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Wednesday, March 3, 2021


 I'd like to be in the acknowledgments of many people's books. Not just to see my name there, but to remember having helped someone. Sometimes it will just be thanks to an anonymous reviewer. It would be nice to think of peer review as giving assistance to the author, rather than merely exhausting gatekeeping. 

I don't remember anyone leaving me out of an acknowledgments page. People are good about this, generally. If someone doesn't thank anyone, I get suspicious. Either they never talk about their ideas with anyone, or they are ungrateful. Writing is a solitary activity, but it takes place in the context of intellectual exchange, what Creeley called the "company." 


Leslie B. said...

I am in lots and I appreciate it, and I enjoyed being part of all the authors' thought processes. But there's something elegant about those books without these things -- just the name of the author, maybe only an initial and a last name, and just a dedication to an initial as well.

When I read these acknowledgments about all the advantages people had, so many grants, such a wonderful library, so many meals cooked for them, and so on, I get discouraged because they say it would have been impossible to do it without all that infrastructure. Even now, I'm reading an academic book and I will allow, the author has fantastic advantages in life, and his wife read and edited every page over dinner, etc., and the book is fantastic, and maybe it really was possible only because of those advantages--which are so often about wonderful university resources, huge staff and R.A. support, a kind and loving family, and so on. But if I believe this, then it means I can never finish mine, and I want to finish mine even if my life isn't as cushy, or isn't cushy in the right ways.

Jonathan said...

You are getting at that other part of it, because we actually do need sustenance, not only to work, but also to live. There is a kind of absurdity in that level of opulence.

I look back on periods of personal difficulty and realize that I was still hugely creative then, as well. I was able to develop this project without stepping foot in a library for 12 months.

Leslie B. said...

Yes, but one does the things one has materials for. Auerbach wrote Mimesis because he needed to invent a project that was feasible without access to journals.

On the acknowledgments essays I also sort of like not knowing all the details. Names, but not long explanations of what that person did. And if there are going to be discussions of wonderful curries cooked, for instance, essay-poem is better if it mentions only one and doesn't give a lot of other details around it.

Jonathan said...

I agree. That level of effusiveness is annoying.