"Like making love in public"
I know that I am really, really getting to the end of the Laughter book, as -- apart from 20 or so lingering footnotes, plus 1000 word "coda" which I have more or less in my head -- I am left with only the acknowledgements and the dedication to ponder.
Dedications are tough. The heading of this post is a quote from that old publishing genius (and rogue), Colin Haycraft. "Like making love in public," he used to growl, as one contemplated a dedication. And he backed it up with any number of cautionary tales of those whose beautiful affair broke up between lovingly scrawling "For my darling Kate <or whoever>" on the first page of the typescript (as it was then) and the book rolling off the presses. There were dramatic stories of "mercy dashes" to the printers in order to replace the no longer darling "Kate" with "Jill" or "Jack", or whoever the new inamorata/o happened to be.
I'm not sure that I 100% agree. I havent (yet) irrevocably quarrelled with anyone I have dedicated a book to. And mostly they still feel right (in fact, in some ways, dedicating Confronting the Classics to Peter Carson was one of the best presents I coud have given him). And some I've seen do manage to hit the nail on the head. Was it Maurice Beresford who dedicated some book on medieval archaeology to "Mother who packed the sandwiches"? -- which I am sure she deserved. And then there was the dedication of some late edition of Lady Chatterley to the jurors who acquitted it.
But some -- incluing those that get picked out in articles on "clever dedications" -- do seem awfully arch. I'm not sure, for example, that "For Phyllis, who made me put the dragons in" would really stand the test of time. And an awful lot are just far too schmaltzy, like the one at the top of this post. Almost anything you say about your kids (beyond their names) tends to misfire. Be warned!
I think the basic rule is that you have to want to give the damn book to someone and, unless you're really clever, you have to keep it SIMPLE. I suspect I'm going to pass up the opportunity this time!
But I can't pass on the "acknowledgements and thanks". And that's equally difficult, and there are almost as many different styles. I can't bear those endless lists of thanked names that seem to include everyone in the field, as if to try to prevent any of them reviewing it (and in the process ensuring that only those who know not much about the subject get their hands on). Or alternatively they're trying to say, "Look at how well connected I am...".
On the other hand, I live in dread of leaving out someone I really want to thank. If you have been working on a subject for six years ago, you've incurred a lot of real debts. How easy it would be simply to miss out that great friend, who read half a chapter four years ago, when you were in a slough of despond and really put you on track again...You dont exactly keep a list as you go along: "people who've helped me and whom I will need to thank when this damn book comes out".
But I've started a list now, which I look at and add to each day, in the hope that in a week or so I will have got everyone down. If only..
Ok this is a pretty self-indulgent worry to be having, but I'm having it nonetheless.
(If you wonder why there is no question mark in the title, as seems to be needed, it is because S W Foska pointed out that the last seven or something post-headings had been question.. and enough was enough!)