Author Gary Shteyngart is now almost as renowned in the literary world for his blurbing prowess as he is for his own books, and now there's a 15-minute video on YouTube dedicated to exploring the world of his blurbs. The video, directed by Edward Champion, manages to combine some of the trademark silliness we've come to associate with Shteyngart (for instance) with a serious look at blurbing's place in the publishing industry. It explores how blurbing began (with Gelett Burgess), how it impacts cover design (sometimes a cover is just too good for a blurb), and how authors feel being blurbed ("it's worse than auditioning for a movie," Molly Ringwald says). Authors talk of Shteyngart's skill and generosity in blurbing. Karen Russell, for instance, explains how she got blurbed by Shteyngart, and how she would do something for him in return: "If Gary needed a favor, if he was like 'hey, wash my car' I would do that. Maybe Gary doesn't own a car. Maybe he needs me to wash his Dachshund, go pick up the dry cleaning. I would love to do a favor for Gary." But the perils of blurbing are also revealed: Joshua Henkin thinks that the practice could be done away with: "You're put in an uncomfortable position asking for a blurb, and I get a lot of requests and you have to pick and choose carefully, and if you know the person it's hard to say no and so on and so forth" he says. "I think the world would be better without blurbs but it's part of our business."
Stay tuned to the end to learn hear about Shteyngart's own take on blurbing and what his favorite blurb is (he wrote it for Etgar Keret and it's an Old Testament joke).
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.