Thursday, May 18, 2006

Stop Me if You’ve Heard This One

Stephanie and I went to another book signing last night, this time to hear Augusten Burroughs read from his new memoir, Possible Side Effects. The place was already packed by the time we got there, so we had to sit three rows from the back. And unfortunately, I hadn’t had time to find a copy of the book. So before the author showed up I scurried to the stack of books in the front. Instead of going through my usual routine of scrutinizing all 100 copies, I simply grabbed three and scampered back to my seat, somehow ashamed of myself, feeling the eyes of the entire audience boring into me as if they knew I was looking for a perfect copy and hated me for it.

All three of the books I had picked were minty fresh, but given the fact that I had the next 90 minutes to hold and inspect them, I found the most minute defects to complain about. Almost imperceptible to the naked eye, the tiny ding on the flap on the book I chose was driving me crazy. It was to the point where it was almost hard to pay attention to the author. So when the autograph line moved us to the front and the stack of copies, I couldn’t resist looking through the rest.

And look I did. After studying the binding, the spine’s tightness, and the entire dust jacket of eight different copies, I decided enough was enough. The book I had was acceptable. More than acceptable. It was one tiny imperfection away from being flawless. I could live with that.

Yep, I could live with it, just like you can live with a throbbing headache. The next five minutes were torture. The author sat a few feet from me, about to sign my book. Yet behind me, only just now out of reach, were the rest of the copies I hadn’t looked through. And I just knew that I was about to have Augusten Burroughs sign the second nicest copy in the story. Argh!

I finally stepped in front of Burroughs and handed him my books. Once he signed my inferior copy, all was fine with the world. What was done was done. That tiny imperfection was now mine for all eternity.

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