On Blurbs, Again

On at least two previous occasions, we have reflected upon the unnerving sycophancy of most publisher’s blurbs. One of those times, I mentioned that in a moment of unusual inspiration, I myself had crafted a blurb of such perfection as to be (or so I thought) without peer:

Thus far, the earth has rotated around its axis in anticipation of this book. Now that it is here, it does so in thanksgiving.

I said then that I eagerly awaited an opportunity to put this bouquet of blandiloquence to good use, but alas, it appears that I may have to wait much longer than originally expected to endorse anything in those terms. You see, during a recent visit to the local Borders, I discovered, much to my dismay, a bit of publisher’s copy that so closely parallels my blurb that it could potentially raise troubling questions of plagiarism. The line in question is found on the back cover of Scot McKnight’s book, The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), where we read:

Until Scot McKnight wrote The Blue Parakeet, today’s Christian had little choiceeither side with out-of-touch fundamentalists or unrealistic liberals . . . which left millions in the middle disenfranchised, unsure how to read the Bible in a postmodern world.

Aside from the mislaid ellipsis issue, the similarities are clear to the naked eye. Obviously the publication of McKnight’s book is the pivot on which the history of hermeneutics turns, since prior to it (and in spite of the oceans of ink spilled on the subject), today’s Christian had no other possibility than to choose from either of two equally undesirable models. Oh, the doubt! Oh, the insecurity! Well, my gentle snowflakes, be of good cheer: that was so only until the publication of The Blue Parakeet. Up to that point, the whole created universe in all its parts had groaned as if in the pangs of childbirth; since then, it has clearly entered the glorious hermeneutical freedom of the children of God.

Seriously, who comes up with this stuff?

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24 responses to “On Blurbs, Again

  1. I love it! Can I get you to endorse my next book? I was originally looking for someone to say that my work is so stunningly original that the earth should actually stop rotating. But, I like the idea of the earth continuing to rotate in humble gratitude for the universe-unfolding nature of my brilliant insights. I’ll go with that.

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  2. It’s a fact, every Christian until Scot McKnight has either been an out-of-touch fundamentalist or an unrealistic liberal. McKnight has shown us a third way. For the first time ever, we can be McKnightians. 20 years from now people will still remember what they were doing when The Blue Parakeet hit the shelves.

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  3. You know, I really wonder about what marketing people are thinking when they write stuff like this (or like this). How do they not see what a train wreck some of these things are?

    Authors, of course, are often disenfranchised in the process: not even a respected scholar like N. T. Wright had a say when it came to the title of the American edition of his Scripture and the Authority of God, which in our neck of the woods is called, stupidly, The Last Word.

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  4. First of all, that blurb is fantastically stupid; secondly, thank you for bringing the Ellipsis Preservation Society to my remembrance—I’d like to sign up for membership—and it was nice to re-read that post first thing in the morning; thirdly, I was just thinking the other day that I should resume work on that book—the outline for it was really good—the content just lacked. When it’s finished you can put your blurb to use (and quite truthfully at that).

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  5. Seriously, who comes up with this stuff?

    Wretched, disappointed men and women with English degrees who discovered to their horror that the world cares nothing for literature and instead will gladly shell out a pittance for droidian mutterings whose sole purpose is to prevent whitespace.

    Amen, amen, I say to you: these are some of the most pitiable of God’s creatures. Let us pray for them.

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  6. Hmm, could the full and proper quote have been otherwise?

    Until Scot McKnight wrote The Blue Parakeet, today’s Christian had little choice—either side with out-of-touch fundamentalists or unrealistic liberals [, heretics and imbeciles all, or simply pen some insipid little logorrheic tractate which will surely attract as much attention as it will just as surely be the defining hermeneutical event] which left millions in the middle disenfranchised, unsure how to read the Bible in a postmodern world.

    Remember! Every ellipsis is an opportunity!

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  7. Nick> Consider yourself a member of our honorable Society, then! And yes, you should resume work on your handbook. As it stands right now, it’s a bit of a curate’s egg (“parts of it were excellent!”), but you have learned much over the past several years, and can correct, expand, and make it much better.

    I would be glad to blurb it, of course, but you’ll have to stand in line: my august endorsement has already been solicited by Marc Cortez above and by Steve Runge elsewhere. ;-)

    Fr Andrew> Methinks thou hast verily struck the proverbial nail square on its head!

    Yes, let us pray for them — and let us thank God that we are not like the publicans, I mean, like the marketing staff… ;-)

    Kevin> Once again you enlighten me with your wisdom. How could I have been so foolish as to miss the fact that every ellipsis is an opportunity — especially after you took pains to explain and demonstrate it before! I thank you.

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  8. Well, you know, it’s just so much hilarious fun! I get my kicks where I can.

    Something like this:
    “This is the best example of a book that should never, ever, have been written!”

    Can become:
    “This is the best…book…ever!”

    Seriously, though, I don’t even read blurbs. Most of the books I read don’t even have blurbs, thank the good Lord. When I do see a book with blurbs, I know I’m trawling in shallow waters, and that the publisher’s not-so-sly intent is to align the book with a particular audience identified through sympathy with the work of the blurbers, of course. A glance at the names is enough to identify the book’s market, which generally doesn’t include me.

    And…you are welcome!

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  9. Esteban, your erudite command of the sublime is breathtaking, and, at the same time, expresses in pure child-like simplicity the infinity of the divine. Your blog posts are witty and life-changing, and touch one’s core with great care. Your blog entries are truly awe inspiring and help;s understand the very mind of God.

    PS Say Hi to Toula for me.

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  10. Peter> I truly wish I had room in my “Contextless, Yet Priceless, Endorsements” in the sidebar for all that — it’s simply outstanding! ;-)

    And I really ought to give Toula a call; it’s been forever. No, you give her a hug for me when you see her in Church! I need to come out there and visit (and hopefully meet you in the process, too!).

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  11. How about we meet halfway at some point in the future in either Pleasant Prairie, WI at St. John Chrysostom’s Female Greek Orthodox Monastery or in Grayslake, IL at the Serbian Orthodox Monastery. I’ll coordinate with Toula as she always goes to such things, but let me know when you have any future free time and I will talk to Toula and see what she says.

    Take care.

    Peter

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  12. Peter> Well, I live around Flint, Michigan, so Third Lake and Pleasant Prairie are only halfway if you live in Northern Wisconsin! Still, when I’m in the area, I always go to Third Lake (and, for that matter, to Libertyville). But I have to make it to the Chicagoland at some point to visit, since it’s been forever. I’m sure your people (i.e., Toula) will be in touch with my people (i.e., Toula). ;-)

    Kevin> Ha! That’s wicked! Not even I would go that far. I expect lightning to strike any moment now. ;-)

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  13. ‘Tis, innit? There’ll be no zappage, however, as we were only joshing.

    Try on the following:

    “Eminently learnèd,astutely critical, and delightfully eloquent, Esteban is to Biblical blogs as a popsicle is to a Mississipi noon in July!”

    I like that! Because it’s TRUE.

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  14. Kevin> Of course you made the cut! I couldn’t have left out your admirable pile of blurby goodness with a clear conscience. ;-)

    And, as you know, the admiration is mutual! Which, considering the charter and goals of our long-established Mutual Admiration Society, is a good thing.

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  15. Pingback: Blurbs- Oh, How I Loathe Thee « Boston Bible Geeks

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