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I have confession to make: I hate blurbs. Or synopsises (but I prefer the word ‘blurb’ – it makes an interesting phonetic sound, try it). 9.9 times out of 10, the reading of one makes me put down the book instead of carrying it to the counter of my over-priced bookstore.
You may be staring in abject horror at the screen. Or you may be preparing to begin a slow clap. Don’t do either. Or, at least, not until you reach the end of this post.
Recently confined to my bed, I decided to categorise the different types of blurbs:
- The good ones. These are extremely rare.
- The badly written, cliché ones. They often mirror the badly written, cliché books, but not always. Unfortunately, I never know, as I rarely open the book after being subjected to one of these babies. I do, however, enjoy dramatically reading romance book blurbs out loud. It’s an excellent pick-me-up.
- The overly detailed ones. These give away the entire story, and not just because the plot is unoriginal. Personally, I like to blame the designers for leaving far too much space on the back (or side-cover) of a book, but I’m not 100% sure why this still happens in the Twitter era.
- The minimalistic ones. These are comprised of one or two short sentences. Hint: unless the book is part of the Harry Potter series, there is no way I would know enough about it to be swayed by your mysterious copywriting.
- The praise-instead-of-a-blurb ones. These piss me off the most. Look, I don’t care if the book is by Cormac McCarthy, I just want to know what it’s about. Is that too much to ask?!
This last category makes me want to call up the publisher and tell them they’re pretentious douchebags. Particularly when, upon opening the book in the hopes that there’s more information inside, one encounters another three pages of praise. It’s annoying, is what it is, and no one believes it do they? Do they?
I mean, there’s no telling if you have the same taste as a gushing reviewer. What’s more, who says the gushing reviewer actually gushed in their review? They could have listed all the ways in which the book was the equivalent of reading a seven-year-old kid’s grammar homework, but you can be sure the publisher would have picked out some innocuous phrases for their self-aggrandising glory party.
What about the motivations of the reviewers? Maybe they aspire to their review being published, or maybe they just don’t have the balls to say a book is crap? All this nonsense about “Oh, but they put soooo much effort into writing it.” Look, there’s no participation trophies in writing; plenty of people try hard at things and continue being bad at them.
Which leads us to the crux: I don’t give a rat’s ass how many people like the book. I just want to know if I’ll like it. Is that too much to ask?
So, as usual, Wikipedia is my saviour. No more wading through gimmicky blurbs and untrustworthy praise – when I’m deciding which book to read next on my list, I use Wikipedia. In one nifty sentence, I learn what the book’s about and can, using complex scientific reasoning, figure out if I’ll read it now, or continue procrastinating well into the future (I’m looking at you, Sense and Sensibility).
Are there any types of blurbs I’m missing here, or any suggestions for avoiding the tentacled blurb-monster? Sympathy? Cough medicine?
Edit: This article has now been published over at Aidy’s Poetry.