Everyone reads the acknowledgements. In fact, for many of us, the first thing we do when we pull a book off the store shelf is to flip to the back. The writers among us might be searching for the agent or the editor we can query, or we might be seeking our own name in the list. But we certainly read the acknowledgements for the drama and the human story revealed therein.
The acknowledgments page will conclude with the sort of crowd-pandering favored by stumping politiciansâ€”with expressions of awe and humility for the authorâ€™s supportive parents, brilliant children, and devoted spouse. Apparently having dedicated the book to these same people was insufficient as a gesture.
Acknowledgments also offer an all-too-rare view of the writer as actual human being. We often think weâ€™re seeing the authorâ€™s real self when we read her fiction, but as any author whoâ€™s ever been asked what happened after she fled her family of international superspies and threw in her lot with a group of itinerant circus performers knows only too well, this is a delusion. The acknowledgments at the back of a novel are tantalizing because theyâ€™re often the only true thing amid a pack of lies. And at the end of a really great book, how wonderful to recognize that it was written not by a monolith or a beam of white light or the manifestation of the goddess Athena, but by a living, breathing person who remembered to thank her agent.