I like reading the blurbs on the backs of books. Maybe I shouldn't:
The most prominent authors are inundated with manuscripts [to blurb], far more than they can ever read, especially if they hope to get on with their real job -- which is, of course, writing their own books. Many have adopted a blanket no-blurb policy, and most of these will at least occasionally wind up departing from that policy, usually for personal reasons. They might do it for a good friend or a former student, or as a favor to their editor or agent.
So when publishing people look at the lineup of testimonials on the back of a new hardcover, they don't see hints as to what the book they're holding might be like. Instead, they see evidence of who the author knows, the influence of his or her agent, and which MFA program in creative writing he or she attended. In other words, blurbs are a product of all the stuff people claim to hate about publishing: its cliquishness and insularity.
The context here is an incredibly overwrought blurb from an author, Nicole Krauss, whom I like very much. I'm not actually sure I'd want to read a book if the experience is akin to "hav[ing] yourself taken apart, undone, touched at the place of your own essence." By contrast, Krauss's "A History of Love" is just a very good novel that doesn't go groping around in your essence. Recommended.
July 13, 2010; 4:08 PM ET
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