On Acknowledging People You Don’t Know

It’s surprising when readers notice things in your book(s) that you yourself haven’t noticed, or when you get an email with a surprising question. On the acknowledgments page of The Outsmarting of Criminals, I thanked “Chris and Debbie, Dave and Annie, Jules and Katie,” the best tribute I could give to some musicians I really admire. It felt weird to give their full names, as that would imply that I actually know them, when the truth is that I don’t. But their music has meant so much to me for so many years, and I thought this would be a way to offer my gratitude.

But … a reader who must be about my age recognized the names and wrote to ask me about it. So, I have to acknowledge that the people listed above are Chris Stein and Debbie Harry of Blondie, Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox of Eurythmics, and Jules de Martino and Katie White of The Ting Tings. To me, all of these musicians embody the spirit of creativity and independence. They write their songs, play their instruments, and in general do things their way. They’ve all become successful by being rather stubbornly defiant of the music industry, and I like their chutzpah. Plus, when I see them interviewed, I get such a kick out of all of them. They’re smart, and funny, and they walk that very thin line of taking themselves seriously enough but not TOO seriously.

Also, while I love music, I’m not a musician myself. Maybe for that reason, I stand in awe of good songs. I think a really good song is 3 minutes of perfection. When I think of my favorite books, I can say I’ve read each one maybe 4 or 5 times. But with favorite music, I think I’ve listened to those songs hundreds or even thousands of times. If I had to pay a dollar to these artists for each time I’ve listened to one of their songs, I’d owe them tens of thousands of dollars. And yet, I’ve paid only $9, $10, or $11 for their CD’s (or, in the cases of some of the older acts, their albums). So, I have this intense appreciation for music, and the acknowledgments page of The Outsmarting of Criminals seemed like the right place to thank the aforementioned people for the many years of music they’ve given me. And that’s the full story behind those mysterious acknowledgments.

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