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NYT – With a Little Help From Their Friends (and Agents and Librarians and Fact-Checkers)

Jennifer Seniordec, December 13, 2017: ” I love the acknowledgments sections of books. I love what they say and what they do not say. I love what they accidentally say. I love the ways families are discussed, and how the truth about the wretchedness of book-writing finally comes tumbling out, and the combination of neuroticism and relief, pride and latent terror. It is not, however, fashionable to love acknowledgments, and for good reason: Most of them are numbingly predictable in their architecture, little Levittowns of gratitude. The critic Sam Sacks wrote a splendid rant about this for The New Yorker five years ago. “The most radical experimentalist,” he complained, “adheres to the most mindless acknowledgments-page formula.” In my job as a book critic for this newspaper — a role I leave today; is this why I’m contemplating codas, endings? — I have learned what Sacks means. Authors thank their publishers for their patience, and their editors for their brilliance and vision. (“She saw what this book was supposed to be long before I did.”) They thank their agents for betting on them, their friends and family for tolerating their anxiety, and their talented colleagues for invaluable comments that transformed leaden first scribbles into fine threads of spun gold. They thank resourceful librarians, indispensable research assistants and diligent fact-checkers; the foundations that gave them money and the experts who lent them wisdom; and the many universities — assuming the authors are academics — that invited them to conferences to refine their ideas…”

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