Hillary Clinton's Book Signing Draws a Good-Humored Crowd


At 7:30 Saturday morning, the line of people waiting for tickets for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's book signing had become so unwieldy that the police department asked the Bunch of Grapes, which had been scheduled to open at nine, to let people in early.

An hour later, 300 people had received their tickets, and still the line at the bookstore snaked around the inside perimeter of the first floor, out the door and up Centre street. The late arrivals who thought they would be early took the change in stride. The senator, they were told, would sign 1,000 copies of her memoir, Living History.

They were also told that they must have a book to receive a number; that two copies would be the limit per person, and that, no, they would not be able to take photographs of Mrs. Clinton.

The much-anticipated event was the 30th and last book signing for the senator, who since June has toured from New York to California and back again.

By the time ticketholders returned that afternoon, the sky had changed into a flat gray expanse and the humidity remained high. Only the first 250 people had been told to line up at three, but that didn't stop the rest from staking their places.

They had come on early boats from the Cape and Nantucket, and even from towns as far as Franklin, but mostly they came from the Island. (Although, as store employee Avia Moore said, there was also a fair number of Islanders who, hoping to avoid traffic, called throughout the day to ask when the event would be over.) Many read as they waited, while others speculated whether they would have a moment to talk with the senator.

"Once this gets going, it's going to be fast," an employee warned. "We're told she can do 600 in an hour. That's one book every six seconds."

"I think Hillary Clinton is the epitome of the new first lady," said Mary Grantham, one of those holding a nuber in the 800s. "She redefined that role for the 21st century and beyond. She's quite a woman, and quite a role model."

Store manager Ann Bassett handed out placards, dividing the line into 100-person segments. With good humor, the higher numbers kept pushing back to make room for those in the middle. One man, who had been third in line, quietly exchanged his ticket with a woman, weak from chemotherapy, who was resting on a bench in front of Cafe Moxie. He then disappeared up the street.

Also near the front, Edgartown resident Stacy Hall agonized over how to inscribe her recently published children's book, which she had brought as a gift for the senator. "I'm psyched to give her a little piece of Martha's Vineyard to take home," Ms. Hall said.

"As a teacher, I think her advocacy for children is terrific," she added. "If I have the chance, I would tell her that she makes courageous decisions all the time. I'm sure a thousand people tell her that a day, but I'd say it anyway."

"I'm just here to keep her calm," said Isabel Engley, who gave her friend's arm a squeeze. "Although I've met Hillary before. I took her around the Camp Ground one year."

Those Island connections, forged over the years when Mrs. Clinton and her husband vacationed here, were renewed more than once during the event. (When Ms. Engley reintroduced herself, Mrs. Clinton said she hoped to visit the Tabernacle to see the restoration.)

When the senator first arrived, relaxed in a coral pantsuit, she said how great it was to be back on the Island. And despite the brisk signing pace, she remained gracious throughout, shaking hands and responding to well wishers. She answered questions about health care, reminisced with fellow Wellesley alumnae and asked many of the children if they were looking forward to the fair.

Downstairs, Ruth Stiller, served lemonade to patrons on their way out. "I used to do all of the book signings," she said, as an assistant poured another batch into the cut glass bowl. "But now there are so many events that I only do the really special ones."

The mood remained festive outside despite the few masked protesters, who had gathered across the streets with signs held high. "You made it!" one woman shouted as people emerged. Everyone had a story to tell of a moment with the senator and a conversation shared.

When the thousandth book had been signed, at 6:30 p.m., Mrs. Clinton stayed a few minutes to thank the store's employees. As a parting gift, they gave her a canvas tote full of books, including The Cemetery Yew by Cynthia Riggs, Evidence of Things Unseen by Marianne Wiggins and Sexual Healing by Jill Nelson.