Thursday, May 18, 2006

My New Literary Hero: David Bodanis

From yesterday's news: David Bodanis, author of Electric Universe—How Electricity Switched on the Modern World and recipient of the 2006 Aventis Science Book Prize has pledged the £10,000 prize to the family of David Kelly.

From the Grauniad:

"Science is all about truth. There's one realm where a lot of people feel that truth hasn't come out and truth is known but it hasn't been acknowledged," he told the Guardian. Alluding to Dr Kelly's death following comments he made to a journalist about Iraq war intelligence Dr Bodanis said, "[Dr Kelly] was aware of what was really going on and the government lied and tried to feel they could suppress the truth. Events have clearly shown that they were wrong and he was right."

The book looks really interesting, too.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

"A problem arises, however, when every book is touted as 'brilliant.'"

"This Book Will Change Your Life" examines "the reckless art of book blurbing," in all its hyped-up, hyperbolic, hyper-adjectival glory.

Some of the examples cited:

Adverbs describes adolescence, friendship, and love with such freshness and power that you feel drunk and beaten up, but still want to leave your own world and enter the one Handler’s created. Anyone who lives to read gorgeous writing will want to lick this book and sleep with it between their legs.

David Eggers, blurbing Adverbs, by Daniel Handler

The brilliance of Barker’s style is beyond perfection.

The London Spectator blurbing Nicola Barker’s last novel, Clear by Nicola Barker

Does anyone really buy a book because of what the blurb said? Granted, if a favourite author has blurbed "This didn't suck too badly," I'm less likely to buy the book. But, in general, if an author I trust has endorsed a novel, I may pick it up, no matter what the endorsements says. If I've never heard of the blurber, then the blurb is unlikely to grab me, no matter how many adjectives it uses.

And, of course, all blurbs are positive, and most wax rhapsodic. So how valuable is the tool, or do we just use them because the book would look naked without?

I'll give George Orwell the last word: “when all novels are thrust upon you as works of genius, it is quite natural to assume that all of them are tripe.”

...But I bought a little black dress, and everything!

Apparently, by the time I got here, the day of the book party was over:

And while they certainly still take place — giving writers and editors a chance to eye one another warily across crowded rooms — book parties are decidedly not what they once were. "I think they're practically passé, book parties, don't you find?" said Nan Talese, the publisher of Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, whose mellifluous voice itself seems to hark back to a more lustrous era.

And here I thought I was just moving in the wrong circles. You know—the ones where all the junior industry wannabes go to drink overpriced beer, and look warily at each other, wondering who has the better job, who's getting invited to the real parties?

Guess it's a good thing I can still get cheap opera tix, and air the little black dress every now and again.