Thursday, October 29, 2009

Book Acknowledgments

 “Thanks to Robert Gottlieb for the encouraging drinks and for keeping me from the razors that night at Plimpton’s.”

“. . . the nearly all-red room on Koitobos Road, the back garden on Eleventh Street, the low table in Dar-es-Salaam . . .”

If this isn’t enough to make you squirm with their private idiosyncrasy, try reading the acknowledgments by authors who thank the shack they once happened to write a chapter of their book in; they thank their hairdresser for making their life whole, which helps restore their self-esteem; they thank their editor for being a genius (God knows why); they thank somebody who’d given them the moral support during their writing, because “Without you I am a quivering bowl of Jell–O.” And if they express their gratitude to their agents, it’s because their agents’ names suggest clout and fame that they as author lack.

But every action in life has a counteraction. Not all authors write acknowledgments. Why? Ask Olin Shiver.

“Who should I thank?” he asked. “My so-called ‘colleagues,’ who laugh at me behind my back, all the while becoming famous on my work? My worthless graduate students, whose computer skills appear to be limited to downloading bitmaps off of netnews? My parents, who are still waiting for me to quit fooling around with computers, go to med school, and become a radiologist? My department chairman, a manager who gives one new insight into and sympathy for disgruntled postal workers? ”

Then something must have dawned on him.

“Oh, yes, the acknowledgments,” he said.I think not. I did it. I did it all, by myself.”

I think when my book is published, I’ll borrow a line from Dennis Loy Johnson for my acknowledgments: “But first I'd like to thank my heartthrob, Petunia, for having the wisdom to love me, my parents, for giving me birth and all the people who just exist in my world. Oh yes, and Binky Urban just for the hell of it.”


  1. Hi, stopping by from BPOTW! :)

    Love this! I've often wondered what i would write for the acknowledgements or dedication of my book. Who i would thank in my oscar speech. I came up with, "I want to thank all the people who had no faith in me and said this would never happen. Mum, Dad - this is for you!" :p

  2. LOL. Sounds like Jack Nicholson when he accepted the Oscar award for One Flew a Cuckoo's Nest. Someone advised him not to go into acting for fear of seeing him embarass himself!


  3. I've noticed that some people have 3 pages of acknowledgments. I find it interesting, however I do pause because let's face it --you could write a whole book on who helped you along the path.

    Is it vanity masquerading as humility? Sometimes, I think it is. But then there are times --say the Organization X has helped you understand the issues by opening up their library to you. Now that's worth saying thank you for --and besides, they need the plug.

    Anyway, I guess my advice on acknowledgements would be like anything else --keep them brief!

  4. That's true, Kanani. Thank those who're instrumental to the completion (and perhaps success) of your work. And keep it brief. Other than that, it's masqueraded vanity.

  5. Good work! Who knew it took so many folks to get a book out!

  6. I don't think I'd thank too many people, just a few. I'm the one doing all the work at this point.

  7. That's good, Kathy. Like Kanani, I've seen 3-page acknowledgments in small print and I thought this must have been a will, not ackowledgments.