27 December 2018

Idiotic Book Blurbs




Writing blurbs for the covers of books reached Pythonesque heights of self-parody years ago, so to laugh at their idiocy is nothing new. Which doesn't mean it's not worth doing.

Here's one that merits ridicule as hyperbolic as itself:

----------- --------- writes with the unflinching, cumulatively devastating precision of Chekhov and Munro, peeling back layer after layer of illusion until we're left with the truth of ourselves. Practically every line is a revelation of language, of character, of experience; ------'s lyricism stalks our hearts like a gorgeous assassin.

In the first sentence we have the obligatory, tedious comparison to authors whom a duration of time longer than fifteen minutes has proved to be true masters of the short story. Then there's the cliche promise of illusions giving way to something as residually profound as 'the truth of ourselves.' More offensive, however, is the juxtaposition of the exponentially cliche 'peeling back layer after layer', suggesting subtraction, with 'cumulatively', suggesting addition. More is less, I can only conclude.

The first part of the second sentence would actually be quite fine, if the author had experienced a revelation about writing instead of using revelation in an attempt to bear witness to the perception of new truths. The final three clauses use both anaphora and asyndeton to good effect, with each noun one syllable longer than the one before it. Yet recovering this gem is rather like recovering illegal diamonds that a mule has swallowed. And the preposterous simile of the second part of the second sentence steals back with both hands the bounty the first half has given. 

It's even sadder of course that none of it's true. 

07 December 2018

The Gaffer should give lessons (FR 1.iii.69)




Gandalf's 'good morning' exchange with Bilbo in the first chapter of The Hobbit is rightly famous as much for its humor as for Bilbo's failure to get the wizard to go away and leave him alone. There is another scene, however, in which a hobbit outside Bag End succeeds in baffling the inquiries of an unwelcome visitor, and sees him off. In Three's Company, as Frodo, Pippin, and Sam are about to leave Bag End, Frodo overhears Gaffer Gamgee speaking to a stranger who proves to be one of Ringwraiths hunting Frodo.

[Frodo] turned to go back, and then stopped, for he heard voices, just round the corner by the end of Bagshot Row. One voice was certainly the old Gaffer’s; the other was strange, and somehow unpleasant. He could not make out what it said, but he heard the Gaffer’s answers, which were rather shrill. The old man seemed put out. 
‘No, Mr. Baggins has gone away. Went this morning, and my Sam went with him: anyway all hisstuff went. Yes, sold out and gone, I tell’ee. Why? Why’s none of my business, or yours. Where to? That ain’t no secret. He’s moved to Bucklebury or some such place, away down yonder. Yes it is – a tidy way. I’ve never been so far myself; they’re queer folks in Buckland. No, I can’t give no message. Good night to you!’ 
Footsteps went away down the Hill.
(FR 1.iii.69)

Bilbo was clearly too polite.