Blurbs

I’ve got blurbs on the brain. Not only am I seeing more and more via review copies in my mailbox, but several recent articles have riffed on the subject. The new Bookforum offers “Blurbs for Goops,” by Nick Tosches; it’s an odd piece. Then today at The Book Standard there’s “Enough About Me #3: In Which the Author Fights Insomnia by Writing a Blurb,” by Adam Langer. Langer writes: “The cynic in me has always read blurbs with a sensibility borrowed from Mad Magazine: ‘When they say ‚Äòambitious,‚Äô they really mean ‚ÄòI didn‚Äôt finish the damn thing.‚Äô‚Äù

I’ve certainly become more cynical with the increase in book-reviewing. Just tonight I finished my review of Sam Lipsyte’s "Home Land,” which Gary Shteyngart calls “genius.” Um, maybe a bit much. I really liked Shteyngart’s first novel – even bought it for my cousin in the xmas gift swap – and he was very funny and lively and smart on “Fresh Air”; but how you can call Lipsyte’s book “genius” is beyond me. (Update: You can read my review here.) Anyway, the talk of blurbs had me circling my room-divider bookshelf tonight, pulling down some memorable ones. Below are ten; care to guess the books before clicking the source?

10. “She once again takes on the impossible, plunging into her obsessions with passion, a verbal street fighter in the back alley of the greatest human mystery.” ~ Atlanta Journal-Constitution

9. “At last, a defiant life that does not end in bathos, drugs, or stacks of old newspapers, one that draws its distinction from, and ends up as, art.” ~ James Salter

8. “This is just the book to give your sister if she’s a loud, dirty, boozy girl!” ~ Dylan Thomas

7. “A book that’s like being able to have lunch with the part of you that dreams at night.” ~ David Foster Wallace

6. “There are good books and there are great books and there may be a book that is something still more: it is the book of your life.” ~ Brad Leithauser

5. “The most magnificent novel I have ever read, and one to which I return to again and again.” ~ C.D.B Bryan, New York Times Book Review

4. “Can be read as a writer’s notebook, a family chronicle, a brutally honest autobiography, and almost an unfinished novel.” ~ The New York Times

3.
“These are desperately radiant poems, a gift of lucidity from the depths of a blasted life.” ~ William Kennedy

2. “The book reads like a conflation of the 'Inferno,’ the 'Iliad,’ and 'Moby-Dick’…an extraordinary, breathtaking achievement.” ~ John Banville, The Independent

1. “[He] writes brilliantly: aphorisms, lists, curses, metaphors so baroque they have plots. He pours sentences like a Bethlehem foundry in the good old days. They make molten music that hisses everything from bawdy ditties to romantic opera.” ~ Will Blythe, Esquire

[or]

“Surely at least once per page, I leaned back in my chair and felt that opiated dilation of the senses, that vicious surplus, that glowworm flash of being that I can get only from language affixed to the page, and then only when a master has affixed it there.” ~ Sven Birkerts, Atlantic