Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Book Blurbs

It’s pretty much a given that, these days, anybody who finds themselves purchasing a book on the poetic strength or authorship of its dustcover blurbs is not the sort of person you would trust to, say, drive a train, or babysit your children (unless your children are McCain pizza pockets, and you want them warmed up in the microwave and ready to eat when you stagger home drunk from the opera), or fall asleep at night without drowning in their own sputum.

Andre Mayer agrees, and has written a fine little article on the reckless art of book blurbing (Dave Eggers is in there, the little cunt). Book blurbs by other authors are nothing but literary back-scratching (Who knows when the upstart writer you condescendingly call “the next big thing” will actually become the next big thing, rendering his blurb on your new book more valuable than your blurb on their old book?), and even professional reviews (if such a thing existed) can be manipulated as easily as a little crippled girl with Down syndrome and pipe cleaners for limbs. Not that it matters, because these days you’ll have a hard time finding a negative review of a book in a newspaper – the literary cognoscenti, desperate to maintain (or indeed establish) relevance, prefer to hedge their bets by spoofing equally over every new release, because eventually something that they pretend to believe to be brilliant will achieve mass appeal, or, even rarer, will actually be brilliant.

Dustcover blurbs by other authors are a strange beast for another reason: they tacitly suggest that the blurber is a wiser authority, and a greater writer, than the blurbee. A big-name author giving the thumbs up to a small-time novice is something guaranteed to shift a few units, whereas a nobody telling you how fantastic something is is hardly going to inspire you to drop what you’re doing and make haste to the nearest A&R. Problem is, big-name authors become big-name authors because they have mass appeal, which, more often than not (the masses being what they are), means that they either already suck, or are going to start sucking with their next release. People who suck telling you to buy shit you don’t care about is a recipe for widespread stupefaction.

Anyway, the only reason I started in on this piece is because I wanted to try my hand at some book blurbs. Exactly like Thus Quote The Maven, More Fake Reviews, and More More Fake Reviews, except with sufficient distance between posts with identical conceits that hopefully you'll have forgotten about the others and think this clever and original.

Submit your own for fabulous prizes!

“A book so good that, were it a woman, you would have to observe her from a distance, perhaps hidden by some shrubbery, carefully memorising the usual route she takes home from work, plus other particulars, such as the code to her building, and then, one evening just as she is fresh and pink and scrubbed, emerging warm from the shower and preparing for bed, you leap from the cupboard, bind her hands and feet, and repeatedly rape her. And you can't keep something this wonderful to yourself, so you've told some buddies, and they're there too."

“An hallucinatory experience, with sentences so dazzling and unique, and a style so very fresh and warm and beautiful that, if you’re anything like me, you’ll probably shit your pants and not even notice it until hours later when your wife gets home and she screams at you OH MY GOD WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT SMELL HAVE YOU SHIT YOURSELF AGAIN, YOU HORRID LITTLE PRICK?”

“Reading this book, I came so often, and so hard, that I paralysed myself, and my body was not discovered for weeks, having died from a combination of starvation and testicular infection, but with a blissful smile on my face, and a song in my heart.”

“This is the book that would have stopped Hitler.”

“A heady read, and lovely, and exciting, like the first time you broke into your father’s ‘secret chest’, and found his booze and kiddie porn.”


At 5:30 AM, Blogger Ben.H said...

I'm sorry, but nothing can beat this classic blurb for Dorothy L. Sayers' Clouds of Witness:

"When little Betty Macdree says that she has been interfered with, her mother at first laughs. It is only something that the kiddy has picked up from the television. But when sorting through the laundry Mrs Macdree discovers that a new pair of knickers are missing. On being questioned, Betty bursts into tears. Mrs Macdree takes her down to the police station and to everyone's surprise the little girl identifies Police Constable Brenda Coolidge as her attacker. Brenda, a new recruit, denies everything. A search is made of the women's barracks. What is found is a seven inch phallus and a pair of knickers of the kind worn by Betty. All looks black for kindly P.C. Coolidge. What can she do? This is one of the most enthralling stories ever written by Miss Sayers. It is the only one where the murder weapon is concealed not for reasons of fear but for reasons of decency. Read this behind closed doors... and have a good shit while you're reading it!"

A bit rough that it landed Joe Orton in prison for a six-month stretch.


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