Sunday, September 13, 2009


From the dedication page of Eve Pell's recently published book We Used to Own the Bronx: Memoirs of a Former Debutante.

this book is for Cooky

Cooky! This is the way I imagine some tiny children to imagine cookies, as cookys.

It adorabalizes (don't spit) the word cookie, I believe, in the manner of the Cookie Monster's swiping paw or the sweetness of a facial expression found on Mo Willems' piggie. (Today at the Brooklyn Book Festival I wanted to page through Today I Will Fly! but instead read Watch Me Throw the Ball!, a parable about old and new media editorial types disguised as a children's book).

Back to cooky--and dedications.

The thing is, I spent a lot of time when I was a teenager reading dedications. I would stand in a book shop pulling book after book off the shelf reading first the dedication and then the last page. I thought people wrote books not because they had to get something out of their systems or because they had to make a living or part of a living. I thought: You write a book because you get to have a dedication page. To me this seemed the only real reason to write a book. It seemed on a par with getting married (this was before I developed myriad opinions on this subject) in front of the whole world.

I judged and categorized. Dedicating a book with only initials was equivalent to whispering in somebody's ear that you liked them. Dedicating a book to a dead person was perhaps a little maudlin. Dedicating it to entire groups of people was too close to a politician's stump speech. Dedicating it to one's children was pat. Dedicating it to one's family or God was too Academy Awards. Some dedications were too longwinded. A work of fiction without a dedication simply didn't count. Nonfiction was allowed to have no dedication page.

At some point years ago, I realized that people might not be dedicating their books to people in the manner of a gift but literally writing their books for somebody in order to make a (debatably drawn out) point. I don't mean the way Fitzgerald wrote for Zelda (Z: Now will you marry me???). I mean that somebody might have wanted to show a friend or a former friend the size of their demands or the rhythms of their sweetness or the horror of a situation or had to draw a whole world into being to make a nuanced point in order to advance a years-long argument.

A dedication with all lowercase letters and no punctuation to somebody named Cooky with a y? Passes muster.

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