Do you ever read the “dedications” section of a book? You know, that section right after the copyright page? I used to just gloss over it, anxious to get to the story. But lately I have been experimenting with that section. I like good book dedications. And I think I am onto something. You can tell a lot, both about a book and its author, by what or who the author dedicates his book to.
For example, if he fancies himself a romantic person, or thinks he has written a romantic book, he may dedicate the book to “[his] loving wife,” or perhaps less specifically “to the one I love.” This may serve as evidence that the author has a tender heart, but it may also foreshadow a cliched, hackneyed, or formulaic “love” story. Not that there is anything wrong with loving your wife, or professing said love, but delivery is important. If you are truly in love with this person, but can’t think of a more imaginative way of expressing those sentiments, then the story that follows may likewise suffer from the same lack of creativity.
(I have seen non-love stories dedicated to beloved wives as well, and this is fine, in theory, but a graphic horror novel dedicated to your wife is disturbing, and a similarly dedicated grisly crime story is downright suspicious).
If the author goes a different route, dedicating his book to “the one true and omnipotent God,” for example, then you know the book is going to be heavy, probably preachy, and not likely funny at all. And here, too, you might want to consider what the subject matter of the book is. A book on the Dead Sea scrolls, so dedicated, may well be dry, but no cause for concern. A graphic crime novel, on the other hand, you might want to contact the authorities.
I have often observed with keen interest dedications “to my good friend, _______________.” What does this mean, “my good friend”? It always piques my curiosity because, depending on the context, it could mean that the person named is very much more or very much less than a platonic, amicable acquaintance. If the book that follows deals with forbidden love, intrigue, subterfuge, maybe the person to whom the book is dedicated is more than a friend in an exciting, and possibly even scandalous, way. But if it’s a book about grandmothers or puppies, the dedication might be one of obligation or pure niceness.
I have often wondered what things or people I would include on my first book dedication. I think people that get too lengthy in their dedications are imposters, trying far too hard to include everyone. No one is going to resent you for failing to name every member in the family. Every single person that helped you learn the language. Everyone that read a draft of your novel.
I did promise a dedication once. To a girl I knew when I was much, much younger. I wonder if she even remembers (it’s funny; what some remember indefinitely, some forget almost immediately). I guess I’ll just have to write my book, complete with dedication, and see.