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Ghosting: A Double Life [Hardcover]

Jennie Erdal

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Book Description

April 12 2005
Jennie Erdal worked for nearly fifteen years for the flamboyant, extravagant, larger-than-life “Tiger,” a London publisher, entrepreneur, and media personality. Officially, she was his personal editor. In truth, Erdal was his ghostwriter and alter ego. Under his name, she produced not only newspaper columns, business columns, and novels, but even love letters. In temperament, the two couldn’t have been more different. Yet their relationship weathered storms of all kinds, from temper tantrums to serious financial reversals, with a tenacious bond that is both a wonder and an enigma.

With effortless grace, gentle erudition, and wry humour, Erdal shows us vivid snapshots of an austere childhood in Scotland and of the London publishing world, peopled by the elegant and the “Oxbridge”-educated. She introduces us to a thoughtful girl who found her passion in language and the magic of words, a passion that led her by a series of chance events to the publishing house, and the strange, wonderful, and never-dull world of the inimitable Tiger.

As original as it is elegant and witty, Ghosting is a remarkable memoir — more than just one woman’s story, it is the tale of her double life, as well as a fascinating glimpse into the symbiotic relationship between two very unusual people.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday Canada (April 12 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385661126
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385661126
  • Product Dimensions: 21.1 x 15 x 2.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 431 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,568,319 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

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 the Paperback edition.

From Booklist

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 the Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting look at the experience of ghostwriting July 15 2005
By Bookreporter - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
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. 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
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wit, Poetry, Romance, Travel, Sex, Money & now a Name Aug. 9 2005
By A. Dooley - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
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!!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inside Look at Ghostwriting... April 20 2005
By Sandy Carroll - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
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.
4.0 out of 5 stars A look at the the literary world form a new perspective. Feb. 3 2013
By R. Martin - Published on Amazon.com
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.
3.0 out of 5 stars Don't Trust Your Ghostwriter June 19 2012
By The Slow Reader - Published on Amazon.com
Well written, looking-through-the-keyhole interesting, Ghosting made me really uncomfortable. As you read about all the wonderful trips to the Dordogne, about Naim Atallah's generosity -- his name is all over the notes at the end of the book -- about faking his novels, it is good to keep in mind that Jennie Erdal's book exposes the man she ghosted for more than 15 years. Erdal calls him 'Tiger' while making herself sound ever so innocent. Her memoir is a trade-in on someone else's life.

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