Disclaimers & Acknowledgements, Part One

Isn’t this a pretentious delight? I stole it from The Bedside Crow which blogs from a south London bookshop; the disclaimer is from “Driving on the Rim” by Thomas McGuane. I haven’t read one that made me laugh out loud for a long time.

And that reminded me of the mean-spirited joy you can have, reading the overblown and embarrassingly fulsome acknowledgement pages which have become a sort of norm in recent years and which bear an uncomfortable similarity to Academy Award acceptance speeches. Some years ago I read a brilliantly funny short story which was plotted as an absurdly extended acknowledgement of the circumstances surrounding the writing of a book – I can’t remember who wrote it but I’ll try to track it down. (T.C. Boyle, maybe?)

My favourite acknowledgement is a perfect antidote to those gushing overblown pages in too many books. It’s by Eugene Genovese and appears at the end of his academic acknowledgements in “Roll, Jordan, Roll”, his classic book about American slavery. This is what he says.

“My wife, Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, to whom this book is dedicated, did not type the manuscript, do my research, darn my socks, or do those other wonderful things one reads about in acknowledgements to someone ‘without whom this book could not have been written’. Nor did she work so hard on this book that she deserves to be listed as co-author; if she had, she would be listed as co-author. She did however take time from writing her own doctoral dissertation to criticize each draft, review painstakingly the materials, help me rewrite awkward sections and rethink awkward formulations, and offer countless suggestions, corrections and revisions. And while under the pressure that anyone who has written a dissertation will readily appreciate, she made an immeasurable if intangible contribution to the writing of this book by living it with me.”

How’s that for true style?

4 Responses to “Disclaimers & Acknowledgements, Part One”

  1. Frances Thomas Says:

    Some dedications can’t be received by the dedicatees with huge enthusiasm. Our copy of 301 French Verbs Fully Conjugated In All The Tenses is dedicated to his wife, sons and daughter in law. Gee, thanks , Dad.

  2. admin Says:

    Yeah, I bet they threw a party for that one!

  3. Elizabeth Welsh Says:

    Excellent! They fascinate me, too. Particularly after I have dipped into the book. I was intrigued when I read a dedication page a year or two back (again, the book eludes me) that included a thank you shout-out to the waiting staff of their local cafe! The list was truly epic in its scope.

  4. admin Says:

    Damn it, Elizabeth, I read that novel too – the one where the wait staff are thanked – and of course I can’t remember that title either. I think I’m wrong about the ‘Acknowledgements’ short story being by TC Boyle, but I can’t get an answer on Google either. I’ll keep trying though! (There’s a good one in a novel based on the plot of Midsummer Night’s Dream, where the author seems to compare herself to Shakespeare and come out on top: MUST track that one down!)

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