"A Gatekeeping Speech Act"

From Professor Zero:

The book I am reading now has one of those prefaces I dislike, that list all the funding, leave time, help, and culinary support the author had. Without all of this they could never have taken the first step toward formulating their book. This kind of preface makes sure we know the writer has an élite lifestyle, and intimates that writing is impossible without that. These prefaces thus perform a gatekeeping speech act: if you are not in my social stratum, you cannot write. But it is not true that one cannot write while also doing one's own research and cooking, and it is not true that one cannot do one's own editing.

...I really prefer prefaces that only acknowledge the entities they legally must, and the people who did actual work on the manuscript. I also prefer dedications without long explanations. A marvelous quotation accompanying the dedication can be nice, but I also like the discreet dignity of very formulaic dedications. "To V., in loving memory."

March 15, 2009 1:20 PM | | Comments (5)

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5 Comments

OMG, this got reposted again ... it seems to have pissed some people off, the ones who believe in long acknowledgments.

I, however, think people who say in their prefaces that they couldn't have finished the book without their wives' help, should also explain why they did not list their wives as coauthors.

Stephen Potter suggested a dedication that would pre-empt any possible criticism:

"To little Emily, in the hope that God's glorious gift of sight may one day be restored to her."

Years ago, a friend, now deceased, showed me a classic, lengthy, seemingly straightforward acknowledgment section in which the author thanked various people for acts, which, if the reader was paying attention, could actually be construed as sexual services. When read this way, it was a lovely, snickering send-up of the whole rigmarole. I've wracked my brain trying to remember which book contained it, but alas, cannot. It concluded with the traditional, heartfelt nod toward the spouse -- something like "without whom this book would not exist, but especially for last Thursday night."

Hilarious suggestions! :-) I hope I find that book.

isn't she great?... i just linked another bit of hers today...

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