William Gaddis, Joseph Heller, John Updike and other writers on book dedications

Bobbie Ann Mason: “Book dedications are…a private message in a public place… They’re like reading the personals.”

Joseph Heller: “I have not the slightest understanding of what they mean…none of my books except the first one have any.”

Richard Ford: “All of my books are dedicated to my wife.”

Ward Just: “My last seven books were all dedicated to my wife.”

Kaye Gibbons: “In the new printings of A Virtuous Woman, I’m deleting my ex-husband’s name and replacing it with my second and final husband’s Frank Ward.”

Christopher Buckley: “I was finishing The White House Mess just as I was about to be married. I asked Lucy to put a sheet of paper in the typewriter, and I said, ‘Now type, “For my wife, with love.”‘ And she cried. I dedicated my first book, Steaming to Bamboola, to John Lennon. It was about the merchant marine, and he was the son of a merchant seaman, and he died while I was writing it, and I was very sad, so I just dedicated it to him.”

Nicholson Baker: “I hope to dedicate several more books to my wife although not every one. You don’t want to be like Nabokov. Every book was to Vera, to Vera, to Vera.”

Susanna Moore: “My favorite dedication is by Gregor von Rezzori. In one of his books, he just says, For whom else but you!'”

William Gaddis: “You never dedicate a book to another writer. You’d worry that he wouldn’t like it.”

John Updike: “You worry with another writer, that he won’t like the book, that you’re like the cat who’s bringing a dead mouse to the back door.”

From “Dedicated Lines,” an article by Jamie Malanowski in the 25 Dec. 1995 issue of The New Yorker.

4 thoughts on “William Gaddis, Joseph Heller, John Updike and other writers on book dedications”

  1. Oh, how I’ve missed Kaye Gibbons’ writing. She struggled with mental health issues but wrote a half dozen or so novels before dropping off the face of the writing world. I heard her read at several southern literature conferences in Chattanooga years ago, and I have signed firsts of her books that I treasure.

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  2. MC: Remember in Providence when Don Barthelme was asked what his readers were like, he said they were all intelligent and very sexy? [laughter]

    WG: Attractive people, yes, I remember that, that was lovely. Fiedler’s rejoinder at the end, that in the end everyone will be reading Tom Clancy, or something, that was the end of Fiedler in my book.

    MC: It wasn’t Tom Clancy, it was someone else . . . it was Stephen King.

    http://www.williamgaddis.org/nonfiction/interviewmcbf.shtml

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