Gary Shteyngart is not a whore

The novelist gets teased for being such a promiscuous blurber. He's really a master performance artist


Salon Staff
August 3, 2012 3:50AM (UTC)

Gary Shteyngart threatened to retire from blurbing in the New York Times Book Review this week, and thousands of writers cried, "No!"

After all, the blurb game is hard for novelists -- and Shteyngart is easy. He's the rare combination of a best-selling literary writer, and a generous enough person to spend time reading and praising other authors' work. An entire genius Tumblr feed -- shteyngartblurbs.tumblr.com -- is dedicated to collecting his "promiscuous praise."

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“My blurbing standards are very high,” Shteyngart told A.J. Jacobs, another writer who can't say no when asked for a blurb. “I look for the following: Two covers, one spine, at least 40 pages, ISBN number, title, author’s name. Once those conditions are satisfied, I blurb. And I blurb hard. I’ve blurbed about a hundred novels in the past 10 years, nearly every one that landed on my desk.

Shteyngart told Jacobs that he's concerned some readers roll their eyes when they see his name on a book, and that publishers will figure that out at some point. But while the ungenerous dismiss Shteyngart as a blurb whore, the reality is much different. Shteyngart's praise is practically poetic -- it's performance art on a book jacket, and it just gets funnier, wilder and more clever.

Take his praise for Joshua Henkin's new novel "The World Without You," which is set over a summer holiday weekend. "The 4th of July will never be the same for me, nor for my fellow Americans," he blurbs. Or this, for "I Am an Executioner," a recent story collection by Rajesh Parmeswaran: "I love Rajesh because his last name is even more impossible than my own, and because he has redefined the American short story for me."

This slide show collects some of our favorites.


Salon Staff

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A.j. Jacobs A.j. Jacobs Blurb Blurb Books Gary Shetyngart Blurb Gary Shteyngart

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