A lot of books are written by ghostwriters. This typically happens when the person being written about is incredibly busy or is simply not a writer. Ghostwriters are meant to convey the essence of their subject. It is not a pure transcription of the words being said, but rather a formalized version of the beliefs and characteristics that are important to the subject.
Fundamentally, the belief is that the ghostwriter is approaching the topic with a kind of non-biased look. As readers, we want the book to be accurate, not just some fluff piece. And this is why what happened between Trump and his ghostwriter is unsettling, because it’s created doubt regarding the profession as a whole.
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If you don’t already know, Donald Trump’s ghostwriter, Tony Schwartz, recently announced that he, “put lipstick on a pig” and he “feel[s] deep remorse” for what he has done. In other words, Schwartz regrets painting Trump in a positive light at all. While writing The Art of the Deal, Schwartz said that Trump was “a farce of fumbling and bumbling.” If you read his book, however, this version of Trump is nowhere to be found.
The fact that Schwartz was self-admittedly dishonest about his work forces us to reconsider other memoirs written for powerful and famous people. For exmaple Hillary Clinton’s Hard Choices was written by a team of writers. Many people saw that book as brilliant insight to the world of a powerful woman in government. If somebody as well respected as Schwartz is susceptible to the charms of Donald Trump, how many other ghostwriters have fallen into the same trap?
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Some argue that ghostwriting is about simply conveying what the subject is trying to say instead of what they are actually saying. If a moral can be taken from an otherwise unlikeable character, maybe it’s worth distorting the actual views of the subject.
The interesting note here is that The Art of the Deal is actually a pretty good book. More than likely the only reason why it succeeded is because Schwartz is a talented writer who is able to take some off-putting or offensive notions and turn them into something of quality. Because of Schwart’s good wrtiting, he has made the man he has low opinions of look brilliant. This should be a wakeup call for all ghostwriters: be careful who you endorse, they may want to deport you one day.
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