Where the Simulacrum Ends is a University Diaries Category. It appears at the bottom of this post.

But the simulacrum never ends. The constant, ubiquitous appearance of artifacts that present themselves as the intellectual or creative work of one person, but are in fact the work of a hired ghost (like the ghost complaining in this post’s title), helps create the white-noisy, bogus, unreal feel of the postmodern world.

Our most thoughtful writers – unspectral ones, like Don DeLillo – evoke this very contemporary sense that everything is engineered, even nature. In Don DeLillo’s novel, The Names, a young man enters an airplane:

The crew is Japanese, the security Japanese… He hears Tamil, Hindi, and begins curiously to feel a sense of apartness, something in the smell of the place, the amplified voice in the distance. It doesn’t feel like earth. And then aboard, even softer seats. He will feel the systems running power through the aircraft, running light, running air. To the edge of the stratosphere, world hum, the sudden night. Even the night seems engineered, Japanese

When even your evenings are engineered, the fact of ghostwritten cookbooks, scientific articles written by ghosts in the employ of the pharmaceutical companies promoting the drugs under discussion in the article, or, most recently, grades and comments on university students’ papers written by ghostwriters in India paid by American professors, ceases to excite comment… The occasional ghost-confessional will appear in the New York Times, telling us how demoralizing, disembodying, strange, it feels to be a career ghost (Yet who wrote/edited/exaggerated the ghost’s confession?)…

Alas, poor ghost! But pity as well the strange disembodiment of the ghosted, for they too must feel the erosion of their reality as their pantomimed self pops out at them everywhere.

And pity their dupes.

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One Response to ““When a ghosted book is successful, watching someone else get credit for your work is demoralizing.””

  1. absurdbeats Says:

    I’ve ghosted. I was broke and needed the money and looked at it as another form of (under)compensated labor.

    It helps that I wrote on a topic about which I know little and care even less. The author outlined the book, told me in a general sense what he wanted me to cover, and performed all final edits. We spoke often, got along well, and he paid more or less on time.

    How do I justify this, especially since I, as an adjunct professor, expect my students to write their own work? Well, largely because it seemed merely conventional—nonfiction authors (and yes, he wrote about half of his own book) regularly hire people to write their books—and thus not cheating. I’ve also analogized this to artists who create the concept for a piece of art and hire assistants to carry it out. And did I mention I was broke?

    All of this said, I am uneasy with my role in this process and my justifications are decidedly after-the-fact; I don’t know that a good argument could be built from the ground up in favor of ghosting. Is writing simply another form of labor which one sells to another, thereby transferring rights to another, or is there something distinct about writing or other forms of creativity?

    Pssssshhhht, I don’t know. I do know that if I didn’t need the money I wouldn’t do it—which leads me to the obvious next point that if this isn’t terrible, it ain’t exactly praiseworthy, either.

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