Friday, 20 October 2017

That Blurb Word by Joan Lennon

Writers know it - kids in schools know it - booksellers sell books by it - it's the blurb word. And though lots of these people may already know where the word came from, I didn't. Didn't have a clue.

So I went looking - and this is what I found ...

(click on the image to make it bigger)

Coined by the American humorist Gelett Burgess, it is thought to have first appeared here, on the jacket of Are You a Bromide? - a limited edition slim volume produced for an annual trade association dinner in 1906.  It i
ntroduces "Miss Belinda Blurb* In the Act of Blurbing" and then ... 

I won't lie to you - I WANT PROSE LIKE THIS ON THE BACK OF MY NOVELS!!!  I want my publishers to be saying about a book of mine:

"It has gush and go to it, it has that Certain Something which makes you want to crawl through thirty miles of dense tropical jungle and bite somebody in the neck."


"... you'll sic it onto your mother-in-law, your dentist and the pale youth who dips hot-air into Little Marjorie until 4 Q.M.** in the front parlour."

and that

"This Book is the Proud Purple Penultimate!!"

Wouldn't you?!  It may not tell us much about what Burgess' book is about, but oh, the enthusiasm!

So here is the man himself -

Gelett Burgess circa 1910

Thanks for that blurb word, Mr Burgess!

And what is my favourite back cover blurbing?  There are many priceless gems out there, but if I had to choose just one, how about the 1977 classic Juggling for the Complete Klutz by John Cassidy and B.C. Rimbeaux, Illustrations by Diane Waller -

If you can scramble an egg, find reverse in a Volkswagen, or stumble onto the light switch in the bathroom at night ... you can learn how to juggle.

"Very possibly, the best book of the decade!"
Mrs. Anna M. Cassidy

"Can you believe it? My son, the author - who hasn't written me a letter since I don't know when."
Mrs. Ethel T. Rimbeaux

"For this we sent her to college?"
Mr John J. Waller

How about yours?  Share a favourite blurb or two in the comments below.

* How on earth did she get her hair to stand up like that?
** Can anyone help me here?  My guess is "hot-air dipping" is something like "whispering sweet nothings" but Q.M.?  Unlikely to be referring to "Quartermaster", "Quantitative Macroeconomics" or "Air Malawi" but it not, then ...?

Joan Lennon's website.
Joan Lennon's blog.
Walking Mountain.


Pippa Goodhart said...

Oh, what fun! I'd never even wondered where blurbs came from. Yes, bring back the OTT blurb, I say!

Penny Dolan said...

Ha ha! No point in holding back, imo! This is obviously the model to go for, Joan. Thanks.

Sandra Horn said...

Terrific! Could we start a 'thing' to write OTT blurbs for well-known books?

Sue Bursztynski said...

Well, who would have thought that was where the word "blurb" came from? I guess they all have to come from somewhere.

When my one and only novel was about to come out, one of my publishers said they were having a publicity meeting of some sort and would I come up with a blurb they could quote. Oh, no, of course it wasn't going on the cover! Guess what ended up on the book cover? Yep. My silly, OTT blurb written for a meeting!

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