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A Brief History of Book Blurbs

Chabon. Obreht. Franzen. McCann. Egan. Brooks. Foer. Lethem. Eggers. Russo.

Possible hosts for Bravo’s America’s Next Top Novelist? Dream hires for the Iowa Writers’ Workshop?

cover Nope — just the “Murderer’s Row” of advance blurbers featured on the back of Nathan Englander’s new effort, What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank. And what an effort it must be: “Utterly haunting. Like Faulkner [Russo] it tells the tangled truth of life [Chabon], and you can hear Englander’s heart thumping feverishly on every page [Eggers].”

As I marvel at the work of Knopf’s publicity department, I can’t help but feel a little ill. And put off. Who cares? Shouldn’t the back of a book just have a short summary? Isn’t this undignified? But answering these questions responsibly demands more than the reflexive rage of an offended aesthete (Nobody cares! Yes! Yes!). It demands, I think, the level-headed perspective of a blurb-historian…

 

The Millions : I Greet You in the Middle of a Great Career: A Brief History of Blurbs.

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