To Blurb, to Flail, to Fail

The technical definition of blurb is: “A brief descriptive paragraph or note of the contents or character of a book, printed as a commendatory advertisement, on the jacket or wrapper of a newly published book.”

But the first use of the word, in 1914, by G. Burgess, defines blurb as “a flamboyant advertisement; an inspired testimonial.”

Blurbing is its own art. There are people who blurb books in magical ways, paring down an entire book into a few glowing sentences. I can think of quite a few writers who do this with real flair: Joyelle McSweeney, Brian Evenson, Gary Lutz, etc. They make blurbing seem easy, effortless. I call them magicians.


Craft Notes / 15 Comments
October 15th, 2010 / 4:15 pm

DFW Praise Compendium


At the height of my obsession with David Foster Wallace, garnered after reading ‘Infinite Jest’ over several weeks in 2001, an act which literally changed my life, I began going after any and every piece of writing not only of his, but that he had recommended, blurbed, mentioned in interviews, taught, etc. Many of these books also had a profound influence on my brain, including Gass’s ‘Omensetter’s Luck,’ McCarthy’s ‘Blood Meridian’ and ‘Suttree,’ Donald Barthelme, and countless others.

During this period I began constructing a list of these texts as I found them. The list, which I remember as being several pages long, is now likely floating somewhere in one of my many expired computers. I was able, though, to find at least what makes up part of the list in an old email folder, and as such it appears below.

I know this is not an exhaustive list at this point, and if I find a later draft of it I will repost: in the meantime, however, if you have any other knowledge of blurbs or etc. (and any that might have occurred later in his life, after I stopped making the list, will obviously be absent) please comment them. Where I could, I tried to include the actual blurbs and/or comments, and in other places just included the names of authors mentioned in passing or other ways.

(It likely should be noted that many of these refs came from the amazing and wonderful interview conducted with Wallace by Larry McCaffery for the Review of Contemporary Fiction, which if you have not yet, you should read.)

Also included is a Reading List from a class Wallace taught on postmodern fiction (I believe), which is a pretty fantastic collection of texts.

Incomplete list is after the break:


Author Spotlight & Presses / 140 Comments
April 30th, 2009 / 12:27 pm