Sunday, September 28, 2008
I found myself talking to people about ghosting a book recently. This was because I had misunderstood the original approach - I thought I was being asked to be co-author. I would have done that as I liked the idea and the author. Also the money would have been pretty good - if, that is, I had been co-author, judging by Wikipedia, ghosts don't make that much. Unfortunately it turned out what he meant by 'co-author' was 'ghost' so I pulled out. Like accepting a knighthood, ghosting is something I feel I shouldn't do. Why? Writing for money is what I do and that's a kind of performance. Actors perform and they don't feel queasy about speaking with someone else's voice. So if writer equals actor, then ghosting should be just another job. But it isn't. Perhaps it's the journalism thing. I can't see anything wrong with a struggling novelist ghosting his way through the gas bills. I'd be pretty startled if he continued to ghost when he was making millions, but that's not an ethical matter. Journalism, however, implies an unspoken contract - a silent voice saying, 'Right or wrong, this is me.' Of course, the market demands one adapts one's voice. This is, at first, training and, perhaps later, compromise. You don't have to be a fully-fledged ghost to be a bit of a ventriloquist - operating a dummy that only looks like you. But the dummy, if consistent, has a kind of integrity and he doesn't try to hide the ventriloquist; in fact, they usually engage in lively discussions. When the ventriloquist is a ghost, the dummy is a disconnected other and that - call me a sentimental old fool - I can't handle.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 8:55 am