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When is a ghostwriter too famous to be a ghostwriter?

Jonny Diamond

January 25, 2023, 10:17am

Do you know the name J.R. Moehringer? Even if you don’t, I can guarantee you’ve heard of the books he’s written: maybe Open, Andre Agassi’s memoir? Or how about Shoe Dog, with legendary Nike founder Phil Knight? No? Ok, fine. J.R. Moehringer is the ghostwriter for Prince Harry’s Spare, and you’ve definitely heard of that.

This also means that we have Moehringer partly to blame for one of the weirdest passages in contemporary literature, in which Harry rubs restorative cream on his frostbitten “todger” and is immediately reminded of his dead mother.

Moehringer’s job as Prince Harry’s memory-whisperer has seen the elite-level ghostwriter instantiated as a real boy, out from the shadows and into the light. Since the blockbuster memoir was published two weeks ago, there have been numerous profiles outing the Pulitzer Prize-winning former journalist, most of which ask and then answer the question: Who is J.R. Moehringer?

Well, he was born in NYC in 1964, was a scholarship kid at Yale, and won that Pulitzer Prize in 2000 for an LA Times feature about “an isolated river community in Alabama populated by the descendants of slaves”; he once wrote a piece in the voice of Cheeta, Tarzan’s chimp sidekick; when Andre Agassi suggested his name go on the cover of Open Moehringer declined; his memoir, The Tender Bar, was turned into a movie by George Clooney; he wrote a novel in 2012 about the bank robber Willie Sutton, called Sutton

It’s not like Moehringer has had an obscure writing career, but it seems like the publication of Spare—and the attendant publicity that has seen his name splashed everywhere—might finally exorcize the “ghost” from ghostwriter.

I mean, does Alex Rodriguez even know that three of his five favorite books were written by Moehringer? Maybe, at this point, he should.

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