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Booksignings at the New Yorker Festival: I showed up for two on Saturday afternoon, and they were very different. Plenty of people were on hand to have Ian McEwan sign their books at one o'clock - although not nearly as many as were already lining up, hours in advance, for Stephen King, at least two of whom had spent the night on the sidewalk outside the Festival headquarters, the Union Square branch of Barnes & Noble. Gathering up books for Mr McEwan to sign, I managed to bring one, Black Dogs, that he had already signed. Well, that was bright. Showing off as usual, I'd brought my English editions of Atonement and Saturday, with their superior covers. I said how much I liked the jacket for Saturday, which for all I know may be the view from Mr McEwan's Fitzrovian abode. He preferred, however, Atonement's jacket, with its pictures of a girl whom the author assured me was not to the manner born but rather a Cockney waif whom some booking agency had discovered. I had wondered about the girl myself, without coming to any conclusions. I also got Mr McEwan to sign a used copy of The Innocent that I bought a few years ago at that used bookstore on Connecticut Avenue, NW, not far from Kramerbooks. Do you think I ought to have asked him to sign Black Dogs twice? He just might have complied. 

When I came back at four for George Saunders, whose Brief and Terrible Reign of Phil has jumped to next place on my fiction list, as soon as I finish On Beauty (something I'm in no hurry to do), I asked the big guys in suits where the line formed. They waved me right up to the stage, where there was no line. There was a very long line for Flanimals, the children's book by actor Ricky Gervais. But none for Mr Saunders. I was sure that I'd been misdirected, but after a bit of awkward ballet, I was whooshed to the table where Mr Saunders sat signing books for no one in particular. He was very game about the situation. I saw at once that other, more prominent authors would have drawn readers of literature to their signings, and that the whole setup was all but bound to humiliate Mr Saunders - who, as I say, was not humiliated. He offered his hand, and we talked about his interview at Maud Newton with Roy Kesey. (Don't ask me how I chanced on that.) Commenting on the length and depth of the interview, I asked if having conducted it via email had been a contributing factor. The very model of the cool author, Mr Saunders smiled sheepishly and told me that his wife had been out of town at the time, and that he'd been a bit lonely.

There was also a kiosk demonstrating The Complete New Yorker, which is a set of eight computer discs. Each disc holds roughly a decade's worth of complete issues. Ads, goings-on, inside back covers, the works. What tops everything is that the resolution of the drawings is so superior to that of the Complete Cartoons. I told the presenter that my copy had arrived the night before, literally as I was on my out the door to hear Zadie Smith and Jonathan Franzen read. "That's creepy," he said. 


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did you say hi to our neighbor, steve king, lives just down the key, course the welcome mat is rarely out. kaminski on the other hand is a jolly decent chap chuck

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