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    Bridge Ladies Sometimes I think a meteor could strike the earth and wipe out mankind with the exception of my mother’s Bridge club — Roz, Bea, Bette, Rhoda, and Jackie — five Jewish octogenarians who continue to gather for lunch and Bridge on Mondays as they have for over fifty years. When I set out to learn about the women behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, and most of all the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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Dedicated To The One I Love

I have been trying to figure out who wrote the first book dedication for some time. It does seem to be a contemporary practice. I prefer books that don’t have dedications. It’s like a big fuck you that I can really get behind. It’s like: I’m an artist, this is my book, it isn’t for anyone, no one helped me or inspired me; it isn’t apologetic, grateful, beholden or indebted. It just is.

That said, I included dedications in my two books. I dedicated The Forest for the Trees to my authors. Aw. And I dedicated Food and Loathing to John. My pimp.

Since I still don’t have a bookcase, I picked up a pile of books off the floor and these are the dedications:

HOUSEKEEPING: “For my husband, and for James and Joseph, Jody and Joel, four wonderful boys.” Not my business, but what’s up with giving kids names that all start with the same initial? I guess it’s easier to sort the monogrammed towels.

THE END OF THE AFFAIR: To C. (End?)

LORD OF THE FLIES: For my mother and father (This is the single most popular dedication as far as I can tell. Weird, since most writers hate their parents or feel stifled by them.)

AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A FACE: For my friends, whom I love

BLOOD ON THE MOON: In Memory of Kenneth Millar (1915-1983) Dedications to lost friends and loves always move me. You’re not going to get any credit from the person, so it’s really pure, a salute.

THE AREAS OF MY EXPERTISE: Offered This Day with gratitude to KSF (I can never find fault with John Hodgman, even for this hyper-formal and too-studied dedication.)

EVIL TWINS: Chilling True Stories of Twins, Killing and Insanity: For Audrey and Mavis Hirschberg: my own identical twin cousins. (I know.)

Last, I can’t find the book, but I believe the poet Charles Simic dedicated one of his poetry collections “To Her” because it wasn’t clear whether she would be the same woman from the time he started the book to when he published it. If that is erroneous, my apologies. If it’s true: dude!

I would love to know what you think of dedications, if you have any good ones to share from books of your own: either published or planned.

28 Responses

  1. Best dedication: “As nearly as possible in the spirit of Matthew Salinger, age one, urging a luncheon companion to accept a cool lima bean, I urge my editor, mentor and (heaven help him) closest friend, William Shawn, genius domus of The New Yorker, lover of the long shot, protector of the unprolific, defender of the hopelessly flamboyant, most unreasonably modest of born great artist-editors, to accept this pretty skimpy-looking book.”
    Why the vote? Because he approaches it humbly, understanding the dedicee might not necessarily want their name attached to the skimpy work.

  2. No dedications published yet (unless you count what I put on my undergraduate thesis a long while ago — for my sisters). But if I ever do get this manuscript I’m working on into print, it’ll be for the children I hope to have.

  3. A friend of mine dedicated one book to her mother and one to her father. “I couldn’t make them share,” she told me. “They’re both very important to me.” She also dedicated one book to me. 🙂

    I dedicated my first novel to Jameson Brewer, the man who directed/produced Battle of the Planets. I sent him fan mail when I was 11 years old, and after I sent three letters, he wrote back to me and told me a bit about the series, plus a bit about Voltron (which he’d also produced.) I sent him Christmas cards every year after that, going once to meet him when I was 18, and then meeting him again at a Battle of the Planets fandom gathering when I was 27.

    I had promised I’d dedicate my first novel to him back when I was a kid, and when it got published, I sent it to him,signed, so he could see the page that read “Thank you for answering a little girl’s fan mail.”

    When we met at the convention when I was an adult, he started telling everyone about this little girl who’d written to him and later dedicated a book to him, and one of the organizers shouted, “Wait! She’s here!” and they pushed me toward him. Later I spoke to him, and at very end I said, “Thank you for everything you did for me,” and he took my hand and rested it on his heart and said, “No. Thank YOU for what YOU did for ME.”

    I went away and cried after that. I’m so glad I dedicated my book to him.

    • Okay, I was going to not take this too seriously, but that’s the best story ever. Particularly because the only fan mail I ever sent was to Richard Grieco and I pined over the response for like ten years until a friend’s older sister copped to sending it herself. Which actually makes me feel a lot better now because my 8 year old self really let loose on him and that response would qualify as some sort of illegal, pedophilic interference….

      • My mother sent a fan letter to HER childhood hero last year, and about three months later, while at work, she got a phone call. “Do you know who this is?” said the voice, and she thought it was familiar and had almost placed it when the gentleman identified himself: her childhood hero. (Now I’m totally blanking on the guy’s name.) He’d started a foundation for inner city children to spend time on a ranch or something like that,a nd they talked for a while. She said it was an absolute thrill. She’d loved him when she was seven or eight years old.

  4. I always planned to anti-dedicate my first novel to a certain high school english teacher: “No thanks to Ms. Mavis Nichols.” In the end, my rarely accessed better-self won out. Oh, well.

  5. I’m dedicating my first book to myself: “To Sherry, who kicked ass and took copious numbers of names along the way.” Go ahead and judge me.

  6. “To my daughter Leonora, without whose never-failing sympathy and encouragement this book would have been finished in half the time.”

  7. To my brother Joe (1958-1991) may he rest in peace. (If I ever get the manuscript published that he inspired.)

  8. Unlike the acknowledgements, which give a true course through an author’s life (the agent! the editor! the inspirations, the friends, the husband and children!) the dedication is many times too cryptic to be understood or too plain to be interesting. But still, if a person wants to dedicate their book to someone, their choice.

  9. I guess I don’t really get the practice. It seems ridiculous almost. Who else does this? Painters? Songwriters? Ok, so maybe a painting or a song doesn’t take five or ten years to complete. Or two. Whatever. It always rings just a little phony to me, almost like they’re dedicating it to somebody because they know they have to dedicate it to somebody. Sometimes I actually want to…. SKIM this section of the book because it almost gives me douche chills, like you get when someone is singing horribly.
    I’d like to see a dedication that reads a little like this: “This book is dedicated to nobody, motherfuckers! How do you like that? I mean, what the fuck… I’m the one who sat down for a billion motherfucking hours to write the fucking thing! So I’m dedicating it to myself. And I just poured myself the greatest and tallest gin and tonic ever and it’s so good and the limes are so fresh and the gin made a nice slick path through the ice and I followed that path exactly with the tonic water to ensure the proper fizz and oh man you should’ve been there.”

  10. LOL, makes you wonder if you could write tongue-in-cheek dedication:

    The Bible – To My Children, may they learn and grow.

    The Scarlet Letter – To ” A” Friend

    Old Yeller – To a doggone good friend

    Sorry, haven’t had enough coffee yet.
    Have a blessed day.

  11. It’s the Acknowledgments that really bear some excellent fruit: have you covered this already? (Some Eternal Fan I am.) Dedications have to be short (according to some unwritten rule) but Acknowledgments really give some people way too much rope for name-dropping and self-congratulation. Like the writer who took 3 pages to thank every famous writer he knows, and also his high school English teacher for being the first to recognize his genius – and I’m not really paraphrasing that at all.

  12. Dedications can be intriguing. The acknowledgments section, however, can be a real minefield. Someone’s bound to get upset. (I see that Eternal Fan just beat me to the punch. I’m posting, anyway.)

  13. I love acknowledgments, the more personal and name droppy, the better. It’s like reading a writing world version of Page Six.

  14. Jody and Joel aren’t Marilynne’s kids, so it’s not as Duggar-like as it sounds.

  15. In his book “Life in a Putty Knife Factory” (1943) H. Allen Smith wrote:

    Partial Dedication: Ten per cent of this book is dedicated to Harold Matson.

    I like that.

    I dedicated my book to the long-dead stonemason who cobbled the first paved road in Edinburgh in 1532 because I was pandering to the Scottish-American book-buying public, and then I threw in a follow-up dedication to my mother because I’d written a memoir-ish book without once mentioning her. And she’s old. And I don’t send Mother’s Day cards.

    • I dedicated my first to my father, and my second to nobody.

      The only reason to write is to stick a knife in your mother.

  16. oh, please do a post on acknowledgments. I am terrified I have done it wrong and am going to piss people off.

    I dedicated my forthcoming (first) book to my husband because I was writing when we met 21 years ago, and in all this time he has never told me I’m crazy.

    August: I am sorry about your relationship with your mother. Hopefully she is sorry too.

  17. to my mom and dad…you’re not going to like it, but you can always write your own book.

  18. A dedication is a tip of my hat.

    P.S. Holly, your soon-to-be released book looks wonderful. And you are very lucky indeed to have Henry as your agent.

  19. I’m kind of s sucker for dedications. In fact, I usually read the dedications and acknowledgements sections of books first. One of my favorites (perversely maybe?) was Alicia Erian’s Towelhead acknowledgement to her ex-husband. They had divorced right as she completed the novel but he had supported her during its writing.

  20. Ken Kesey’s dedication in DEMON BOX, was to his son Jed, who’d died in a car accident: “to Jed, across the river riding point.”

  21. My favorite is Ginsberg’s dedication in HOWL to Jack Kerouac, Wililam Burroughs etc who’s books are already published in heaven.

    I love that imagery:) Best dedication ever. I use it to make myself feel better as I get rejections on my novel- well, it’s already published in heaven.

  22. I’d point to Philip Sidney’s THE COUNTESS OF PEMBROKE’S ARCADIA, (ca. 1590) which purported to be for the Countess, his sister. Right in the title! But inside, it is also dedicated “To” the prime minister (and sneaks in one to the queen) — by “The Editor, ” whoever that was. Piles and piles of dedications!

  23. In my second novel Bad Ice, a romantic suspense about a hockey player and his psychotic stalker:

    To Dad, who turned his daughter into a hockey fan.

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