Ghosting: A Double Life Hardcover – Apr 12 2005
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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 Hardcover edition.
Acutely sensitive to the subtleties of language as a working-class girl in Scotland, Erdal became a translator, then, during the 1980s, a foreign-language editor for a trendy London publishing house run by a wealthy, bejeweled, high-strung, and kind man she calls Tiger. Extravagant in his tastes and his comportment, Tiger decides that he wants to add authorship to his accomplishments, and Erdal becomes his gifted and loyal ghostwriter. At his anxious beck and call for 15 heady years, she is responsible for everything from personal letters to best-selling interview collections to his popular newspaper column. Erdal enjoys the subterfuge, the generous compensation, and the luxurious retreats in France, but once Tiger decides that he wants to be a novelist, things grow increasingly transgressive. This is a mind-blowing story. Not only does it reveal a kooky, opulent, and audacious world, it's also an exquisitely composed confession that calls into question everything readers passionate about literary creativity hold dear. Erdal's pinpoint wit is exhilarating, and her fluent insights into the many layers of deception involved in "ghosting" are arresting and profound. The book caused a scandal in London where Tiger (Naim Attallah) is well known, but here Erdal's penetrating, hilarious tale of decadence and duplicity will intrigue and dazzle on its own deliciously problematic terms. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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. The author is kind, however, and offers his truly genuine benevolence on the opposite side of the palate. Tiger seeks acclaim in his field as an author in addition to his publishing success. Eventually, he coerces Erdal to write a novel, with his name as author. His propensity for sexual clarity is a roadblock in the authorship process. Erdal's greatest difficulty with the book is to write the sex scenes in the manner he demands. In its final draft, the book is received with mixed, but generally favorable, acclaim.
When she is asked for a second novel, Erdal takes stock of her place in Tiger's stable and of her own changed lifestyle, newly remarried. Her second husband is never named but duly noted as a player. Likewise, the publisher is simply "Tiger." Funding of his extravagant lifestyle eventually takes its toll on the eccentric man. Funds are dwindling and tempers are short. His ghostwriter finds herself at opposite viewpoints with her employer and sees that they "began to move against one another. The finely balanced symbiosis was under siege."
When Erdal announced her retirement, the publishing empire came to an end. Tiger's long reign as mogul finished with the final close of the House door. The ghostwriter tells her story, along with his, because they are eternally linked in purpose. More from a finely tuned pen is sure to be anticipated after GHOSTING.
--- Reviewed by Judy Gigstad
I found a lot of Tiger's quirks quite endearing. My favorite being his use of the question, "isn't it?" at the end of his statements. In example, he would say something like, "I start all my girls at 5,000 pounds, isn't it?" This made me laugh every time.