Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Suspicious of blurbs

I am planning an early summer road trip to Newfoundland and bought a travel guide this weekend. On the back are all the required blurbs from professional travel book tester-outers touting the indispensability of this particular guide. Hey, how do I get that job? I wanna be a tester-outer. "Hi I'm Jennifer and I'm a Nationally Certified Tester-Outer. Here's my card. I'll test whatever you want and create a blurb for your advertising purposes. Rhyming, humor and whimsy cost extra."

Anyway, I'm suspicious of blurbs. Unfortunately most trade paperbacks these days have a million blurbs spewed across the first several pages and usually on the back too. If the book really wows me, I find the blurbs offensive. Like I need to be told by someone at Newsweek that this author is brilliant! If the book sucks, then I find the blurbs humorous, often going back to read them over again for a laugh. Blurbs need lots of adjectives, the more superlative the better and lots of commas, too. I think book reviewers are repressed writers anxiously awaiting the release of paperbacks hoping to see their overworked phrases of gushing praise in the blurb section. Often their names are not even included, just the source of the quote. For example, a blurb from one of my all time favorite books, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Foer: "Magnificent...a triumph for literature itself." Buffalo News. What the hell does that sentence-like group of words actually mean? Nothing! Did the reviewer from the Buffalo News feel woozy with excitement at finally getting published in a paperback blurb section? Did she tell all her friends and family? I always wonder what words the ellipses replace in the blurbs. Who edits them? There must be a person who's job it is to sift through all the reviews, choose the loftiest of them all and then edit them down to a couple lines. Weird. Another job possibility for me?

Your homework: Pour yourself a beer, some wine, a shot of Jaegermeister if it's all you've got. Find a paperback in your house. See if it has reviewer blurbs. Read them. Pick two of the most over-the-top. Read them out loud in a fawning, gushing kind of voice. Think about all the nameless, faceless book reviewers who write this crap and raise a toast to them.

Anyway, my book about Newfoundland has a blurb on the back that promises "Highly recommended-jam packed with useful information". I am disappointed to report that I have not found a single bit of jam in this book. Maybe I just haven't gotten to that chapter yet.

1 comment:

  1. It took us a few weeks, but Melissa and I determined your next job should be at King Arthur Flour as the "chief bread inspector."

    Then you should check to see if the Cheese Cave is on the market, and you'll be living in style.

    Best career ever.