Assholes & Pimps

Stephen King did a signing at the bookstore where I work today. We’ve been selling books for weeks, and we had plenty of rules about the sales–you have to with someone as huge as King. One book per customer in line. No flash photos. King would only sign Dr. Sleep. Only 400 copies. 2 hours’ worth. But when it came to enforcing those rules, well, I guess some people are just born to be dishonest, or to take what they can get, disregarding the fact that King is actually a human being.

I’m not sure why the assholes & pimps of the book world make me so angry. Why do I expect people to not step over appropriate boundaries, to not scam when scamming is simple? As Ben said during the signing, “Well, if you want to commodify your work, how can you even think about dictating just how it gets commodified?” Parents finding ways to pimp out their kids one, two, three times, hours in line–for what? A couple hundred bucks on eBay? Or people sneaking in old books and asking him to sign, even when they were expressly asked not to. Or the guy who sent homeless people in to buy books for him. Or the dude selling books out of the trunk of his car. Or the sweet woman who fabricated several identities. Why does a public figure have to put up with that shit? Why are crazy fans the price you pay for celebrity? Seriously.

But while I was feeling righteous anger for Stephen King, he was gracious, kind, and actually seemed interested in the people he was signing his name for, despite the handful running a racket. He even acknowledged the children he’d seen several times through line without it seeming accusatory. I mean, the man doesn’t have to sign books to keep his fan base. Why does he do it, except maybe as one way of giving back to a reading world that has embraced him?

So, I’m sitting in bed tonight after a long day of “Thanks for coming” and “Down the hall and to your left” and “No, I can’t let you back in the exit,” thinking about one thing. How is Stephen King so patient and unfazed by people who make me want to kick them in the face?

2 thoughts on “Assholes & Pimps

  1. Perhaps his wealth makes such behavior easier for him to stomach. I often feel this way about professional athletes; wouldn’t someone in that position reflect on how fortunate he or she is? It might also be that he is a student of human nature. You noted that he seemed truly interested in these people. And, too, his class endears him even more to his fans. A skeptic could even claim it’s calculated, but I’ve heard him interviewed and I agree with your impression of him. It’s nice to hear that a celebrity writer can behave with such class. I have heard stories about other authors that were just the opposite (Maya Angelou for one), and these anecdotes always annoy me. So I’m glad to hear that King is so clearly, as you say, a human being.

  2. Yes, the more I contemplate the event, the more I admire King–and hope to emulate the way he carries himself (which must, in some way, reflect his world view.) I love those moments in which you really learn something from another person.

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