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Mobylives on Blurbs

I’ve been catching up on old columns on MobyLives. Mobylives, if you recall, is a reporting/essay site about the bookbiz, with contributions by several people, but mainly Steve Almond, Dennis Loy Johnson, Caren Lissner and various other guest writers. This has always been an enjoyable site, although occasionally I grow weary of all the gloomy stories (That’s right; writers feel exhilirated when they discover Chekhov, Sartre or Hemingway, but stories about industry squabbles get them really depressed).

I’ve given up on getting published, but still have a morbid fascination with the absurd behaviors of the . Steve Almond writes about blurbing, :

Listen: when someone asks you to blurb a book they are paying you a huge compliment. At the very least they are saying to you: “I believe your name will help me sell books.” But more than likely they are asking you because they know and admire your work. These are not people to be shit upon.

What’s more, the general derision heaped on blurbs and blurbing has the effect of making writers particularly lessestablished writers feel like jerks for even asking. I recently received an email from a woman who wanted me to take a look at her first novel. To read this note, you would have thought she was asking me to examine her stool sample. Such was her sense of shame.