The End of Oulipo?

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Lady Chatterley’s Brother

Lady Chatterley's Brother. The first ebook in the new TQC Long Essays series, Lady Chatterley's Brothercalled “an exciting new project” by Chad Post of Open Letter and Three Percent. Why can't Nicholson Baker write about sex? And why can Javier Marias? We investigate why porn is a dead end, and why seduction paves the way for the sex writing of the future. Read an excerpt.

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Translate This Book!

Ever wonder what English is missing? Called "a fascinating Life Perecread" by The New Yorker, Translate This Book! brings together over 40 of the top translators, publishers, and authors to tell us what books need to be published in English. Get it on Kindle.

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Fans of Gaddis, Pynchon, DeLillo: A group read of the book that went from Xlibris to the University of Chicago Press. Info here. Buy the book here and support this site.

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Life A User's Manual by Georges Perec

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Interviews from Conversational Reading

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See this page for interviews with leading authors, translators, publishers, and more.


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Profanity in Blurbs?

Bernhard
The Literary Saloon thinks it's uncovered a can't-miss blurb for any publisher willing to translate Thomas Bernhard's Meine Preise:

While we're not big fans of blurbs we would, however, also urge that the US/UK publisher include one very prominently on the cover of the book — from Maxim Biller's review in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung:

Das Arschloch Thomas Bernhard, und das sage ich, obwohl ich ungern schlecht über Tote rede, das Arschloch Bernhard hat ziemlich sicher nur ein einziges gutes Buch geschrieben. Dieses Buch erscheint erst jetzt, obwohl er es schon 1980 geschrieben hat, und es zeigt, was für ein Arschloch er war

[The asshole Thomas Bernhard -- and I say this even though I dislike speaking ill of the dead -- the asshole Thomas Bernhard, it's fairly certain to say, only wrote a single good book. This book appears only now, even though he already wrote it in 1980, and it demonstrates what an asshole he was.]

This raises an interesting question: undoubtedly this would get some attention, and a large part of the appeal hinges on Biller's use of the term asshole, but would a profane blurb create the right kind of attention or the wrong kind?

I can't say that I can recall ever seeing profanity in a blurb before (not even in a positive sense, like "a fucking good read!"), although Bernhard would seem to be a good choice to break the profanity line. But I do worry . . . if a publisher does go profane, and if it does work out well, will that usher in a new era of potty-mouthed bookcovers?

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  1. Blurbs Charles Isherwood writes a column about how unethical publishers turn bad reviews into good blurbs. Frankly, anyone who buys a book based on a 1-word...
  2. New Thomas Bernhard Via This Space, I learn: German publishing house Suhrkamp has promised a "sensational release" during next year’s Thomas Bernhard year. The publishing house will release...
  3. Blurbs I don’t understand everyone’s obsession with blurbs. We’ve all read books with glowing blurbs that we thought stank. We know they’re nonsense and that there’s...

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6 comments to Profanity in Blurbs?

  • Rachel F

    Slightly milder but similar:
    “I really wanted my second book to be sharp and funny and snide and soulful and brave and heartbreaking and true. Unfortunately, that bitch Ann Leary wrote it first. I’d hate her guts except that I want to be her best friend.” -Cynthia Kaplan, author of Why I’m Like This

  • I can recall one very profane but positive paperback blurb, when Blanche McCrary Boyd called Norman Mailer’s “Harlot’s Ghost” “one of the best fucking novels I’ve ever read.”

  • Check out Forrest Gander’s blurb on the back of the New Directions paperback of Bolaño’s “The Romantic Dogs” — “…With Bolaño we encounter not only ‘fist-fucking’ but ‘feet-fucking’ in a poem that also mentions Pascal, Nazi generals, Shining Path bonfires, and a teenage hooker…” It’s one of my all-time favorite blurbs.

  • Matt,
    Now that’s a real interesting case . . . is it sensationalistic to be quoting profanity from the book itself? Good find.

  • Bruno

    Jim Dodge’s FUP has on its new british edition a quote from The Times that reads “This novel is fupped uck!”. Dunno if that counts.

  • Stefan Tobler

    Blurbs are often annoying prattle. Ditch them or make them memorable I say.
    I liked a gig poster that under the name of the band said “Overrated” – although it turned out that Overrated was the support band.

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