Friday, December 22, 2006
This is a question that you come upon when your novel sells. Who do you dedicate it to?
There's an element of wedding party organisation to it: you have to pick out some people, which means not picking everyone, and there may be plenty of people you love, like or are grateful to. Feelings may need considering; on the other hand, it's your book/wedding. So what do you do about it?
Some people keep things simple. I've always been rather touched by the fact that Maeve Binchy, for instance, who's a favourite relaxation-read author of mine, dedicates pretty much every book she writes to her husband. The dedications are very simple and sweet - 'To my dear love Gordon Snell', 'To dear generous Gordon', 'To Gordon Snell, who has made my life so good and so happy...' All of which makes me think that this Gordon must be a pretty lovable fellow, really.
If you're dedicating to a partner, there's a line between affectionate and sickening (which Maeve Binchy treads very well). It's nice to tell someone you love them, but some declarations are best kept between the two of you - if you start implying sexual details, or calling your partner pet names, or rambling on about them for sentence after sentence, you may generate a certain antipathy to your beloved in the hearts of strangers, which is not the aim.
On the other hand, there's family and friends. A lot depends on how prolific you are; when I was editing, I recall one author who had written so many books that they'd moved on to great-nephews and nieces, on the principle that each book should be dedicated differently. Write enough books on that line, and you'll start to run out, or have to go back to the beginning.
It occurs to me to wonder, too, whether some books might be dedicated to unwilling parties. Is there a loving but proper great-auntie somewhere with a gruesome serial killer mystery politely gathering dust in a cupboard, while she tells visitors, 'Dear Lucy was so kind to dedicate it to me, but really, I find these books very difficult to read. I'm sure she meant well; these modern girls are so different from how we used to be.' ?
My first book, in the end, was fairly straightforward. Three people had helped me actually write it - my friend Joel, who'd suggested the original idea; my friend Peggy, who'd introduced me to my agent, stood as Constant Reader all the time I was writing it and helped me battle through some sticky plot problems; and my partner Gareth, who propped me up at the finishing line. Those three went in the dedication, and everyone else went into the acknowledgements. But of course, now I'm on Book Two. I think my parents are going to have precedence - I'd never have finished my first book without their financial support, quite aside from the fact that I rather like them - but after that, I'm out of obvious candidates. Crossing my fingers there'll be a Book Three, what next? I'll have to see.
Alternatively, one could, assuming one was either eccentric or without friends and family, get creative with dedications. I've heard that the Bedfordshire volume of Nikolaus Pevsner's Buildings of England is dedicated thus: 'To the Inventor of the ICED LOLLY.' (A hard choice to fault, you'll have to agree.)
Does anyone have any favourite/unfavourite dedications?
To conclude, I wish to dedicate this post:
To the preservation of the Platypus
Long may it continue, and don't throw your rubbish into the water
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