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Ghosting: A Double Life
Synopses & Reviews
A haunting, superbly intelligent memoir about literary codependency that goes to the heart of the psychology of writing itself
In the early eighties, Jennie Erdal was hired by a flamboyant British publisher she calls Tiger to be his specialist editor for Russian books. By degrees he co-opted her time and loyalty, to the point where she ended up becoming his ghostwriter for a huge nonfiction book on women, two glossy novels, and hundreds of newspaper columns, all published under his own name. She also wrote any number of his love letters. With often ironic directness and quiet comedy, Erdal relates how she became seduced into this peculiar job. On the way she makes fascinating excursions into her own private history, from vivid evocations of her Scottish Presbyterian childhood to moving observations on being an abandoned wife and lone parent to piercing insights into the very nature of literary creation.
One of the smartest books about writing in years, Ghosting is a tour de force in which the author renders both Tiger and herself as compelling characters, connected to each other by a strange symbiosis. Their interaction is bizarre and also quite spooky; in the end this is a book about the very nature of identity, literary and otherwise. For anyone interested in the story behind how stories are written and published, Ghosting will be that rare gem: a book that tells us just as much about why authors write as it does about the author’s life.
"Erdal has written several books, including two novels, but this memoir is the first she's published using her own name. For nearly 20 years she was the personal ghostwriter for an egotistical yet charming London publisher she refers to as Tiger (because his office 'felt high-voltage and slightly dangerous'). In fluid, reserved prose, Erdal, who started her career as a Russian literature specialist, recalls writing letters, reviews and newspaper columns for Tiger under his name. Erdal worked from home in Scotland, speaking to Tiger by phone and regularly visiting his office for meetings. When Tiger decided they should write a novel, he brought her to France for a 'working holiday'; Erdal confesses that she had no idea how to write fiction, yet the finished product earned Tiger attention and praise. Erdal mentions her family life (a divorce, three children, a new husband) and shares memories from her 1950s Scottish childhood, but those passages — which are among the book's most lyrical and moving — are limited. Most of the references to the British literary and publishing world are likely to be lost on American readers; although Tiger is well known in the U.K., his fame hasn't yet reached across the Atlantic. However, for those willing to tolerate Tiger and his whims — and Erdal's compliance with them — this memoir reveals an otherwise hidden world. Agent, Jenny Brown. (On sale Apr. 12)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
was for almost twenty years an editor for Quartet Books in London. She lives in her native Scotland.
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