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Once Again to Zelda: The Stories Behind Literature's Most Intriguing Dedications

3.35  ·  Rating details ·  389 Ratings  ·  111 Reviews
A fascinating look at the stories behind the dedications of 50 literary classics.Mary Shelley dedicated Frankenstein to her father, her greatest champion. Charlotte Brönte dedicated Jane Eyre to William Makepeace Thackeray for his enthusiastic review of the book’s first edition. Dostoyevsky dedicated The Brothers Karamazov to his typist-turned-lover Anna Grigoyevna. And, a ...more
ebook, 336 pages
Published November 4th 2008 by Perigee Books (first published 2008)
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Mar 25, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Some mixed feelings here. On one hand, some of these dedications were quite interesting, and so so were the histories they brought up. On the other hand, most of the dedications were simply to the current significant other of the author in question, so it ended up being more of a series of short biographies than I had expected. Maybe it's too tall of an order, but I would have rather that Wagman-Geller had concentrated on the more unusual dedications. Because let's face it, the dedication of Sch ...more
Jan 03, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
The subtitle of this book promised more than this book offered. There were a few "intriguing dedications" (Ayn Rand's comes to mind), but most of these were fairly straightforward. Wagman-Geller basically gives short bios of the original authors and their significant others, and they're fairly interesting - the contemporary authors' bios more so, since we know more about the older ones like Fitzgerald or Hemingway.

However, one thing that really irritated me was the cutesy way Wagman-Geller wou
Dec 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great little volume of short anecdotal and historical tidbits about the dedications of some of the many books we have read in our lives. Quick reading and some are funny, some sad, some just fodder for cocktail party conversation. A good read.
Nov 06, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction

I was so excited about this one, and it is a big disappointment. I lovelovelove reading dedications and acknowledgments in books, so I am very interested in the subject matter of the book. And the cover and design of this book are lovely. I have major gripes about this one, though, and here they are:

1. The writing! It is just so trite and uninspired. I really reminds me of essays written for school.

2. Who cites Wikipedia in their book?? Repeatedly? Seriously. Most of the sources are webpages, ma
Jul 11, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The subtitle to this book should have been "The Predictable, Occasionally Interesting Stories Behind the Dedications of Some of Our Most Intriguing Literature."

Wagman-Geller picked some well-known pieces of literature--good pieces of literature--and did shallow Wikipedia research into the basic stories behind the dedications (I'm not exaggerating: there are internet links to wiki pages in the bibliography). And, sit down for this part, what seemed like 90% of writers dedicated their books to pa
Mar 15, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Though the premise is interesting, and the dedications are as intriguing as promised, the book is written so badly that I started to feel guilty for even being interested. Cheesy and condescending by turns, I can only imagine it was perhaps aimed at the high schoolers Ms. Wagman-Geller taught. But even high schoolers who would have enough interest to read about literary dedications would probably be insulted by the sheer bad writing.

Oh yes, and even a tenth grader might manage not to mangle Ham
Randi Rathbun
Feb 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Such an interesting read! So cool to get some behind the scenes info on these authors.
Mar 27, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I think I've read too many biographies of authors.

This book I expected to be an entertaining, informative read about everyone from Mary Shelley to Sylvia Plath, Truman Capote to Stephen King, Ernest Hemingway to J.K. Rowling. Other than a few tidbits about some of the more contemporary authors, there wasn't a wealth of information in this book that I didn't already know.
It's put together a bit like a mini-history/biography of each writer. So, if you know the general story of these people (and I
Interesting stories
that normally I would eschew
because the writing is only fair
as I'm looking to improve myself
but I can't resist
such things as Harper Lee
Gettum up Scout!
beating up kids at school
when they would pick
on her effeminate neighbor friend
who would grow up to be
Truman Capote
Mary Kay
A "veteran" high school English teacher researches the backgrounds of dedications of 50 famous works of literature. It's a very interesting book, but the egregious grammar errors made me cringe, especially since the author is a "veteran" high school English teacher!
Lisa Rector
May 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You'll find dedications by Mark Twain, Virginia Woolf, Dashiell Hammett, Richard Wright, Harper Lee, Stephen King, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and other well known writers and their famous books. I confess, I've never paid much attention to the dedications, but now I do, and I'd love to hear the background story of some of the ones I've come across since I read this book.
Mar 14, 2011 rated it it was ok
So this is a book about the stories behind the dedications of books of stories, as you can tell from the title of the book, and the stories inside.

The good: the stories are generally pretty interesting, and we learns lots of interesting tidbits about writers. (Some of them had really fascinating lives.) And we learn things about famous writers as a class of people. (They're predominately cheaters.) And we get a sense of the social milieu that brought about some of the famous works.

The bad: the b
Once Again to Zelda by Marlene Wagman-Geller
Perigee, 2008
276 pages
3/5 stars

Source: Library

Summary: An examination in to some of the most famous and most puzzling dedications of books in order to gain insight into the lives of the writers.

Thoughts: The first dedication is for the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. It is to her father who wrote a biography of his wife and her mother Mary Wollstonecraft, published in 1798, which she says scandalized Victorian society. Do you see the err
Jun 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed reading this book, it told a lot of interesting stories behind the dedications of stories. Many of which could possibly stand on their own as books. Within this book you get histories of people who were writers & who were many other things as well & you learn of who they were & why they dedicated their books to the beings their dedicated to. The author of this book shows you the background & the why of it all. You learn to appreciate love, writing, & so much ...more
Oct 03, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Great idea for a book.
I found some of the people behind the dedications as intriguing as I hoped.
There was much heartbreak in these stories. As a whole, the authors selected were a selfish bunch, ruining the lives of others for a new obsession.
The volume inspired me to add a few of the books featured to my "to-read" list.

The volume felt slim in terms of effort invested
It seemed to miss the intended mark (based on the subtitle) by mainly presenting biographies of the subjects for dedicat
Michelle Nass
I was excited when I got this book as a Christmas present, but the excitement just did not last. It starts as a clever idea: telling the story behind dedications in both classic and popular literature. Unfortunately, it is written like a bad graduate thesis and even more poorly researched. I just couldn't get past the trite phrasing (often times using a catch phrase from the novel focused on as a cute way to end each section--not cute-- it was really like "...and with her last breath, Margaret M ...more
Jan 07, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: a-z-titles-2010
I really enjoyed learning the stories and connections behind the authors' dedications, especially when they were authors or works with which I am familiar, so I really wanted to like this book. Unfortunately, I found the writing style distracting, disjointed and clunky, with a few factual errors. The transitions were often abrupt, to the point that they felt like unnecessary commentary at times. One example of this that sticks out is when she wrote, "When they returned home from their second hon ...more
Jan 09, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book had a lot of potential -- I thought that the topic sounded really interesting. But in the end, I was quite disappointed. I'd hardly call most of the dedications she explains "literature's most intriguing" -- most of them were pretty straightforward dedications to one's spouse or parent, with nothing "intriguing" there. And really -- if you've read The Year of Magical Thinking, do you need an explanation of why Joan Didion dedicated the book to her husband and daughter?

The worst part o
Jul 08, 2011 rated it did not like it
A book in serious need of a fact checker. I was enjoying the gossipy little bios until I wanted to know more -- then I discovered than most of the author's material came from Wikipedia. While I think Wikipedia has its place, this is a book by a major publisher (Penguin), and I expect more. If I won't let a first year writer in college use Wikipedia as a source, why should Penguin allow it from one of their published authors?

Just as one example -- the author called Fitzgerald's The Beautiful and
Jul 26, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
I've been wanting to read this book for about a year now, but I've been waiting to get it through an Inter Library Loan. I figured that the book would be good, but not good enough to pay the $16.95 retail price to put it in my personal collection, and it turns out I was right.

The author has a great premise- researching "The stories behind literature's most intriguing dedications". Many of the dedications are intriguing (such as the Peyton Place dedication "To GEORGE For All The Reasons he knows
Dec 26, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In spite of the amateurish writing, the brief insights into literature's most revered authors are riveting. One of my favorites is about Fyodor Dostoevsky who was granted a royal pardon just minutes before he was to be executed in front of a firing squad, a gesture that allowed some of the world's most important writing (The Brother's Karamozov and Crime and Punishment) to be born. I also learned that most writers are adulterers and have a lot of children that die and that if I am to be a seriou ...more
Aug 09, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pretty much the title says it all here. Wagman-Geller actually reads the dedications in the books she reads (I usually glaze over them) and wants to know the stories behind them. This book is a collection of those stories for some of the most well-known books.

I really enjoyed this. I learned all sorts of things I didn't know before and some of the stories behind the dedications read like soap operas. However, some of the stories were definitely not intriguing (like most of the dedications to spo
Jul 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Once Again to Zelda has 50 chapters, each one telling the story behind a book dedication from (in chronological order) Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein to Michael Chabbon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s union. I think this book is probably best for book lovers who are not necessarily true bibliophiles and who might not otherwise know that Mary Shelly’s father was the author of An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice and her mother was the author of A Vindication of the Rights of Women or that Margaret Mitch ...more
Nov 09, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Here's the thing about this book: it's a great concept, but the author does not deliver a great book.

First, the subtitle claims that the book will cover "literature's most intriguing dedications", but what it really covers are generic dedications from some of literature's greatest authors. But that's not really the story either because often the book containing the dedication isn't even mentioned, leaving us with simply a four or five page biography of the author and dedicatee.

Second, the autho
Mar 30, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So, as it plays out, I am not the only one who wonders who "Mr. Lee and Alice" were - was he Atticus? Was she Calpurnia? - and if all those "dear wives" that books are dedicated to were really - well, dear wives. (Yes, he was Atticus, but she is not Calpurnia. Turns out Harper Lee has a beloved older sister who bossed her around a lot in her youth. And all those "my dear wife" dedications? A LOT of them got divorced not long after.)

Interesting, entertaining - and learning the truth behind the de
Sarah Phoenix
Jan 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, mybkslf
I now know why I will never be a writer. While I have suffered, it is obvious from this book that I have not suffered enough.

The stories behind the dedications to the books listed run from the tragic, to the more than tragic, to the most horrible thing I have ever heard. The authors are listed in chronological order and as we approach the present, the suffering does diminish somewhat. The real tragedy was that I missed it.

If you love books, gossip and information that is only needed to win a Tri
May 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. The author was intrigued by an author's dedication so she researched it. She was fascinated by the story behind it and this led her to investigate other dedications. The book had 50 authors and their most well-known or most creative dedications.

I thought it was great. Each story was about 5 - 7 pages. Just enough to learn about the author and their work, but not too much to get tedious. There were a couple of chapters that I thought were a little ho hum, but most of t
Oct 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The concept of this book was really interesting and I believe that the books the author chose were indeed intriguing. My one complaint about this book is that some of the chapters are poorly written, and even sometimes confusing. Wagman-Geller has a WEALTH of great material for a book but she wastes it on trying to be witty.

Definitely still worth a read, especially if you've read some (or most) of the books listed. I, myself, have probably only read about half but I've heard of almost every aut
Very well written, interesting book. Most bad reviews I have read claim that not all the stories are as interesting as what they might be led to believe. Be real, people. Any book that is full of stories, fiction or non fiction, cannot be expected to be interesting all the way through. There are always going to be stories that don't catch your attention as much as some others. I personally thought they were all interesting in their own ways, basically all of this information I did not know befor ...more
Nov 02, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays
Certainly a book I would not have bought if I flipped through it first (ah, the joys of the internet). I've always feared when Wikipedia would become a source of real "research", as I knew a product like *this* would be the outcome.
Not much to do with unearthing interesting behind the scenes to dedications...moreso just short biographies.
And after a few of the classic writers are one over random crap (i.e. hardly "literature") like Stephen King, JK Rowling, Dean Koontz and Ken Follett are brou
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Once Again to Zelda 1 20 Dec 31, 2008 03:24PM  
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