Our coffee plans were botched and we had to gossip the hours away surrounded by eavesdroppers and on our feet. The occasional cookie was a welcome surprise, although some kind of liquid to wash down the sweetness would have been appreciated. Still, don't look a gift horse in the mouth, as my mum would say.
The first part of the event was a conversation with a Spanish author. There was supposedly going to be a monitor streaming it, but the zigzagging queue arrangement cut us out of the picture and we could sometimes hear bits and pieces of what the interpreter was saying but it wasn't clear enough to actually get the gist of what was going on. Not cool, Fnac.
When Paul finally started the signing, the queue started moving at full speed. People started asking questions, there was a buzz in the air. PR people gave us our orders and curtly answered our questions. 'Open the book at the right page. He'll only sign the title page. No photos. No, you can't chat to him. One book per person. More than one book is out of the question, I don't care who it's for.' We started snapping away as we approached the table, some people got told off and others were able to get a so-so pic of him.
When I got to the table I was lucky enough to have him talk to me. I'd taken a copy of 'Auggie Wren's Christmas Story' with me. It's a cool glossy illustrated edition I bought in New York, and the only hardback book I have by him.
He was signing copies with a Sharpie, quite a challenge for my glossy paper. After he signed his name, he stopped to blow on his signature for a second and then told me to make sure I didn't close the book right away or the ink would run and stick to the other page. I told him I would take good care of his name and thanked him for coming. Then I was ushered out of the way without even being able to snap a picture of my friends as they got their books signed and we went out into the night to compare signatures and point our fingers at all the people left queuing in the cold.