The Absurd World of Book Blurbs

A friend and I used to play a joke in our fourth grade English class: We’d come up with the most outlandish blurbs we could think of for our various short stories and “books” we were writing. We were both amused at the absurdity of blurbs we’d read on books, so we’d get a laugh at seeing which of us could one-up the hyperbole. Ah, the good old days…

I’ve been thinking about book blurbs as I ponder the back jacket of Infinite Jest, which has a set of quotes which brim with originality:

Infinite Jest is a magnum opus — about American need, about addiction, about loss, about yearning, and about the ways that a millennial consumer cultural edifice tries to placate these longings. The canvas here is as large as the culture it affectionately skewers, and the prose is as hair-raising as a fifth-set tiebreaker. David Foster Wallace re-imagines the novel in Infinite Jest, and finds it, anew, a grand, monstrous, powerful thing.
– Rick MoodyInfinite Jest seems to fulfill every promise that DFW displayed in his precocious and stunning The Broom of the System. If you want to know who’s upholding the high comic tradition — passed down from Sterne to Swift to Pynchon — it’s Wallace. The book has a lot of tennis in it, but the phrase that leaps to mind comes straight from the NBA: “He’s the man, he’s the man!”
– Jeffrey Eugenides

Here is proof that the American novel can still engage with contemporary culture both broadly and deeply, can still run rings around the competing media, and can still attract the greatest talents of the day. Infinite Jest is a spectacular achievement: addictive in its comedy and endless invention, detoxifying in its profound, clearheaded sadness.
– Jonathan Franzen

In this article on the “reckless art of book blurbing,” Dave Eggers’ review of the book Adverbs made me laugh aloud:

Adverbs describes adolescence, friendship, and love with such freshness and power that you feel drunk and beaten up, but still want to leave your own world and enter the one Handler’s created. Anyone who lives to read gorgeous writing will want to lick this book and sleep with it between their legs.

Here are the blurbs for my book. Unfortunately, no one yet has said they want to sleep with my book in between their legs.

Here’s my blurb on the back cover of Robert Townsend’s book Up the Organization which got re-published in a commemorative edition. In an act of extraordinary oversight, my blurb is next to Tom Peters and Warren Bennis:

Townsend proves that the best business wisdom is timeless. In an era filled with business buzzwords and ethical misdirections, Townsend’s bluntness makes for refreshing and hilarious reading for the next crop of CEOs.

Have you spotted any notably funny blurbs recently?

2 comments on “The Absurd World of Book Blurbs
  • The blurbs for Infinite Jest are better samples of writing than the actual passages you quoted from the book, although I would say the fellows who wrote them are deluded.;-)

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