(Roughly) Daily

“Makes Ben Hur look like an epic”*…

 

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Book blurbs– the promotional copy and quotes that adorn the jackets of novels and the one-sheets for films– date back to the early 20th century… since which time they’ve become, well, a little over-ripe…

…blurbs have gotten so over-the-top. With fewer eyes to see them, an endorsement must be big to gain any traction.

—Jennifer Weiner, “All Blurbed Out,” The New York Times, May 17

Tom Rachman (author of the best-selling The Imperfectionists and the recent The Rise and Fall of Great Powers) imagines how the blurbs for works of classic literature might have read:

THE DIVINE COMEDY, by Dante Aligheri

“Nowadays, who’s got time for poetry, what with everyone gearing up for the Renaissance? But this laugh-out-loud comedy is a must-read. Perfect for the beach, or when taking a break from your fresco.”

–Petrarch, father of humanism and runner-up for National Book Award

THE PRINCE, by Niccolò Machiavelli

“Unputdownable. If this rip-roaring, gob-smacking, take-me-with-you-to-the-Palazzo-Vecchio gem doesn’t start the field of political science, I seriously don’t know what will.”

–Lorenzo de Medici (during TED talk)

DON QUIXOTE, by Miguel de Cervantes

“Like a cross between Orlando Furioso and Apuleius’s The Golden Ass, this is the picaresque road-trip novel to end begin all picaresque road-trip novels. What’s that noise? Oh, just the 17th century getting off to a bang. Bravo, señor.”

–William Shakespeare, author of Tony Award-winning sensation Hamlet

More preposterous promotion at The Rumpus in “Great Blurbs in History: a Selection.”

* the blurb for Monty Python and the Holy Grail

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As we search for our grains of salt, we might it was on this date in 1792 that William Wordsworth, on a walking tour of the Lake District with his sister Dorothy, visited the ruins of Tintern Abbey.  The visit inspired one of Wordsworth’s earliest poems (“Tintern Abbey”), in which he articulated some of the fundamental themes of Romantic poetry– main among them, the restorative power of nature. The poem appeared in Lyrical Ballads, with a Few Other Poems in 1798, on which Wordsworth collaborated with his friend Samuel Taylor Coleridge (whose Rime of the Ancient Mariner was also included).  The book sold out quickly, occasioning a second edition that included a preface by Wordsworth widely considered to be a central work of Romantic literary theory.

William Shuter’s portrait of Wordsworth (at age 28), 1798- the year of the publication of Lyrical Ballads

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Written by LW

July 13, 2014 at 1:01 am

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