31 July 2006

Can you Blurb my Blog?

“NOW WHAT explodes the blogosphere like a runaway comet attacking the dinosaurs at the dawn of mammal time. It’s an otherworldly rocket ride through the terrain of innovative publishing—a spinal tap for the dull consumerist spinal cord—an all-encompassing Whitman-esque embrace, that, like the godfather of American poetry—takes everything in and leaves nothing to chance. NOW WHAT is the heir to H.L. Mencken, Martin Luther, and Soupy Sales. Slip on a hand puppet, nail your complaints to the door, and enjoy this endlessly delightful show.”


I was struck by a recent discussion in the most recent American Book Review (27.5) between Joe Tabbi and R.M. Berry, regarding Tabbi’s review of Berry’s great novel Frank. There is much to the exchange between the two authors, but one point involves Tabbi’s worry that innovative authors and publishers sometimes claim a secret knowledge of the world, beyond the perception of the average reader; one implication is that such claims may be a type of marketing hyperbole.

I wonder if those on this blog, contributors and readers, have any thoughts about book blurbs. You know, those little parcels of often-outrageous praise we solicit and write for the back covers of new books.

Do blurbs tells us anything useful about a text or a writer—or, like many letters of recommendation in higher education—are there only differing degrees of extreme plaudits? Do any of you have evidence that authors have not read books to which they contribute blurbs? What are you blurbing habits? [BONUS: Can you write the best possible NOW WHAT blurb?] There's an entire publicity system at work that we have yet to discuss.

Of course, feel free to respond anonymously. And it is rare, if not unheard of, to be asked to blurb anonymously.