Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Sudbury, 1844.

I have a blurb-related pet hate:

"Palestine, 1941". "Leningrad, 1952". "England, 31st August 1939". "Vienna, 1939".

The opening sentences of the blurbs for Mornings in Jenin, The Betrayal, The Very Thought of You and Quiet Twin

On the paperback fiction table at Daunts on Fulham Road right now there are fifty two books. No fewer than twelve have blurbs starting either with this exact formulation - location, date - or featuring location and date somewhere in the first line. For example: "In 1901 a young frontiersman named Peter Force comes to New York City" "It is 1940, and bombs fall nightly on London" "On 19 August 1936 Hercules the boxer stands on the quayside at Coruña" "The year is 1878".

It's natural to want to set the scene, but surely we can come up with cleverer ways to do it? And is it really so important to get this information across first? Surely we can arouse a reader's curiosity better by beginning with something that's uniquely appealing about the book, letting the bare facts of its setting come later, or even not at all.

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