From Publishers Weekly
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.
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For nearly two decades, Erdal was the ghostwriter for a flamboyant London publisher, turning out letters, speeches, a newspaper column, and two well-received novels for her boss. The delight of this memoir is in Erdal's eye for the comic details of her partnership with a man who wears crocodile shoes with purple-and-yellow socks, times each of his daily activities to the nearest five minutes, and, when his publishing fortune is imperilled, orders thousands of phallic key-rings, believing that sales of such an item can save him. Erdal resorts to clichés when she muses on the nature of artistic creation, but she is discerning about her motives for ghosting—money, a compulsion to please, and a cloistered Scottish Presbyterian childhood that made the "irony and absurdity" of her job seem not just tolerable but glamorous.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker