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Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Alison Flood, in a post to the Guardian Books Blog, is having a lot of fun with what must be the most over-written book blurb ever composed.

For those not in the know, it is common for publishers to solicit pre-publication comments for new books, particularly if the writer is a first-time author for that house.  The comment is supposed to be short as well as laudatory (a dozen words is ideal), and is printed on the back of the jacket, or at the bottom of the book description on the flap.  A very good example is the blurb that was written for Tupaia by celebrated nonfiction writer Eric Jay Dolin (Leviathan, Fur, Fortune, and Empire), which reads: 

"Joan Druett’s wonderful and captivating book vividly brings to life the fascinating contributions of an amazing explorer and cultural ambassador, Tupaia, who for too long has been relegated to the shadows of history. And in the process, she puts a well-deserved dent in the legend of Captain James Cook."

See what I mean?  Short, succinct, enticing, and eminently quotable.  It is exactly what the publisher wanted, and warms the cockles of the author's heart, too.  Nothing over the top, here.

Well, on the Guardian blog they are laughing about the blurb written by novelist Nicole Kraus for the latest novel by the much-decorated David Grossman, To the End of the LandNot only is it over 130 words long, but it is embarrassingly effusive.  "Vary rarely, a few times in a lifetime, you open a book and when you close it again nothing can ever be the same," she begins.  "Walls have been pulled down, barriers broken, a dimension of feeling, of existence itself, has opened in you that was not there before." 

Grossman is "the most gifted writer" she has ever read, she goes on to aver, and not just because he is imaginative, energetic, and original, but also "because he has access to the unutterable, because he can look inside a person and discover the unique essence of her humanity." 

If only Herman Melville had received a blurb like that for Moby-Dick, we might not have taken so many years to discover that it is a classic . . . or maybe not.  Does this quotation from this massive blurb make you want to read the book?  Or avoid it at all costs?  Now, there's a hot subject for debate!

The Guardian blog invites you to write a similar blurb for The Da Vinci Code.  To take up the challenge, click the link.  If you don't want to take up the challenge, still click the link.  Some of the entries are very funny.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I read many of the Dan Brown mock-blurbs, and enjoyed the ones that I understood (I am more at home with a manual about tuning carburettors than with works of literature). Although that challenge is long over, I just wonder whether it is necessary to have read the whole book, part of the book, or just looked at the cover, before writing any blurb?