Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The end of the book signing tour?

The Independent reports that Margaret Atwood, Canadian author of The Blind Assassin and The Handmaid's Tale, has created a machine that will allow her to autograph her books without leaving the comfort of her home, even while she is in another continent. The impending arrival of the LongPen, has prompted fears that it could kill off the traditional book-signing tour. However, the threat has led to a backlash by other authors. Jilly Cooper believes that "if the signing tour were to die off, it would be a tragedy", and D J Taylor called it "an absolutely feeble idea - another example of fatuous modern technology".

Atwood will launch the device, which has only been seen by a select few at secret testings, at the London Book Fair in early March, where publishers and authors from around the world will be given a demonstration. The writer will be in Canada but will create what is being billed as the world's first transatlantic autograph. A video screen will link Atwood with the public, allowing them to speak to her. Then, as she signs a personal message at one end, a robot arm instantly replicates the strokes in a copy of the book at the other. "You don't have to be in the same room as someone to have a meaningful exchange," she said.

Whilst that's undoubtedly true - I've had meaningful exchanges with people on other continents, I rather think she's missed the point ! Certainly all the avid book readers whom I know (myself included), go to book signings to meet the author and for a tiny bit of personal interaction, not to gaze at them on a video screen (after all, we can do that with TV interviews). If Atwood hates book signing tours so much, why doesn't she just refuse to do them - or insist that they are organised so that she doesn't have to get[...] at four in the morning to catch planes, do[...] two cities a day, eat[...] the Pringle food object out of the mini-bar at night as [she] crawled around on the hotel room floor, too tired even to phone room service ?

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I watched I Capture the Castle yesterday, but I didn't post my review last night as I was just too tired after a very busy day. I enjoyed the film but it really wasn't a patch on the book; in fact, I wished I'd watched the film before reading the book, because then I wouldn't have spent half my time wishing they'd included more of the things that were cut, eg. Cassandra's scary experience of being in the London cafe on her own and discovering she's left her purse in Rose's room; the whole discussion with the Vicar about faith; the time that Mortmain spent locked in Belmotte Tower; the trip Cassandra makes to the pub. I didn't really feel that I knew Cassandra that well from watching the film - her character was sketched rather than fleshed out as it is the book. Marc Blucas as Neil seemed a bit superficial, somehow - and isn't Thomas older in the book than the film ? Also, I know it's silly, but I was hugely disappointed that the film didn't start with the same opening line as the book !

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