The two words that came mostly easily to me in my book were these - 'For Sahir'. The book is dedicated to my son. Why? Because I started to write it when he told me he was writing a novel. He terrified me into thinking that he would get there first. I scrambled and started to learn how to write a novel.
Like a good teenager, he abandoned his first novel, but by then I was too far in, and I kept going with mine. That's the first reason for my dedication. Then there are the others. There's the time I spent away from him, writing in coffee shops, writing in my room, or losing precious moments together because I was lost in my thoughts when he tried to talk to me over dinner. Dedicating a book to him is not really a compensation for that (I mean, seriously, what does a boy who is off to college this Fall to start his own life of words and letters want to do with two words in a book his mom wrote?), but it's a dedication, nonetheless. For Sahir... for growing himself up during the time I was dedicated to other things. For the times when I was writing my way out of a fog.
The book's dedication page is such a profound thing. I always look for it in any book I pick up to read. It gives me a piece of the writer, before I give myself up to him or her. I think of their world, the people that feed their souls, the ones that exasperate them and talk to them and get out of their way when they sit down to write. I think of the real, live people the writer might have lost or found or given birth to. It situates the writer for me.
I am walking to my bookshelves now to find the dedications from some writers I like. Here. "For my dear Laird," writes Zadie Smith in the opening pages of my hardcover copy of 'On Beauty.' Who is Laird, I wonder. What's their story together and apart? "To Shanti Uncle and Aunty Henny," writes Vikram Seth on the opening pages of 'Two Lives.' He then gives us a poem there on that page. "For Jon, Gillis and Morgan," writes E. Annie Proulx in 'The Shipping News.'
Writing, they say, is a lonely process. We make ourselves lonelier by adjusting our relationships with people as we write. Those that might be dead and gone or far away can inspire from that distance. Those that are near and urgent can draw upon our guilt or selflessly feed our imaginations.
So, when a publisher says, "Do you want to dedicate your book to someone? Send us your dedication asap," who comes to mind? I hope the answer, for me, will always be this easy.