From Wikipedia: "The concept of a 'brief statement praising a literary product' dates back to medieval literature of Egypt from the 14th century. The concept was known as taqriz in medieval Arabic literature." From medieval Arabic literature to God’s ears.
Movie blurbs are laughable—there are so many “best” movies of the year according to blurbs, Oscar ballots could be bound books rather than short lists.
As for fiction, I once heard an author—a good writer—at a reading—state he didn’t have time to read the books he blurbed. Maybe he was being flip?
The Future Is Happy is a first book. The fact that four poets were willing to link their names with mine made my present happy.
I don’t know that blurbs are necessarily useful or even necessary in helping me select books I like. Even if admired and beloved John Ashbery or Rita Dove recommend a book I’m not necessarily going to buy or like it. Taste is individual.
An acquaintance commented, on a social networking site, “Attention poetry publishers: when sending promo for a new book, don't even bother sending blurbs. Blurbs are bullshit and everyone knows it. Send sample poems and some kind of description. Really. A movie trailer shows scenes from a movie, right? Common sense. And poetry books are way more expensive than movie tix.”
My reaction was immediate and kneejerk, not to the sentiment (such as it is) but to the sweeping generalization. “Blurbs are bullshit and everyone knows it.” Are they? They reveal writing quality of the blurber at the very least, but also can convey a sense of WHY someone liked the book. Even briefer, they give a sense of the book.
This same poet added, “I just think it's a stupid custom, largely unquestioned although everyone I know mocks them.” EVERYONE?
Anyway. I'm not a total idiot. Every field is fixed at times by which I mean, some poets write praise they don't mean. I have read stupid blurbs of generic praise. I have doubted some poets ever internalized Camp Fire Girl, Girl Scout or Boy Scout codes of honesty.
You know. I was going to write my reaction to the blurbs on my book but realized I would be blurbing the blurbs which might invite another blogger to blurb the blurbs of my blurbs. Search on the BlazeVOX [books] catalog for a blurb written by one Sarah Sarai (for Charles Freeland’s Eros & (Fill in the Blank).
And, ta-dah, here are mine:
Buy The Future Is Happy from Amazon or Small Press Distribution.
Links to reviews are HERE!
See also: Polonius on Acid (re: art of the blurb)