Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Author Quotes

I've been thinking about author quotes, the kind that appear on book covers. You know the ones I mean, the ones meant to convince you that you'll like a book because a different author, one whose books you already like, says it's really good.

A while back I blogged about this topic, specifically covering how I feel about authors writing these cover quotes for friends of theirs. I think I used a Maureen Johnson book as an example because it features a very nice quote from Cassandra Clare and I know that they're friends. That is an issue for me, because I can't take that quote seriously. Sure, I want to believe that no author would make up a quote for someone just because they're friends - and after reading and loving the book in question, I'm sure Clare didn't do that - but I can't assume that's the case. I give absolutely no credibility to statements from authors about their friends' work.

A couple months ago, on the other hand, I picked up a book and saw a quote from an author that rang an alarm bell. I don't know if the two authors in question have any kind of personal relationship, if they've ever even met. What I do know is that I hated the book written by the author giving the quote. I didn't just dislike it personally, I genuinely thought it was dross. That there was literally nothing good about it. Which raises the question of how should I approach a book praised by an author whose book I loathed? I don't trust her opinion, the quote actually put me off a little bit. And it shouldn't, not really. Just because I don't like her writing one bit does not mean she doesn't have perfectly good taste in books.

I don't want to name the book in question or the author giving the quote for it, because that just seems mean. I will say that I read the book and really liked it, so I shouldn't have worried about the praising quote at all. When I really thought about it, I realised that my opinion of these quotes doesn't really matter, because the quotes themselves are essentially meaningless. No publisher is going to put bad or even lukewarm reviews of a book anywhere near it. Of course they only print the glowing ones, so what's the point in having them at all? Has a cover quote ever convinced you to buy a book? It's never swayed me. Most of the time, I don't even read them. I hate when they're on the front because it ruins the aesthetics of the cover, and my eyes just glaze past the ones on the back in favour of just reading the actual book blurb.

In fact, the only ever time review quotes have had even a remote impact on me is when I read Ian Banks' The Wasp Factory. Inside the first few pages are a ton of negative quotes about the book, and that intrigued me. Since the book was assigned for a class, I can't say whether these quotes would have impacted my decision to read the book or not, but they have stayed with me. And not just because the damn book has haunted me for several years.

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