Uncategorized | March 16, 2004

Dust jacket blurbs are so notoriously general, unhelpful, and badly written that when one actually makes an aesthetic statement, I stop in a sort of amazement. Having worked in a used bookstore, I often judge books like a dog-show judge–I check for straight, white teeth and excellent hindquarters. On the back of Frederick Busch’s Don’t Tell Anyone, Ann Beattie praises Busch’s stories in part because “There are none of those all too common, boring characters-who-can’t-communicate in his fiction; instead, the characters are eloquent and even quite brilliant.” Of course, the real problem with all those inarticulate characters are that we are they. In moments of crisis, most, if not all of us, can’t articulate what we need or want to; indeed, the first story in Busch’s collection features a narrator working towards becoming articulate about a moment of crisis. (Read another of Busch’s stories here.)

This is, of course, a small fault on Beattie’s part, though I’d certainly be interested in an elaboration of what she means. In the long run, dust jacket blurbs have no real currency; established writers often request not to have blurbs. For those of you intrigued by the history of dust jackets (and, honestly, who among us is), there’s actually further reading on the subject. After all, a dust jacket can lead to questions about the culture of reading, as our own Anthony Varallo points out.