Suspend Your Disbelief

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99 problems but a blurb ain't one


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There’s an art to book blurbing, as anyone who’s tried to write one can tell you. Over at the Kenyon Review, Jake Adam York takes a stab at classifying them. For example, there’s the “Lavish” type:

The genre of the recommendation letter, a friend once observed, is hyperbole. Everything has to be stated in the superlative, so one reads for degrees of overstatement, hyper- and hypo-hyperbole, becoming a progressively more sensitive seismograph, searching out quavers and tremors or microscopic proportion.

The blurb is a clear cousin or sibling, at least in the most common form in which sparrows of adjectives crossbreed with surprising frequency, occasionally to be found perching with monikers and epithets (the good kind). […]

And then there’s the “Tag Team (Inheritance)” type:

Sometimes a book has a single blurb—one blurb—on the back. I’ve got two examples on hand that suggest a kind of handoff, with the blurb evidencing a kinship, with an elder poet authorizing the younger, or placing the poet within a particular community or lineage. These blurbs are kin to the Maps and Legends blurbs, telling us something about how we’ll read the book or more precisely how we’ll value or understand the value of what we’ve just read.

By far my favorite, though, is one that has not yet come to pass: the hip-hop lyric blurb, as imagined by Rebecca Joines Schinsky at Book Riot:

Any Victorian novel ever:
“Have you ever met a girl that you’re tryin’ to date, but a year to make love she wanted you to wait?” (“Just A Friend” by Biz Markie)

The Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis:
“I got bitches in the living room getting it on, and they ain’t leaving til six in the morning.” (“Gin and Juice” by Snoop Dogg)

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien:
Now this is a story all about how my life got flip-turned upside down. (“The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” by DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince)

Just imagine the possibilities.


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Join the Discussion

  • Thanks so much for linking to the Book Riot piece, and OMG, how much do I wish I’d thought of “99 Problems But a Blurb Ain’t One” for the title? So awesome.

  • Celeste Ng

    Rebecca, it was our pleasure! I *loved* your idea, and we’re big fans of BookRiot over here. (And glad you liked the title, too!)

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