Like practically everyone else,
I was taken aback when Julia Moskin's
New York Times article on cookbook ghostwriters came out.
As it happened, I'd just received A Girl and Her Pig a
day or two before and was still in an April Bloomfield -
worshipping haze. Learning that the book had been
ghostwritten, I have to be honest, took a bit of the shine off it.
It wasn't a surprise--the credit is right there on the cover,
"with J.J. Goode"--but now when I looked at the word "with" it
started looking a lot more like the word "by".
Since then, Gwyneth Paltrow and
Rachael Ray (both mentioned in the piece) have come out swinging.
Their words are their own, they insist. Industry
professionals have weighed in, saying that it doesn't matter who
gets credit or doesn't get credit; the ghostwriters sign the
confidentiality agreements willingly, and the product speaks for
Andrew Friedman reminds readers that plenty of chefs
do write beautifully--Gabrielle Hamilton for one--so
let's not forget to give them props.
Everybody has a point, and I don't want to weigh in on who's
right. But to me--maybe because my own voice has been
hard-won--the authenticity of a writer's voice is an irreplaceable
treasure. It's why I turned down ghostwriting offers at the
beginning of my career, when I really could have used the money; I
thought I should work first on finding out who I was. It's
why I adore cookbooks whose authorial voices ring clear and true,
Roden's and Dorie Greenspan's . (On an unrelated
note, it's also why I fell in love with my husband over email
before we ever even met.)
So I'll continue to weigh cookbooks on their merits, whether
literary or culinary. But I think, in the wake of this
controversy, there will be a part of me that will be a little
wiser, a little more aware, a little more skeptical, and even more
attuned to narrative voice than before.