On Oscar night, no one listens to the thank-you speeches—except the people being thanked. Likewise, no one reads the author acknowledgements of a book—or do they?
On The Millions, Henriette Lazaridis Power delves into the stories behind this oft-overlooked section of a book, from the Brontë sisters to Zadie Smith to Robin Black. And Power argues that the acknowledgements are more than polite thank-you notes; they’re an opportunity:
Everyone reads the acknowledgements. In fact, for many of us, the first thing we do when we pull a book off the store shelf is to flip to the back. The writers among us might be searching for the agent or the editor we can query, or we might be seeking our own name in the list. But we certainly read the acknowledgements for the drama and the human story revealed therein. Some acknowledgements are works of art, expressing with finesse and sincerity the gratitude for a supportive surrogate family, a patient and understanding spouse and kids, a best friend who saw the writer through difficulties hinted at sufficiently so that we can glimpse a bit of the author’s life. At their best, acknowledgements can be finely-wrought short stories with the author as protagonist.
One of my favorite acknowledgements comes from Heidi Julavits’ The Effect of Living Backwards, in which she thanks Track 4 of Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (one of my favorite albums). I’ve never been able to see the connection, but I’m still thinking about it 5 years after reading the book!
Do you read the acknowledgements in books? Have you thought about who you’d want to thank on the acknowledgements page when your book comes out?
- Learn more about Power’s journal, The Drum: A Literary Magazine for Your Ears