Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Dearest of Dedications

Every time I get a new book, I crack it open and look for a dedication.  These brief lines usually tell a story all of their own, apart from the book’s premise.  I love them, because they can provide us with a quick glimpse into the personal lives of the writers we follow.  

Sometimes, dedications are short and sweet, just “For you” or “To my love…”  Other times, they are long lists of helpers and inspirations.  And still, there are more that cryptic and mysterious – an inside joke only to be understood by those they’re meant for.

This semester I heard about a little book completely regarding dedications and the stories behind them.  I knew I had to have.  A quick click on Amazon and a few days later, it arrived on my doorstep!
Published in 2008, Marlene Wagman-Geller’s “Once Again to Zelda: The Stories Behind Literature’s Most Intriguing Dedications,” is a perfectly light and interesting read.  

Of course, you all know now that even if I didn’t like dedications, I probably would have given in to buying it simply because it references both my beloved F. Scott Fitzgerald and his Great Gatsby! 

As the title suggests, Wagman-Geller does, indeed, discuss FSF’s dedication in her book.  Relying on research, she writes of the tumultuous relationship between Scott and Zelda.  Furthermore, she delves into the ways that his life experience leaked into all of his stories.  “Once again to Zelda” stands not only as Fitzgerald’s dedication of The Great Gatsby, but also as a resounding declaration of his eternal love for Zelda.  Wagman-Geller’s recounting of their lives drives home the poignancy of FSF’s dedication.

In total, the book dissects 50 different literary dedications.  Some of my favorites, including To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, and The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, are among those discussed.  Each of the entries is easily-readable, well-researched, and provides insight into our most beloved authors.

Marlene Wagman-Geller, of course, included a dedication of her own to the book’s prefacing pages: “To my Js – And to the writers whose fictionalized worlds have forever enriched our own.”  It’s a lovely dedication, I think.

But my favorite part of the particular used copy I received comes from a handwritten note scrawled across some blank pages.  It reads: “To the most avid reader we know – Emilie.  Much love, Mom & Dad. 07/02/09.”  At first, I felt saddened to think “Em” had received this gift only to give it away, but thinking about now, I feel like maybe she passed it along so other avid readers could experience it…

If any of you wishes to read it, simply let me know and I’ll send it along!


  1. I love how inscriptions in a used book capture the new owner. I've spent quite a bit of time in near yoga positions going through boxes of used books in the corners of junk shops and garage sales. The hunt for a literary treasure can cause one to contort into positions beyond normal. One such move brought me to find a text book. Not just any text book either! My uncle had taken french in high school and under a pile of dusty forgotten books was HIS french book. I have told this story somewhere. Maybe facebook or on my blog. It doesn't matter, it was a very exciting find. I often wonder if I'll ever find any of the books I've passed along. Maybe my two year old niece will one day find a book I'd discarded decades before.

  2. I want this book! Not only do I want a copy for myself, I would love to have a copy for My Daughter, The Librarian. Wonderful!