Gwyneth Paltrow has a cookbook for sale, My Father’s Daughter: Delicious, Easy Recipes Celebrating Family & Togetherness. She has a unique method for getting publicity. In a facebook rant, Ms. Paltrow claims that she wrote “every word” of the book, and that Julia Moskin’s “facts need checking”.
The outburst was a reaction to a NYT feature, I Was a Cookbook Ghostwriter, written by Ms. Moskin. The start of the article has a picture of the book, with the caption “Gwyneth Paltrow’s ghostwriter is Julia Turshen”. Near the end of the article, it is said that “Julia Turshen, who is writing a second cookbook with Gwyneth Paltrow after their collaboration on “My Father’s Daughter,”… The majority of the article deals with the ups and downs of being a food book ghostwriter.
An article at The Rumpus, Ghosts Are Real, At Least In Publishing, thinks both sides have a bit of truth. Often, a person will write a book, only to have it worked into shape by an editor. It can be tough work to make people think someone else wrote a book, and have it still be fun to read. Many “real” authors are up front about the editorial help they get in producing a book. It is telling that Ms. Paltrow cannot acknowledge getting help. (Unless this really is just a publicity stunt. The fact that Rachel Ray jumped on the bandwagon makes that a greater possibility. Both names were spelled correctly. )
There is also the possibility that Ms. Turshen violated her contract by speaking out. “At the very least, it seems to me the book was a collaboration between Turshen and Paltrow. But it’s probably stipulated in Turshen’s contract that she can’t claim to have worked on it. That’s pretty standard – what ghostwriting is about – even though many people know that most celebrity books are not written by the celebrities themselves. That’s probably what Turshen assumed when she agreed to give Moskin an interview. I hope Turshen is not penalized financially or otherwise for this potential breech of contract. It’s lousy enough having Gwyneth publicly deny her work on the book. I know that feeling. It’s happened to me. “
In the wake of this scandal (Gwynethgate?) comes another blog post, The Happy Ghost. It is possible to argue with that sentiment, but there’s no denying its broad appeal and growing acceptance. In such a fluid climate – and in a culture that’s pie-eyed drunk on celebrity in its glitziest and tawdriest forms – it’s not surprising that ghostwriting has won acceptance as just one of many legitimate ways to produce books. Including novels. Brand-name author James Patterson has a stable of writers helping him churn out his best-selling thrillers. The rapper 50 Cent, who must be a very busy man, pays someone to ghostwrite his 140-character tweets for Twitter. … When Ronald Reagan’s memoir, An American Life, appeared, the Gipper gave high praise to his ghostwriter, Robert Lindsey. “I hear it’s a terrific book,” Reagan said. “One of these days I’m going to read it myself.”
HT to Andrew Sullivan, who gives credit to his assistants. Video is from wtfjapanseriously. Pictures are from The Library of Congress