Blurbese Archive

Blurbese: “deeply felt”

Author: | Categories: Book Reviews 2 Comments
In general, I dislike curmudgeonly fiats contra adverb—in fact, I’ve complained about them here before. However, there are a couple of cases where I think specific adverbs ought to be banned outright. One of those is the book review phrase “deeply felt.” My problem with the phrase, I will

Blurbese: “best”

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Santa’s not the only one who makes lists in December: come the end of the year, anyone who’s ever expressed a passing literary opinion has their own rundown of the year’s best books. But book reviewers rarely use these lists as an opportunity to promote the year’s objectively “best”

Blurbese: Direct Quotations

Author: | Categories: Book Reviews 1 Comment
If you happened to read more than one review of J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy last month, you’ll never look at a condom the same way again. That’s because of a single line from the book, which the New York Times, The New Yorker, Time, the Daily Beast, and Library

Blurbese: “The First _____”

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When Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom was published, in 2010, the British Daily Telegraph called it “the first great American novel of the post-Obama era.” If that sounds oddly specific (not to mention premature), they at least had good reason for it: the title of “first great American novel of the

Blurbese: “quiet”

Author: | Categories: Book Reviews, Reading, Writing No comments
I’m not usually one to pick on my own, but for illustrative purposes only there’s a line to which I’d like to draw your attention from Anne Gray Fischer’s most recent “Women In Trouble” column: The stakes are perhaps too low in this quiet novel for it to qualify

Blurbese: “a _____ debut”

Author: | Categories: Book Reviews 8 Comments
Book reviewers generally frown on unnecessary adjectives. Precisely how they frown depends on the situation, but you can bet if an author’s use of adjectives comes up in a review it’s not as a compliment. If a book is filled with rare and unusual descriptions (e.g. “a perturbing peccadillo”),

Blurbese: “funny”

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Book reviewers’ relationship with the word “funny” is, well—a little funny. I’m somewhat sympathetic about this one, too, at least when it comes to novels that are deliberately comic, because it’s tough to review authors whose reputation is based entirely on humor. What, after all, can the word “funny”

Blurbese: “Unflinching”

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I think a lot of book reviewers were smacked as children. Some of them must have at least been bullied. How else to explain their admiration for the ability not to flinch? Just look at the first page of results when you Google “unflinching book review.” At the British

Blurbese: “Haunting”

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In his new regular column, our blog book reviews editor Andrew Ladd looks at “blurbese,” the contemporary language of book reviews, and names its most egregious offenders. What is it about book critics and the heebie-jeebies? Show most reviewers a pulpy horror story and they’ll turn up their noses