Sunday, April 29, 2007

"Literary Misblurbing"

The NY Times Sunday Book Review has an interesting article called "Literary Misblurbing" this week. Here's one example of what has always been common in movie advertising and seems to be happening more and more in book ads:
Such an admission might earn a jaundiced laugh from Jonathan Yardley of The Washington Post, whose 1982 pan of Shirley Conran’s “Lace” — what Yardley called a “schlock novel” written with “transparent and exquisite cynicism” — contained the following sentences: “Conran knows all the names, brand and otherwise, and she certainly knows where and when to drop them. ‘Lace’ doesn’t sink under the weight of them, it soars — right up into the same stratosphere where you’ll find ‘Valley of the Dolls’ and ‘Scruples.’ ” Sleepily pawing through the newspapers after the review ran, he was startled to come across an advertisement for the novel emblazoned with the following testimonial: “ ‘It soars!’ — Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post.”
The rest of the article is filled with similar "misblurbs" created by publishers and authors who seem to have little shame when it comes to misleading the public. Self-policing has obviously failed to curb this less than honest (and insulting) trend.

12 comments:

  1. I love the new word--"misblurb"!

    They do it for movies, too--it's openly ridiculed, yet it continues...

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  2. The do the same over here with theatre reviews. Despicable.

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  3. It's ridiculous, Jill, and even after having read the article I can't believe that they are allowed to get away with the practice.

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  4. "Misblurb" seems to "gentle" a word for the sneakiness involved, gentle reader...had to add it to my spell check data base in case I want to use it again. :-)

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  5. Nick, "aware" readers and movie fans are likely to see through the dishonesty of the clips, but the ads likely manage to fool more people than not. But as long as everyone keeps laughing it off, as even those quoted tend to do, it will be allowed to go on unchecked. It would seem that there would be some protection from the basic copyright laws but I guess it's just too expensive and time consuming for anyone to take it on...it must mean that lawyers don't see any profit to be made or they would be all over this thing.

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  6. Taking things out of context is a time-honored tradition. Unfortunately. I never put any faith in blurbs like that anyway. I like to judge for myself or read reviews in their entirety.

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  7. That's sort of the problem, Matt. It's been done so long and with so little regard for the truth that it's become acceptable as well as traditional. I agree that most avid readers won't be fooled, but I hate to think of how this kind of thing influences that group of folks who may only read half a dozen books a year, if that...such a shame that they would use one of their choices on junk because they fall for the misblurbs.

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  8. I wondered about this when reading Citizen Girl, brought to you by the same folks who did The Nanny Diaries. I haven't read the latter, but CG was absolutely bloody awful, and I couldn't believe the high praise that their previous efforts had garnered. Perhaps everyone was "misblurbed" there as well!

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  9. Brownie, I get the impression that this is more common than most of us realize. I don't tend to trust the little one or two word blurbs anyway because they are so easily misquoted.

    But, there's even a problem with the longer blurbs from other authors that are often included because some authors tend to "trade" good blurbs with each other..."you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours"

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  10. I agree that it's a despicable practice, but I'd never thought of it that way Sam. You're right about those people who pick up a book like that as one of their few reads a year. I guess I didn't think about those people who don't read up on a book before reading it and pick it up because of a blurb.

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  11. It's become more and more difficult for me to trust advertising these days, Matt. I just hate it when "respectable" publishers and other companies blur the lines this way. :-)

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