For Sally Keith…

by Ron Hayes

…Whom I Failed To Thank Properly and In A Timely Fashion. Thank you again for… well, you know.

We writers wield an awesome power: we grapple with immortality. Through our work and our words we take a stab at having tiny little bits of ourselves outlast our mortal shells and live on for as long as mankind might have us. That’s the cool thing about books. It’s a pretty nifty fringe benefit, if you ask me, and certainly not one I’ll ever enjoy in my day job as a teacher.

So of course, as when any geek invokes the word “power,” there inherently follows the apt, if overused, adage of great power needing great responsibility; as clichéd as it may be, it is nonetheless true. Because we writers possess the power of having our life’s work endure through the ages, it’s important that we fully understand the import of what we can and will do with our words. Hate your boss? Make him a character in your book and do unspeakable things to him. Still think you deserved a higher grade on your Poli-Sci project junior year? Write the prof into a piece that makes it to the Best American Short Stories anthology one year. In-laws and former in-laws can be fodder for a screenplay and your teenage crush who embarrassed you at Prom can live forever as your screenplay foil who gets her comeuppance in the most twisted, most satisfying of ways. As worldbuilders you and I have godlike power and better still, we have free reign to use it as much as we want. On the page, of course.

Now, as a writer, I suffer from the horrible affliction of having had an idyllic childhood amid near-perfect parenting. While I don’t have the scars, emotional or otherwise, that drive many an author in his or her writing (a conversation better saved for a different post), what I do have—and continue to carry with me—are manners out the ass, and an overwrought sense of humility. Subsequently, I find myself particularly attuned to the obligation, the responsibility, the necessity of saying “thank you.” I’m hard-wired, it turns out, to be overly nice. Thanks, mom.

This means that, whenever I get that first book published, it goes without saying that I’ll put myself on the hook to do the whole “Acknowledgements” / “Author’s Note” thing. It’s the right thing to do (regardless of what Sam Sacks has to say in the New Yorker). And when I do I’ll join a long, illustrious list of folks who also did the right thing and sent a quick, heartfelt sentiment to that special someone who helped them cobble a book together. I imagine you will too. So while we’re on the subject, have you ever taken a moment to consider just HOW you’ll do it? Will you go the staid, tried-and-true conventional route, like most authors do?

For my mom and dad. With love.            

or

To my dear husband. Thank you for everything.

or some such drivel? Or will you spice things up a bit?

Me? Not sure yet, but I sure am smitten with the idea of breaking convention, getting a little wild and crazy with the shout-outs. Perhaps something like Tobias Wolff did in prefacing This Boy’s Life:

“My first stepfather used to say that what I didn’t know would fill a book. Well, here it is.”

Or perhaps I’ll go crotchety old man like ol’ Charles Bukowski did in prefacing Post Office:

            “This is presented as a work of fiction and dedicated to nobody.”

I like crotchety old man. I think I’ll be a good one (more than a handful of folks tell me I’m well on my way there already). On the other hand, I do kind of like the sweetness Carl Sagan injects into his clever dedication to Cosmos:

“In the vastness of space and immensity of time, it is my joy to spend a planet and an epoch with Annie.”

I dunno. It’s going to be hard to decide. Maybe I can get crazy with the Cheez Whiz and go all e. e. cummings on them, a la this shape poem:

no-thanks

Or maybe I’ll get all cryptic, like Lemony:

“It is very unnerving to be proven wrong, particularly when you are really right and the person who is really wrong is the one who is proving you wrong and proving himself, wrongly, right. Right?” (from The Reptile Room)

Or gushy:

“Simply and impossibly: For my family.” (Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer)

Or glib:

“To caffeine and sugar, my companions through many a long night of writing.” (Robb Hobb in Ship of Magic)

Or goofy:

“For Colin Firth–You’re a really great guy, but I’m married, so I think we should just be friends.” (from Austenland by Shannon Hale)

Or just batshit crazy:

“I do not dedicate my book to any body; for I know nobody worth dedicating it to. I have no friends, no children, no wife, no home; — no relations, no well-wishers; — nobody to love, and nobody to care for. To whom shall I; to whom can I dedicate it? To my Maker! It is unworthy of him. To my countrymen? They are unworthy of me. For the men of past ages I have very little veneration; for those of the present, not at all. To whom shall I entrust it? Who will care for me, by to-morrow? Who will do battle for my book, when I am gone? Will posterity? Yea, posterity will do me justice. To posterity then – to the winds! I bequeath it! I devote it — as a Roman would his enemy, to the fierce and unsparing charities of another world – to a generation of spirits – to the shadowy and crowned potentates of hereafter. I—I—I have done – the blood of the red man is growing cold – farewell – farewell forever!” (as found in Logan: A Family History by John Neal)

Well, whatever I decide, dear readers, I hope to make you all the very first to know. Until then, why don’t we all join in the fun? In the true spirit of Thanksgiving, let us all come together in the comments section below and share with each other our own or our favorite dedication, attribution, or demonstration of appreciation for a book we love or a person/persons who made our book happen. In the meantime, it just wouldn’t be right if I didn’t take a moment here to mention Google, Mental Floss, and Thought Catalog (.coms) for their assistance in compiling some of these exemplars.

In a word, thanks.

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