Circle Jerk
July 9, 2010 6:54 AM   Subscribe

"This post touched me in places I've never been touched" Over at Salon, Laura Miller talks about those little belches of beatification -- Book Blurbs. The Guardian is running a contest where you (Yes, YOU!) can try to out praise all comers by blurbing The DaVinci Code.

What's got people thinking about it is the praise Nicole Krauss heaped on David Grossman's
"To the End of the Land."

to wit:
Very rarely, a few times in a lifetime, you open a book and when you close it again nothing can ever be the same. Walls have been pulled down, barriers broken, a dimension of feeling, of existence itself, has opened in you that was not there before. "To the End of the Land" is a book of this magnitude. David Grossman may be the most gifted writer I've ever read; gifted not just because of his imagination, his energy, his originality, but because he has access to the unutterable, because he can look inside a person and discover the unique essence of her humanity. For twenty-six years he has been writing novels about what it means to defend this essence, this unique light, against a world designed to extinguish it. "To the End of the Land" is his most powerful, shattering, and unflinching story of this defense. To read it is to have yourself taken apart, undone, touched at the place of your own essence; it is to be turned back, as if after a long absence, into a human being.
So, you've got your work cut out.
posted by Trochanter (48 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
So you blurb it right there in the comments I guess? Cuz this sounds awesome.
posted by Mister_A at 6:57 AM on July 9, 2010

Metafilter: To read it is to have yourself taken apart, undone, touched at the place of your own essence; it is to be turned back, as if after a long absence, into a human being.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:06 AM on July 9, 2010

No-one has ever written a novel quite like The Da Vinci Code. Dan Brown has a unique style that reflects his particular qualities as an author, and this is very definitely among the best books he has written. I can guarantee you that once you have read The Da Vinci Code, you will never forget it.
posted by Electric Dragon at 7:07 AM on July 9, 2010 [9 favorites]

I take my cue from Bart's comment to Marge:

Marge (after a "witticism" of hers): I'm a regular Billy Crystal!
Bart: You got that right.

da Vinci Code: A book well-suited to a movie starring Tom Hanks.
posted by DU at 7:07 AM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

You know Tom is doing Castaway 2: Revenge of Wilson, right?
posted by Mister_A at 7:09 AM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

-Simeon the Elder, Cleveland Plain Dealer
posted by Iridic at 7:13 AM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

- "Once I'd put it aside, I couldn't pick it up again" Mark Twain
- "This is not a book to be laid aside lightly. It must be thrown with great force." Dorothy Parker
- "From the time I picked up your book until I put it down I was convulsed with laughter. Some day I intend reading it." Groucho Marx
posted by Electric Dragon at 7:13 AM on July 9, 2010 [12 favorites]

Brown uses the alphabet to write words; words, to form sentences (and ofttimes, even dialogue); sentences make paragraphs; he assembles paragraphs into chapters; these chapters are collected into book form; and that, dear reader, is the secret to The Da Vinci Code.
posted by steef at 7:16 AM on July 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

"I am trapped inside a blurb factory. Please send help!"
posted by Bromius at 7:22 AM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Every so many years, a book comes along. This is that book.
posted by jbickers at 7:22 AM on July 9, 2010 [8 favorites]

Novelist Dan Brown sweeps through the awe-inspiring splendour of his book. Silhouetted against the darkness, the fair-haired writer demonstrates an unparalleled grasp of the English language - but little does he realise that by the end of the book he will have finished writing. With one mighty effort, the polo-neck-wearing blue-eyed author shows us the masterpiece of descriptive writing that he has written with words on a word writing machine. We see his voice as if it were palpable.

[with apologies to Geoffrey Pullum]
posted by Electric Dragon at 7:27 AM on July 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

The Da Vinci Code will change not just your idea of what a successful novel can be, but even your very understanding of the world and the people around you.
posted by penduluum at 7:29 AM on July 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

Wow, nice book. I really liked your book.
posted by nola at 7:34 AM on July 9, 2010

The depth and subtlety of Transformers combined with the suspense and action of My Dinner with Andre.
posted by DU at 7:34 AM on July 9, 2010

It's Die Hard on a bus!
posted by jbickers at 7:35 AM on July 9, 2010

No doubt the best blurb I've ever seen was the one advertising a David Baldacci novel, which the publisher proceeded to plaster all over the New York subways:

"When Baldacci is on fire, no one can touch him."

So, so true.
posted by Jeanne at 7:37 AM on July 9, 2010 [17 favorites]

The only blurb The Da Vinci Code ever deserved was Nancy Banks-Smith's: 'The Da Vinci Code is the worst-written book I ever started to read.'
posted by permafrost at 7:45 AM on July 9, 2010

little belches of beatification

posted by DieHipsterDie at 8:02 AM on July 9, 2010

Spy had a column back in the day called "Logrolling in Our Time." It was awesome. They'd trot out the blurbs authors gave each other and compare them. From then on, I stopped reading them.
posted by droplet at 8:06 AM on July 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Very rarely, a few times in a lifetime, you open a book and find that the contents within are utter shit. Its putrescence pulls down your walls, breaks your barriers, introduces you to a dimension of hell, of existence itself, that you have never before known.

Dan Brown may be the most inept writer I've ever read; inept not just because of his lack of imagination, energy, or originality, but because he literally takes the pages of a book and craps on them, then sells them to you for eight bucks a pop. For seventeen years he has been shitting on books and selling them to the public. The Da Vinci Code is his most powerful, shattering, and flinchworthy work, if you can call it that, to date.

(The last sentence was too much for me. I just spent half an hour trying to make it work within this context, and ... it just doesn't.)
posted by brina at 8:10 AM on July 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

The Da Vinci code - If you can make it through the first sentence, you might make it through the first page.
posted by philip-random at 8:13 AM on July 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

This comment from the link is really hard to beat:

"The mystery of this book is not in the spine-tingling, mind-wracking, hair-raising, heart-stopping twists and turns that the novelist book writer Mr Brown has wrought on these pages (white), but in why ownership of a copy has not been made mandatory by law. It's every individual letter is a pearl that novelist book writer author Mr Brown, who has sandy blond hair, has formed out of the excrement of our English language, which is not fit to grovel at the feet of this towering geniuses MacIntosh word processor.

I buried a copy of this book in my father's coffin and he rose from the dead. Her tears of ecstatic joy when I read it aloud to her washed away my grandmother's cataracts. My chronic eczema disappeared once I'd finished the first chapter."

I especially like the way the author put Brown's own style into the blurb, like the tacked-on descriptive phrases.
posted by misha at 8:15 AM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you were stranded on a deserted island with only one book, let this be that book, as it could be burned, or eaten, or used to club a wild boar to death, if needed. Also, if things become truly terrible and you need extra incentive for suicide, you can read the book.

If you read only one book this year, let this be that book, because then you will not feel so guilty about reading other books, because you will be convinced there is something terrible about books that must be avoided.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:23 AM on July 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

I think it was - was it not? - Jorge Luis Borges, the blind magus of the Buenos Aires library, who threw down before the startled eyes of the citizens of the grey expiring decades of what we call the twentieth century the startling concept of a book that contains all other books, a 'silky vade mecum' which would be at once the ur-book, the essence and yet also the culmination, the ne plus ultra, the ultimate volume: the final compilation and terminal realisation: Gutenberg's Platonic Vindication; in short: The Book.

No human hand, certainly, could pen such a book: and yet consider - if you will? - that none other than the mighty Leonardo, greatest polymath of his divinely gifted age, meant his life's project to be, not the production of trivial pictures of simpering Donnas, nor yet the adumbration of scarce-credible feats of unimagined technology, but rather the construction of a book, indeed a Book, for which all the visions he limned and all the dreams he ambidextrously notated were nothing but preliminary sketches, sketches of a vast endeavour whose realisation would surely have required a nation of Titanic Da Vincis each blessed with the span of three centuries which George Bernard Shaw so cogently demanded as the proper life for mankind.

I have before me now by some uncovenanted dispensation of the Divine bounty a literary production which I will claim - may I not? - renders the idle dreams of the Argentine a corporeal reality and gives to the Italian's over-ambitious vision not just an actual but even a titular consummation. These pages, my friends, these pages: I have been hung in the branches of Yggdrasil while all the ages of man's destiny marched past in incomprehensible array: tortured, blessed, rendered a child again, harrowed, ennobled, etherealised and enlightened. I was taken nel mezzo del camin di nostra vita, to borrow the resonant phrase of Alighieri, yet the dark shamanic emanations which purged my soul led me into the company of the avatars of some scarce-suspected antediluvian cosmogony.

When oft we ask - do we not? - wherefore this little life of ours, rounded with a sleep, creeps on its petty pace from day to day; whither tends our destiny; what indeed is the meaning of life, we scarcely dream that one day a voice of Stentor from the empyrean will condescend to provide an answer. Yet here I stand, The Da Vinci Code in one hand, ready - no, eager - to surrender myself to intellectual immolation even as Empedocles, as the sages of old recount, surrendered to Etna, with only this avant-dernier pensee: this it, my friends, the thing itself. The rest is silence.
posted by Phanx at 8:32 AM on July 9, 2010 [11 favorites]

Laura Miller is totally right. Everyone involved in blurbing hates blurbs. But even so, it can be enormously satisfying as an editor to get blurbs from good people for your authors.

My favorite blurb that has yet been given for one of my books is this one, for Seymour Chwast's graphic novel adaptation of Dante's Divine Comedy:
“Seymour Chwast! Oh, how I hate him! He’s already the top artist! He’s already the top designer! Now he’s gonna be the top graphic novelist! Seymour Chwast can go to Hell!”—Craig Yoe, author of The Art of Steve Ditko
When I read it (gleefully) at the launch meeting, the sales staff looked at me in horror for a moment before they got the joke.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:35 AM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

little belches of beatification

posted by DieHipsterDie at 9:02 AM on July 9 [+] [!]


belches of beatification? better?
posted by Trochanter at 8:40 AM on July 9, 2010

Seriously, blurbing is the most depressing, transcendent part of selling books. You feel like a failure if you can't get a blurb; you know you have a measure of success if a publisher asks for your blurb.

You can shake your head in amusement at brand new authors who ask you for your blurb personally because they don't realize you're not worth anything yet. It's mortifying when your house asks someone whose book you hate to blurb yours (because then you're going to have to say nice things about them and/or that book you hate.)

And it's mind-boggling how quickly marketing can go from nothing to actual in-house promotion and action because you suddenly got a Big Blurb. It's weird, random currency, and we're all trying to earn it, so we can spend it, oh god, please, oh please, oh please let Holly Black love my new YA novel, forever and ever amen.
posted by headspace at 8:49 AM on July 9, 2010

Have people recommended Foucault's Pendulum to you for years? Are you ashamed to admit that you can't actually read? Peanut butter and chocolate, friends. -- Merk Lollinger, Good Day Greater Jacksonville
posted by penduluum at 8:57 AM on July 9, 2010

It's easy to ridicule Krauss for this hyperbolic extravaganza, but in her defense, she's not a critic or an ad copywriter; she's a novelist.

This sentence is hilarious and perfectly typical of the whole rotten "literary fiction" racket. Call me old-fashioned but shouldn't novelists be expected to have better taste and more integrity than critics and ad copywriters? If they don't then what good are they?
posted by otio at 9:09 AM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Something about the phrase "belches of beatification" must have messed with my brain, because on a quick read I thought the post said that the Guardian's contest involves readers burping The DaVinci Code.

That would be an entirely different sort of contest, I'm certain.
posted by nickmark at 9:18 AM on July 9, 2010

Best blurbs ever: The Wasp Factory (for silly shock values of best). To wit...

It is a sick, sick world when the confidence and investment of an astute firm of publishers is justified by a work of unparallelled depravity. There is no denying the bizarre fertility of the author’s imagination: his brilliant dialogue, his cruel humour, his repellent inventiveness. The majority of the literate public, however, will be relieved that only reviewers are obliged to look at any of it. -- Irish Times

As a piece of writing, The Wasp Factory soars to the level of mediocrity. Maybe the crassly explicit language, the obscenity of the plot, were thought to strike an agreeably avant-garde note... Perhaps it is all a joke, meant to fool literary London into respect for rubbish. -- The Times

(culled from internet)
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:23 AM on July 9, 2010

You've heard of date movies? Well The DaVinci Code is a date book. Bring it up in conversation with someone on your first date, and you'll know just what kind of future you have with that person.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:10 AM on July 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

"As soon as I closed the cover on this revelatory journey of textual bewonderment, I realized I had no choice but to uninstall Microsoft Word from every computer I owned. Because I each time I would henceforth set fingers to keyboard and attempt to flog out some pitiable piece of prose, I by right ought be paralyzed by the portentous shadow of this peerless tome—struck helpless as an actor in his late 30s pretending to be 20-odd years more junior, flailing in vapid humility before the presence of his heavy metal god and weeping 'We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy!'"
posted by drlith at 10:26 AM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

"Never before have the 26 letters of the alphabet been used in this way."
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:05 AM on July 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

Popish plots? Albino killer? It's Foul Play but this time with even more of the concentrated insouciance of Chevy Chase.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 12:24 PM on July 9, 2010

"Never before have the 26 letters of the alphabet been used in this way."

Or ...

"Broken down to its basic components, Brown's The DaVinci Code is every bit as relevant to our culture as Shakespeare's best."
posted by philip-random at 12:29 PM on July 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

That story at the end about the woman looking at her like she was crazy. It's probably less that the woman didn't believe that blurbs are made up and more that a random stranger spoke to her in public ABOUT BLURBS. Do other people actually read those? I read the back cover and skim the first page. Is there anyone for whom blurbs are a relevant data point that they actually trust?
posted by edbles at 12:44 PM on July 9, 2010

Blurbs mean nothing to me. Less than nothing. The one thing that I've come to trust is a good review from the New York Times Review of Books. You've still got to be careful, because it will often be praise for an author in general, or a previous book, not the book you've got in your hands.
posted by Trochanter at 12:51 PM on July 9, 2010

Imagine reading like sex. You know what sex is like, the ins and outs, the caressing and nibbling, the grunting and the forcefulness. Now imagine Bestselling Author Dan Brown as your lover, smiling at you with that smile and that hair, that smile so casual and reassuring and that sandy brown hair with the refined graying temples. This is a lover like no other. His hands know your every crevice and cranny, and this excites you in ways you never thought possible. Secretly, you've been thinking about trying something more forceful, but Dan already knows that. He's come equipped, ready to dominate you. He wants to give it to you in quick bursts, softened with fanciful flourishes, and you love it.

If you can imagine something as passionate and forceful as that scenario, you can begin to grasp the power of The Da Vinci Code. This book is Bestselling Author Dan Brown's phallus, and he's ready to shove it inside you. And you want it so badly, don't you?
posted by filthy light thief at 1:00 PM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

This book represents all that you've come to expect from higher primates.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 1:07 PM on July 9, 2010

Astro Zombie: If you read only one book this year, let this be that book, because then you will not feel so guilty about reading other books, because you will be convinced there is something terrible about books that must be avoided.


If you read only one book this year, you should keep your mouth shut about it.

(alas, not original.)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 1:25 PM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

The DaVinci Code: It's...

Wait, Seymour Chwast's is doing a graphic novel version of Dante's Divine Comedy? Holy crap. That's awesome.
posted by Mcable at 1:35 PM on July 9, 2010

The Da Vinci Code: An infinite number of monkeys, using an infinite number of typewriters, couldn't write this book.
posted by chavenet at 4:43 PM on July 9, 2010

One of my favourite blurbs ever was by a writer I know basically nothing else about:

"Please feel free to quote me as saying anything that will promote sales of this excellent work" - Quentin Crisp.

Apparently this was his default response to blurb requests. Interesting approach.
posted by gompa at 8:40 PM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

"You magnificent bastard! I read your book!"

best book review ever?
posted by wobh at 11:15 PM on July 9, 2010

Also this gem from James Nicoll:

"Whenever I find my will to live becoming too strong, I read Peter Watts."
posted by wobh at 11:21 PM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

The DaVinci Code: If you only read one book in the past ten years, it will inevitably be this one (Hi Mom!).
posted by turaho at 11:09 AM on July 11, 2010 [8 favorites]

Apparently this was his default response to blurb requests.

Perhaps he was inspired by Benjamin Disraeli. "Thank you very much for your manuscript. I shall waste no time in reading it."
posted by Iridic at 4:33 PM on July 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

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