Obsolescence Week: book blurbs

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OK, book blurbs aren't obsolete. But they should be.

A recent piece in the New York Times titled "‘Riveting!': The Quandary of the Book Blurb" asked: Do book blurbs serve readers? Do they help writers?

Stephen King: "One thing I'd never do is blurb a book just because a friend wrote it. That's the road to hell."

Bill Morris: "They're a bit like the vermouth in a martini: can't do any harm, might do some good, so let's have it."

Pulling random books from the shelves of my office, we find:

"A fascinating and gripping story!"

"A multilayered, complex novel that pulls no punches. Terrific!"

"Comical, absurd, bittersweet, and simply a joy to read. Highly recommended."

"Both high literature and accessible genre fiction. Seize it! Read it! Cherish it!"

"Make no mistake. This is a great book."

"An exceptionally smart and likeable first novel that tries valiantly to ransom beauty from its commercial captors." (OK, this is Jonathan Franzen on Alex Shakar's The Savage Girl, so I bet this exceptionally smart and likable blurb helped sell some books.)

""The real deal; a sharp, acerbic, and compelling storyteller with a knack for the macabre."

But this last one I completely endorse: it's Stephen King himself on Chicago-based thriller writer Gillian Flynn.

Still, I say it's time to retire the fellow-author-provided book blurb. Often it's just log rolling (definition one here).

More Obsolescence Week on the Bleader.

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