Author Topic: For better or worse, blurbs and their hyperboles are here to stay  (Read 8261 times)

Joe Carillo

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In "Beware of Book Blurbs," a feature story in TheMillions.com website, essayist-critic GD Dess traces the origin of the word "blurb" to the year 1907 when an author-humorist by the name of Gelett Burgess presented copies of his book Are You a Bromide? to the American Booksellers Association during its annual dinner. The book had a mock cover featuring a made-up “spokesperson” named Miss Belinda Blurb in an image from a dental advertisement that shows her “in the act of blurbing.” In his book Burgess himself defined a “blurb” as a noun that means “a flamboyant advertisement; an inspired testimonial” and as a verb, “to flatter from interested motives; to compliment oneself.”


In his chronicles of blurbing, GD Dess says the practice had long been used in publishing before it had a name. He cited as an early example a blurb written by Ralph Waldo Emerson for Walt Whitman’s "Leaves of Grass" in 1855 that saluted Whitman's promise as a poet with these words: “I greet you at the beginning of a great career, RW Emerson.”

From then on, Dess says that blurbing has always had discontents, among them the novelist George Orwell who decried in 1936 the use of blurbs; in his essay “In Defense of the Novel,” Orwell feared for the novel’s “lapse in prestige” for which he partly blamed “hack reviews” and “the disgusting tripe that is written by the blurb-reviewers.”

Read CD Dess' critique “Beware of Book Blurbs" in TheMillions.com website” now!
« Last Edit: March 06, 2023, 07:39:12 AM by Joe Carillo »