RadioBDC Logo
Tennis Court | Lorde Listen Live
 
 
< Back to front page Text size +

"Thank you, thank you, one and all..."

Posted by David Mehegan  December 5, 2006 05:20 PM

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

Department of Curmudgeonry:

I do not like acknowledgments in novels, but nowadays almost all novelists put them in. They thank the experts who helped them in their research, they list the libraries -- even the books in the libraries -- which they used, their agents and editors, parents, wives and friends, their dogs and cats. If you read Ian McEwan's "Saturday," you learn all about his researches that allowed him to write about ALS. In her new novel, "Paint It Black," Janet Fitch thanks a Los Angeles museum that helped her understand the world of European exiles in Hollywood in the 1930s and 40s. In his new novel, "The Lay of the Land," Richard Ford thanks an expert on New Jersey houses.

It's nice that writers want to give credit where it is due, but following the text of a novel, it has the effect of making it seem like a work of nonfiction, of showing off the writer's professional technique. I preferred it when novelists dedicated a book to someone, then just gave us the story.

I can't imagine Mark Twain writing, in "Huckleberry Finn," "I'd like to thank the Hannibal, Missouri, public library, which helped me refresh my memory on the technology of Mississippi steamboats," or George Eliot writing, at the end of "Middlemarch," "special thanks to Professor So-and-So, whose assistance was invaluable to me in my researches into the Reform Bill of 1832," or Fyodor Dostoevski writing, at the end of "Crime and Punishment," "my profuse thanks to Superintendent M-- of the St. Petersburg department of police for his generous advice on my treatment of investigatory methods." Or Dante: "I'd like to thank Virgil, for agreeing to be in my poem, and the various Islamic scholars who preserved the ancient writings that we in Europe now enjoy...."

Authors, I beg you to write your books and don't make me listen to your pencil-sharpening and page-turning and the "chunk" of the checkout machine at the library.

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

 
About off the shelf News about books, authors, and publishers from The Boston Globe.
contributors
Nicole Lamy is editor of the Globe's Books section.
Jan Gardner writes the "Shelf Life" column for the Globe's Books section.
archives

browse this blog

by category