Sunday, May 18, 2008

Reading between the Blurbs

I find dust-jacket blurbs seductive, if often misleading. My favorites are the ones that don’t even offer proof that the reviewer has read the book (“a remarkable achievement”). Being no insider to the publication biz, I’ve had to work out my own method of decoding the blurbs (mainly I just try to trust authors I’ve liked in the past who have somehow been commandeered into writing the blurb).

“ambitious” = interminable

“charming” = British

“decadent” = gay (with a lot more sex than the reviewer feels comfortable with)

“flamboyant” = gay (but no sex)

“groundbreaking” = dated or soon to be

“height of her/his literary powers” = will vaguely remind you of bits you liked in the author’s previous work

“inspiring” = badly written

“instant classic” = trendy

“luminescent” = previously published in The New Yorker

“lyrical” = you’ll have a hard time following the plot

“magnum opus” = unreadable

“mesmerizing” = soporific

“page turner” = just read the ending

“promising new talent” = not quite there yet

“raucous” = written before 1975

“sensitive” = gay (with a little sex)

“satisfying” = predictable

“shimmering” = likely to contain the word “shimmer” (or “glint” or even “glister”)

“sumptuous” = overwritten

“towering achievement” = daunting, with little or no payoff

“unique” = not one of the author’s best efforts

“vastly entertaining” = you won’t have to think at all

“whimsical” = really really dumb

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