Entertainment Books

Monday 5 December 2016

Leading signatures add value

Published 05/03/2011 | 05:00

Abebooks, the world's largest online site for secondhand editions, is currently asking customers to consider memoirs by world leaders that have been autographed by their authors. "The signature of such a person," Abebooks sagely advises, "can turn an autobiography or memoir into a valuable collectable."

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Indeed it can. A signed copy of Barack Obama's 1995 memoir, Dreams From My Father, is on offer at €6,700, with Nelson Mandela's Long Walk to Freedom (2000) not far behind at €6,400 and Ronald Reagan's An American Life (1992) at €5,100.

Also highly coveted are autographed copies of Mikhail Gorbachev's (left) 1996 Memoirs at €2,600 and Margaret Thatcher's 1993 The Downing Street Years at €1,950. Why, even the totally discredited George W Bush is worth €935 for his 2010 autobiography, Decision Points, while €1,100 is being asked for Tony Blair's A Journey.

So what about Blair's pal Bertie Ahern? Abebooks has three signed copies of the former Taoiseach's 2009 autobiography, with €43 being the highest price sought. How the mighty have fallen. What price Brian Cowen when he gets round to writing about his political life?

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With creative writing classes all the rage, the Observer's literary editor Robert McCrum recently wondered if people can be taught how to write novels or poems, and this has led to a flurry of comments on the Guardian's book blog.

One sensible contributor says: "I know that what I write is relatively accomplished, but it will never be great, and the world doesn't need any more relatively accomplished literary works." This is echoed even more succinctly in another posting, which asks: "Can someone explain why the hell we need more writers?"

My favourite, though, just reminds readers of PG Wodehouse's eminently practical advice to aspiring writers: "Glue the seat of your trousers to the seat of the chair." That, of course, would put creative writing courses out of business -- along with the delusions of an awful lot of non-writers.

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