It sounds silly, not to be rude, but as the author of 40 books, give or take, I rarely read blurbs. I can’t stand it. I love stories and I’m afraid of being spoiled. There are no obvious clues or killers that are clearly marked so I try to figure them out as I read. I don’t look ahead to the end. One of the great pleasures of books (and life, more or less the same thing) is to be happy.
I vaguely read Karen Jay Fowler’s superb blurb We are all in our own place, who provided a (beautiful) twist on the first line. I can’t be the only person leading the charge, as the blurb on the new edition reads:
Rosemary is young, just in college, and has decided not to tell anything about her family. Therefore, we will not tell you much: you must see for yourselves, around page 77, what makes his family uncomfortable with others.
And I look at the instructions, making sure that no one uses my big book – the ‘limpid prose’ means ‘the great lyrical power of description’ is one. I looked at a novel where a famous person, apparently under pressure from publishers, said: ‘This is a story, well told’ – that is, one might think to something small.
As for my own puzzles, years ago I wrote myself as ‘Dear Reader’, before what Louise Willder called the ‘Innocentification’ of the world (after the smoothie), and trying to communicate without looking like the toilet talks to you on a Virgin train.
None of this detracts from the fun and beauty of this book, and I consider myself in a good school, and feel more than capable of leaving the blurbing in the best professional hands. of Little, Brown.
Willder’s intention is to re-establish the blurb as a low and difficult form of writing … a low-key piece, better than a sonnet, but just as accurate’, in the words of the author Italian writer and publisher Roberto Calasso. No less a writer than Iris Murdoch considered blurbs ‘a form of small art’. Roger McGough used his publisher to keep his. And Richard Adams, he hated her so much, but not as much as Jeanette Winterson, who hated her latest hits so much that she took a picture of him burning the books they decorated. – a work that has received a lot of publicity. a blurbs have been changed. He is a genius in many ways.
This book is full of fun stuff and books. There’s good advice on whether or not to swear in the blurbs (unless you’re a ‘smart cat’); if you preach Jesus (even for books very close to Jesus), and examples of some of the world’s worst blurbs, my favorite being Frank Herbert’s (terrific) Dunestarting with:
When the Emperor transferred control of Arrakis from House Harkonnen to House Atreides, the Harkonnens fought back, killing Duke Leto Atreides. Paul, his son, and Lady Jessica, his concubine, flee to the desert. On the verge of death, they were rescued by the Fremen, who control Arrakis’ second greatest treasure: giant worms…
Ah, the secondgreat value.
Then there are children’s books:
Meet Dave. Caveman Dave.
Dave lives in the cave.
Dave’s cave holy
But Dave is not happy…
Dave likes it again measures
According to Willder, this is not a great way to set tone, mood, time and atmosphere in less than 20 words; it also sums up the human condition. And try to find a book kid who can’t finish by heart the music that graces the background of Susan Cooper’s seminal. Darkness Rises:
When darkness comes, six turn back…
There are crime, love and erotica puzzles, as well as material for fiction, in a winning chapter called ‘Go and go if you think you’re hard’. It’s a funny joke. In every monochrome dress, Willder complains, there is a writer at “the height of their power”, asking the question, is it down to the bottom, or is it everything and they wrote before some crap?’ And why is everything so ‘liminal’ these days?
Whenever blurbistas write copy for fiction, he explains, they try hard to include as much of the story as possible, which is what readers are looking for. Praised forMilkman by Anna Burns, whose cover reads: ‘It’s a story of inaction, with great consequences’ – a fine piece of blurbing cakeism. Willder didn’t like the blurb for Thomas Pynchon Gravity’s rainbow – ‘We can tell you the year is 1944 and the bombs are falling across Europe, but that doesn’t really begin to cover it’ – for wondering if you, the reader, are looking for a plan, a ‘bit basic’; but he wonders if it matters, since the only thing you read is telling others what you’ve read.
Even with bad things, sometimes the good will take your breath away. How good is the blurb for Hallie Rubenhold The Fifth Does it tell you exactly what the book is about?
POLLY, ANNIE, ELIZABETH, CATHERINE and MARY JANE are famous for the same thing, although they never met.
They come from Fleet Street, Knightsbridge, Wolverhampton, Sweden and Wales.
They wrote novels, ran coffee houses, lived in country estates, breathed ink dust from printing presses and escaped traffickers.
The year of their murder: 1888.
If you can’t immediately step right into the world of this book, it’s hard to see what will happen next.
The first book of The great gatsby in 1925 the line: ‘[This novel]… it is introduced with a strange idea of what it means to be human in the universe.’ My personal favorite is the combination of author and copywriter to grace Andrew Hankinson’s. You can do something amazing with your life [You are Raoul Moat]:
Another letter arrives. You had an appointment with a clinical psychologist on April 29, 2008.
You don’t go.
Another letter arrives. They said they won’t reset the options, but they know it’s hard for you, so they’re giving you another chance. Dated May 13, 2008.
You don’t go.
Two years later you shoot three people and shoot yourself. You will be called a monster. You will be called ugly. The prime minister, David Cameron, will stand in parliament and say you are a murderer, end of story. Nine days and the rest of your life to prove you’re better than a killer.
Willder takes interesting detours along the way, following the things about publishing that he loves. You may have noticed, for example, the sexy features in it Lace (especially that memorable goldfish) was not written by Shirley Conran, but by Celia Brayfield, and they fell for it for years? Or the word ‘bumf’ comes from ‘bum fodder’, as in the past in a world where books are sold in bulk, the things you don’t want to keep are recycled by like toilet paper? Or that in the mid-1500s there were eight million books in print, just like the explosion of web pages?
There is something funny, famous or scary on every page of Blurb your interest. Some books just melt into your life like old friends. This is one of them./>