There’s an interesting piece in the New Republic about the “ridiculous[ly]” long Acknowledgments sections of books these days. Writer Noreen Malone argues that the Acknowledgments have become the place to name drop, citing Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s new book Lean In as an example.
“Sandberg’s seven-and-a-half page section, for instance, thanks more than 140 people for contributing to her 172 page book.” Malone further quips, “The large bodycount, along with the accompanying exegeses of just how each person helped, makes Lean On seem a more appropriate title.”
Malone lists other “egregious example[s]” of authors who tend to bloated Acknowledgments sections, before quoting an email exchange she had with Paris Review editor Lorin Stein on the topic: “You don’t see Joseph Conrad thanking Ford Madox Ford, or Virginia Woolf giving shout-outs to Leonard, Lytton, Vanessa, Clive, and Vita… That kind of thing mars the real intimacy of a novel, which is — or should be — between writer and reader and nobody else.”
As someone who had a swollen Acknowledgments section myself — and would’ve added more names if I could remember — I’m with Malone’s acquiescence “that acknowledgments… serve as a reminder that it takes a village to write a book.”
Writing a book involves the moral and financial support of so many people who may/may not realize how they’ve helped, and I think it’s important for readers to know that books aren’t written in a vacuum; nor do they spring from the writer fully formed, like Athena did from Zeus’ head. Movies have credits, books have acknowledgments.
Sometimes a patient group of friends who let you read your work to them aloud (like Quentin Tarantino has), or an anal sister who lets you leave a mess of papers around for years (like I have) are what a writer needs to get to the finish line. And when it’s over and you’re holding that manuscript in your hand, you realize the editor and agent are just the doctor and nurse. They may have cleaned up the baby, made sure she had all her shots and that you are healthy enough to get out there and raise a bestseller — but it’s your village you will take the baby back to.
They will be the first to buy the book, patiently endure emails announcing yet another reading or signing, and accept your disappearance when you begin working on the next project. They are the ones who live with you as a writer, and help you grow as a person. So, I say acknowledge away.
What say you?