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?
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.
As publishers, we love getting good blurbs for our authors. At their most basic, they’re a simple marketing tool: for readers not familiar with an author, seeing a quote from another author they’re familiar with offers a way into a world they might not have exposed themselves to otherwise.
But there’s a trick to getting blurbs. It involves fostering the right relationships, leveraging contacts, calling in favors, and sometimes just plain extortion. Often enough, savvy readers understand this and no doubt many of them resist blurbs for just this reason.
Here is Mark Jude Poirier on blurbs:
A blurb from an author I actually know and dislike on a personal level—usually based on their abhorrent behavior in graduate school—means I will turn the book backward on the shelf in the bookstore or hide it under a stack of Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue.