The art of the dedication

How easy book dedications must have been for someone like Isaac Asimov. Author of literally hundreds of books I imagine he could have spared one to leave a note for the milkman to leave an extra quart.

For those of us with far fewer books to our credit, each new arrival raises the question of to whom to give the dedication. This is different than being listed in the acknowledgements. That's a special honor by itself and I still remember getting a textbook authored by Richard Gollin, my college film professor and mentor around the same time my first book, Love Stories: Hollywood's Most Romantic Movies, was coming out. I shared the dedication page with my collaborator but naturally it had to go to my then-wife. Meanwhile Prof. Gollin and I had both listed the other in our respective acknowledgements.

But going forward, each book was a challenge. For The Fourth Network: How Fox Broke the Rules and Reinvented Television, the story of FOX Broadcasting, the dedication was to my parents, for “encouraging a lifelong love of reading and writing, but allowing me to watch television, too.” I was very proud of my cleverness, and waited for my mother to call when she got her copy, but she didn't. Finally I called her. Didn't she see the dedication? Why no, she said, she was surprised I hadn't signed it at all.

Now I had several things to clear up. First, inside the cover is where Grandma signs when she gives the book as a gift. The author more often signs the title page. Okay, she opened the book and saw the inscription. Now, TURN the page. And that's when she saw the dedication for the first time.

Over the years I've dedicated books to my daughter, a second to her and her generation of cousins, to my grandparents, and to four friends who came to my rescue during a particular bad patch in my life. When my first novel, Shh! It's a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood, and the Bartender's Guide, came out, I surprised my sister Bonnie by dedicating it to her with the addendum, “and it's about time.” Since I also gave her a cameo as one of the book's characters, I thought it appropriate.

For my latest novel, Time on My Hands: My Misadventures in Time Travel, I finally got to use a dedication I first crafted two decades ago, waiting for the opportunity to use it. I had come into a small sum of money when a beloved great aunt passed away, coming at a time when I was wondering if I should risk trying to earn a living as a writer. And so the book is dedicated to Bina Itzkowitz, “who encouraged me to read and gave me the freedom to write.”

And then, a couple of weeks ago, my writer's group had their monthly meeting of “writers reading to writers,” in which we share our work with each other. One of the members, William Kuhn, has just published a new novel, Prince Harry Boy to Man: A Novel, an imagination of Harry's service in Afghanistan. He brought copies for each of us, which was a lovely gesture but not required... until we opened our copies and found he had dedicated it to the members of our group. It was the first time my name had appeared on a dedication page.

When you think about it, a dedication is a special kind of message. While authors, of course, want to be remembered for our works, the dedication is a way to share the wealth of hypothetical immortality. As long as this book is remembered and read, your name, too, will be remembered and read. I hope I have a few more books in me. There are more people I want to have remembered.
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Published on July 18, 2017 14:47
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Daniel M. Kimmel
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