A time-honored ritual of book publishing is The Blurb, a testimonial soundbite to a book’s worthiness. Blurbs have a long and somewhat sordid history; still, we pursue them in hopes that they’ll entice people to buy. It used to be that blurbs primarily appeared on book jackets, taking the form of a sentence or phrase from a review or another author. Some blurbs still appear on covers, but nowadays they mostly live on the web. And they almost never appear out of thin air, especially if they’re from another writer.
In the months leading up to publication, you and/or your publisher send advance copies to reviewers as well as better-known writers, in hopes of initiating a four-step process. If all goes according to plan, the recipients will take the time to read your book (step one); like it enough to say so (step two); agree to write a blurb (step three); and follow through (step four — Valhalla!).
We sent “Losering” out to a few superstars who were obvious longshots, Stephen King and Nick Hornby, because they’re both big Ryan fans. I’ve heard nothing from either, but hope springs eternal. In the interim, plenty of other writers did come through on the blurb front — including Silas House, a very fine novelist who teaches writing in Kentucky. He was extraordinarily kind:
A tightly written and bold look at one of music’s most brilliant and enigmatic artists, Ryan Adams. But this fine book transcends that, providing a first-hand account of the birth of modern Americana music and showing us what a profound effect music has on all of our lives. “Losering” is the best in music journalism, and Menconi is surely one of our best music writers.
You’ll find that and other blurbs enshrined in the “About” page of this blog. Meanwhile, I’m a little bit prouder of that blurb right now because Silas has a terrific essay in the New York Times, “The Art of Being Still.” It’s a wonderful, note-perfect rumination on the writing mindset, and what it takes. And as someone who never feels like there are enough hours in the day, I find one part particularly resonant. Recounting how he was asked at a reading about how many hours a day he writes, Silas answered, “I write every waking minute.”
Boy howdy, can I relate. Even when I’m not parked at the computer pounding away at the keyboard, I can never turn my “Writer” switch off. I’m never not writing, which is both blessing and curse. It’s not something as simple as loving what I do, it’s that I can’t do anything else; and in a world where so many people seem never to find their true calling, to feel like I’m doing what I’m meant to do is…well, a blessing. But when it’s driving me nuts, keeping me awake at 3 a.m., it can feel like more of a burden.
Still, it’s not one I’d trade. Thank you, Silas, for the reminder.