True Story: our school librarian used to feed/water William S. Burroughs's cats. Yes, that William Burroughs. (Burroughs lived in Lawrence from 1981 until his death.) While she knew him, Burroughs's would often ask her for blurbs; publishers sent him books, he didn't read them, and his cat sitter wrote the recommendations that landed on the covers with his name attached.
With the latest cat fight in publishing (Stephen King vs. Stephenie Meyer), my attention has been brought to the almighty book blurb. We are so used to seeing big time authors' names attached to positive comments in order to sell books, the King/Meyer fiasco has raised eyebrows.
Consider this: as a high school teacher over the past ten years, I've written dozens of letters of recommendation for students seeking scholarships/college entrance/jobs. I feel like it is part of my job. Although I'm always positive (if I can't say anything positive, I let them know with a simple, "Do you think I'm the best person to write this letter?"), the letters usually straddle the line between fantasy and reality. The letter of recommendation is an art form in saying the positive and ignoring the rest.
Isn't a book blurb the same? Some blurbs come across as forceful, almost: "read this book or die" or "you will find true enlightenment if you read this book" or even threatening "you will never be happy again unless you read this book". I take them all with a healthy dose of skepticism, but they are the norm, the letter of recommendation of the publishing world.
How important are they? How serious do you take a book blurb when seeking new reading material?