IALYAAT, ta, thanks


Woman Writing, Pablo Picasso, 1934

From The Paris Review: 

Anyone who wants to study writers’ idiosyncrasies need look no further than their acknowledgments. One contemporary author thanks her therapist, another his probation officer, a third someone he calls the “Infamous Frankie G.” In the backs of books I’ve found shout-outs to the Ship Manager of HM Frigate Unicorn; a book on Satanism; and an ice hotel. But alongside the quirky is also the heartfelt. I’ve encountered declarations of love—“my children, my jewels”; “without you, I’d be sunk”; “not only the most supportive parents a writer could ask for but the most loving, kind, and inspiring people I know.” One set of thank-yous closes with the code IALYAAT, which I hope means, “I Always Love You At All Times.”

Acknowledgments also offer an all-too-rare view of the writer as actual human being. We often think we’re seeing the author’s real self when we read her fiction, but as any author who’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 they’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.

At least, how wonderful for some. As a person come relatively recently to the literary world, I’ve made several assumptions about acknowledgments that have turned out to be wrong. First, I’ve always assumed that everybody wants to read long acknowledgments. I want a glimpse, however illusory, into the author’s personal life; I want to know who her readers were and who her best friend is and who let her stay in their house one summer even though she was anxious and surly and didn’t do dishes. A little research, however, shows my predilections aren’t necessarily shared.

“On Acknowledgements”, Anna North, The Paris Review