To my mind, a book’s jacket copy should include a description of the book’s contents, a brief biography of the author, and perhaps a few words of (illuminating) praise from a respectable critic.
Blurbs sell books, and so several reviewers’ laudatory words are often to be found on the covers of books both excellent and ordinary. At least we may read the book and decide for ourselves if we will trust the reviewers’ recommendations again. But unattributed jacket copy is a different beast. Here is an example of praise beyond fulsome:
In [the book] she stares down her own death, and, in so doing, forces endless superimpositions of the possible on the impossible–an act that simultaneously defies and embraces the inevitable, and is, finally, mimetic. Over and over, at each wild leap or transformation, flames shoot up the reader’s spine.
So reads the end of the jacket blurb on Louise Gluck’s The Seven Ages. I cannot think that the word “mimetic” draws in potential readers; perhaps the writer felt confident enough that Gluck’s much deserved renown as Poet Laureate and eight previously published volumes of poetry would be quite enough to ensure sales.
Such writing, however, makes me want to take cover under my desk and hope that copies of Auerbach do not find me there, and that my friends and relatives don’t believe that this is the kind of drivel that too much graduate school forces one to produce.
I liked Gluck’s collection very much, especially “Youth,” “Grace,” and “Mitosis.” I appreciated the poems about the speaker’s sister, especially after reading Tell the Wolves I’m Home, with its focus on the relationship between the two sisters. However, at no point during my reading did I feel sparks in the vicinity of my spine, let alone flames.
A modest proposal: signed jacket copy.