In her article ‘Last but not least‘ in the A2 section of The Age, Caroline Baum accuses novelists who say thank you at the end of their novels guilty of: false modesty; being excessive in their confession(s) and/or public displays of emotion; overkill; unnecessarily displaying their academic credentials at the expense of trusting in their imagination; slyly trying to burnish their own prestige by association; (potential) breaches of etiquette; and even ‘bad taste’ when it comes to dedications.
Despite being one of those novelists Baum disapproves of whose acknowledgments run to one-and-a-half pages, I enjoyed her article. It was witty, erudite, opinionated and revealing – qualities which, funnily enough, I associate with a good set of acknowledgments or author’s note in the novels I read. I like what these ostensibly gratuitous parts of a book tell me about an author. And in at least one case – Alice Walker’s Possessing the Secret of Joy – I found a gem in the author’s notes that will stay with me forever.
Like author Christopher Coake cited in her article, I thanked lots of people at the end of my book because: a) they’d provided real practical and/or moral support to me as a writer; and b) in the event that Behind the Night Bazaar is my one and only chance at publication, I might never get the chance to thank these people again (though sincerely I hope that’s not the case).
There’s another dimension to this for me. I feel I have limited opportunities for expressing my love and gratitude in a public arena. Aside from 40th birthday speeches and the odd wedding toast, where else can I go on the record and celebrate the love and support of family and friends?
Besides, I’m not an artist-in-a-cold-garret kind of writer who considers their art to be a product of splendid isolation. I acknowledge that for me to be a writer, I am indebted to the support of a range of people…
At least, that’s how it was when writing the first book. I’m currently working on the sequel and although I’m halfway through the first draft, no one else has seen it yet. At this point in the first novel, my partner Andrew had read every chapter at least once, and I’d already roped in a couple of friends as critical readers.
Along these lines, I have a theory that the more books an author publishes, the shorter the acknowledgments become – a reflection of a writer’s increasing self-confidence (as Charlotte Wood suggests in the Baum article), and a corresponding diminution of panic about the prospect that the opportunity to express one’s gratitude may never present itself again.
Of course this only applies for authors like me who desire to thank people in the first place. Many do not. That is their prerogative. But I will always be grateful to friends and family who support me as a writer. And I will relish the opportunity to thank them whenever I can.
In this spirit, to those mentioned on pages 291-292 of Behind the Night Bazaar, thanks again.