The Smell of Sarcasm in the Morning

March 21st, 2005 · No Comments
by Booksquare

Lest some think we’re cranky this morning (not cranky, just reeling from the screw-up at Yahoo! during our fantasy league’s two screwed up drafts this weekend; suffice to say that somehow Yahoo! placed our keeper and team captain, Albert Pujols, on our team, as is proper, and three other teams. We do not share well.), we will express our delight in this essay about ghostwriters. It is a fine morning for sarcasm, and we are responding accordingly:

But in recent times a cloud has begun to hang over the deliciously vaporous world of ghostwriting. This is because greater transparency about the collaborative process has inadvertently led to greater confusion. Things started to take a bad turn when the basketball legend Charles Barkley complained that he had been misquoted in his own autobiography. This gave rise to a niggling suspicion in some quarters that ghostwriters were churning out books with only minimal input from their nominal authors.

We do not object to the concept of ghostwriters, and, in fact, accept that any person of even minimal fame (defined as you wish), does not write his or her own book. That would be outrageous as everyone knows that even the minimally famous have far too many things to do, and writing is hard. Spelling is even harder. Plus, for most lives, there is not sufficient stuff to sustain more than a few pages of interest; a ghostwriter skillfully stretches the anecdotes to a length that justifies an obscene advance for drivel. Oops, we apologize. The nice man who usually force feeds us coffee is dealing with the post-draft fall-out.

Joe Queenan makes his case for allowing some to write their own works by citing Klaus Kinski’s autobiography. Sure, we could quote Kinski’s words, but as any viewer of Fitzcarraldo knows, this is a much funnier observation:

No ghostwriter would ever have written a passage like that, because ghostwriters are by nature timid, diplomatic, gun-shy. A ghostwriter would almost certainly have persuaded Kinski to leave out the part about puking in someone’s face or seducing high school girls, and would probably have deleted the passage about Kinski’s wanting to see the director Werner Herzog slowly strangled by an anaconda or bitten by a poisonous spider that would “paralyze his lungs.”

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