Monday, January 4, 2010

Palpitations and Secretions

From Wikipedia:

The word critic comes from the Greek κριτικός (kritikós), "able to discern", which in turn derives from the word κριτής (krités), meaning a person who offers reasoned judgment or analysis, value judgment, interpretation, or observation. The term can be used to describe an adherent of a position disagreeing with or opposing the object of criticism.


A review is an evaluation of a publication, such as a movie (a movie review), video game, musical composition (music review of a composition or recording), book (book review); a piece of hardware like a car, home appliance, or computer; or an event or performance, such as a live music concert,a play, musical theater show or dance show. In addition to a critical evaluation, the review's author may assign the work a rating to indicate its relative merit.

Okay, terms defined, assuming everyone's okay with Wikipedia. Let's talk about critical response to literature. Specifically, reviews in the form of a blurb. I've recently been keeping a pretty close eye the blurbs printed on books as I shelve here at Green Apple, often (and sometimes to my chagrin) chuckling over absurdity in them. They are most often laced with awkward metaphors, comparison, and ridiculous alliteration. Sometimes they are totally nonsensical, but other times they go so far as cut down the art of literature itself. A fine example being in a previous entry we had posted, around the time Dan Brown's most recent slab was released. The book was touted as bringing "sexy back to a genre that had been left for dead." If anyone out there read The Lost Symbol, can you maybe explain the what of that statement to me?

A testimony as such kind of blows my mind. They're weird, I don't understand them, and apparently they aren't an all too uncommon tactic in promoting a book either. Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child's Dance of Death has printed on it- "A rare second book in a trilogy that actually improves on the first..." Wait, seriously? A book so compelling that you actually want to finish the story?! I guess it must take two authors. Move over 2666!

In all seriousness though, I'm having trouble understanding this trend. Is there another art form that approves genre-disparaging ad tactics to promote itself? Film? Graphic design? I've certainly never seen an article on a MOMA exhibit proclaiming anything like that. I mean, what if they did? "Not since Goya have we seen such a pulse pounding tour de force!" (yuck). So what gives? If print is supposed to be a dying format, why promote it in such a self defeating way? Wouldn't you want to punch up the idea of interest in the art form itself rather than pushing just one end all be all? Is this promotion at all?

Today I went on a quest to pick out some book titles that feature some real treasures of the terrible blurb world. I'm going to bite my tongue so to speak as far as further commentary goes, but keep in mind the definitions proffered;
reasoned judgment or analysis, value judgment, interpretation, or observation. Enjoy.
(hahaha)

"...AN ENGINE DESIGNED FOR ONE PURPOSE- TO MAKE THE PULSE POUND, THE HEART PALPITATE, THE FEAR GLANDS SECRETE."
New York Times Book Review on Red Dragon

"GOES DOWN LIKE CHEDDAR-FLAVORED POTATO CHIPS."
-Kirkus Reviews on Dance of Death

"DIVERTING."
Glamour on The Two Mrs. Grenvilles

"THE MASTER OF THE PARBOILED POTBOILER."
Kirkus Reviews on Wild Fire

Etc, etc, etc...

2 comments:

Seth Christenfeld said...

"GOES DOWN LIKE CHEDDAR-FLAVORED POTATO CHIPS."

So...it's cheesy?

S. said...

Mm. Cheddar-flavored potato chips.