“The humble book dedication can be a thing of beauty,” says John Self in The Critic. My favourites “hint at a story potentially more intriguing” than the novel itself: Paul Christopher’s The Templar Cross is dedicated to “John Christopherson, the best family lawyer in Skagit County, Washington”; Jan Morris’s Oxford Book of Oxford to “the Warden and Fellows of St. Antony’s College, Oxford – except one”. They can also be unintentionally revealing. Jack Kerouac presumably thought he was being terribly clever dedicating Visions of Cody to “America, wherever that is”. Really, he was just exposing his “Banksy-like level of political insight”.
Infinitely inferior is the dedication’s “mutant cousin”: the acknowledgement. Coming immediately after the end of the novel, these vapid thank yous “break the spell the author has spent 200 or more pages weaving”. That’s presumably why authors never used to bother with them – the closing line of Gatsby (“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past”) would clearly have lost some of its impact had it been followed by “a breathless list of Fitz’s drinking buddies”. Yet today it’s not uncommon to see “three or four pages of acknowledgements, thanking 100-plus people”. Enough with this “logorrhoea of recognition”. I don’t want to know who made the author cups of tea, or the name of some random junior publishing employee. “We want to see the great and powerful Oz, and pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.”