August 05, 2008

Dedicated to the one I love

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I had an unexpected treat last night when I stopped off to pick up my reserves before leaving the library and found that two spanking new books were waiting for me: James Keldon’s Kieron Smith, boy, and Pilcrow by Adam Mars-Jones.

It was the first time I had ever reserved books from reading reviews in the TLS and there was something serendipitous in the way they arrived together, both British, both hefty, both beige, one announcing “the greatest British novelist of our times” and the other “twice named one of Granta’s best of young British novelists”, and both tales about boyhood. It was like having two new friends drop round, sent by some old and distinguished acquaintance but who promised a certain raffishness for all of that.

I puzzled therefore when I started turning the pages of James Kelman’s book and something seemed wrong. I had to look twice. No dedication!! I hastily grabbed Pilcrow. Surely Adam Mars-Jones with that portentous name, at once biblical and mythological, will have something good!

"Dedicated to the Patient Ones, Holly, Keith and Lisa”. Having heard Mars-Jones described as waspish, not to mention brilliant and gay, I don’t believe that this is a variation on that most boring of all dedications used by so many male authors "To my wife, who put up with my – slot in two cute things-- far longer than anyone should have". But if not that, what? A clue, we need a clue!

Don't these people realise how important dedications are? Even if authors' livelihoods don't depend on them anymore, a dedication is an artistic ritual. It’s a drop of blood, a distillation of something important, which the author invites us – poised on the brink – to imagine, and if we’re so inclined, even to share. Here are two of my cult dedications:

from Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey 

"To my mother and father-
 Who told me songs were for the birds
Then taught me all the tunes I know
 And a good deal of the words."

and this from The Motorcycle Betrayal Poems by Diane Wakoski 

"This book is dedicated to all those men who betrayed me at one time or another, in hopes they will fall off their motorcycles and break their necks."

How many of you out there have a dedication or two locked away in your heart of bibliohearts? This is dedicated to you.

Ditulis Oleh : tosca // 03:30


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