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Ghosting: A Double Life [Paperback]

Jennie Erdal
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 11, 2006
When Jennie Erdal was hired to edit a flamboyant London publisher’s Russian books in translation, she was happy to be able to commute from her home in Scotland. Soon, however, she was also secretly writing her boss’s love letters, hundreds of newspaper columns that appeared in his name, and, though she had never before written fiction, his two well-reviewed novels. For more than fifteen years she would be the indispensable ghostwriter for the exasperating, obsessive, but nontheless charming “Tiger.”Erdal reveals this oddly intimate relationship with a novelist’s flair for character and observation--and wry insight into her own collusion. Suspenseful, controversial, and beautifully written, Ghosting is the most penetrating portrait yet of a mysterious profession.

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Editorial Reviews

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From The New Yorker

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 --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor (July 11, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400079551
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400079551
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 5.2 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,248,588 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Every writer must wonder what it would be like to "ghostwrite" a book. Jennie Erdal shows us how to do it --- how to write reviews, articles, letters, essays, and novels using another's byline. A glutton for punishment, and in need of a paycheck, she agrees to write the memoirs of her employer, an English publisher she calls "Tiger." GHOSTING is a finale to the years she spent writing for and about him. She proves her prowess as a gifted writer, and one to expect more of in the future.

Erdal's first meeting with Tiger is a vivid description of a gentleman outfitted with elaborate taste in dress as well as language. She's a writer with credit for the translation from Russian of Boris Pasternak's memoirs. Tiger's purpose in Oxford that day is to purchase a painting from Pasternak's estate, one that depicts scenes from his own childhood. But Josephine Pasternak has stated that none will be sold. Tiger, with the exuberance of a gifted womanizer, replies, "She'll sell to me." And she did.

Erdal's home is in Scotland, but her job as ghostwriter takes her to London, Frankfurt and the Dordogne landscape, in France. Much of Tiger's dialogue, or monologue when directing his vast traveling entourage, is italicized in French. At times, the reader may be glad to have a faint knowledge of written French phrases. However, body language and place description are sufficient to orient one to its purposes. These, Erdal pens with ease. Her use of simile and metaphor is an excellent rainbow in the often tumultuous rainstorm of descriptive verbiage. She loves language and is not afraid to demonstrate that fact with colorful detail.

Tiger's demands are heavy. He is surrounded by a bevy of young women he employs for his tiniest whims. His eccentricities and phobias are numerous.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This is such a lovely, lyrical book that I finished reading it and immediately started to read it again. The author may shock and amuse her reader, delight and tease her employer, but above all she displays a joy for language and words that is absolutely enchanting for everyone. I hope to read more from her, but please, no more sex scenes! The author is so transparently uncomfortable writing them for her employer that it made you squirm just reading about her imaginative expoits to avoid them. Truly a professional's professional!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inside Look at Ghostwriting... April 20, 2005
This inside look at ghostwriting is fascinating and believable. The author writes extremely well, keeping one's interest throughout the book, and lending credence that she indeed ghostwrote for this famous man.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Real Treasure April 21, 2005
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The love letter in the first few pages is beautifully breath taking! She writes extremely well. NPR did a stunning interview with her just a few weeks ago. Highly recommended!
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Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Well written, good insights into human nature, academia, and the rewards and frustrations of a life of writing for a living.
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