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Exploration of dedications a fun read

Once Again to Zelda: The Stories Behind Literature's Most Intriguing Dedications
Once Again to Zelda: The Stories Behind Literature's Most Intriguing Dedications
By Marlene Wagman-Geller

Perigee / Berkley: 2008

This review first appeared in the February 22, 2009 issue of the North County Times.

San Diego high school English teacher Marlene Wagman-Geller has written a well-researched and fun behind-the-scenes look at those dedications found in the front of most books.

From Mary Shelley's dedication to William Godwin in"Frankenstein" to Michael Chabon's dedication to Ayelet in The Yiddish Policemen's Union," Wagman explores the tales behind 50 such dedications in "Once Again to Zelda."

There are no real surprises here – most of the dedications are to spouses or lovers, the rest to other important figures in the authors' lives. She has organized them in chronological order, running from 1818 to 2007. The authors profiled range from the deeply literary (Vladimir Nabokov, Philip Roth, Virginia Woolf) to the massively popular (J.K. Rowling, Anne Rice, Dean Koontz) to those few who have managed both (Hemingway, Capote).

A bit gushy at times, Wagman-Geller is unfailingly forgiving of her heroes' various peccadillos (which had to hurt their families), while a bit moralizing about the similar sins committed against them.

Still, the tales behind the dedications are well-crafted, and she cites all her references in an appendix. It's a fun read, entertaining and informative, and just barely scratches the surface of a subject that is surely of interest to many readers – offering hope of future volumes.