Mathieu Cailler

Books, Blurbs, and Curbing Boredom

Books and blurbs are as much a part of each other as Wolf Blitzer and the words “Breaking News.”

At libraries and stores, patrons scan titles, leaf through pages, and flip to the back cover to take in authors’ opinions:

“Page after page, I found myself hankering for more. Another triumph!”

“This narrative pushes forwards, leaving a reader’s heart simultaneously splintered and swollen…”

“The poems in this collection bubble with real life and pathos. One to be treasured. Or gifted. Or re-gifted.”

Well, maybe not that last one.

At least the literary arts uses quotes that are informative. A reader can make up his or her mind based on a few testimonials from writers that he or she may know and respect. It’s not the movies. Last year, a blockbuster was labeled as a “Wizbang delight!” Wizbang? Do we need more wizbang in our lives? Shouldn’t our physicians be contacted first?

The question is whether these blurbs are doing anything in the first place. Everything and everyone has its adherents. Mein Kampf was probably sent out to reviewers, accompanied by a threatening press release. But wouldn’t it be something if from now on ordinary folks got the chance to voice their opinions? Tell us what they thought of a literary work? Wouldn’t it even be more helpful?

 “Hadn’t read Charlotte’s Web since I was a kid, so I didn’t remember much. How ‘bout a warning label? Hell, even charcoal briquettes tell you not to light them indoors. After we finished the book, my son threw out all the meat in the house. That mortadella was 14.99 a pound! Better hope I don’t run into you, E.B White.” –Carl, Construction Worker, Poughkeepsie

“The title Little Women left me befuddled. The women weren’t little at all. They were normal, human-sized. The only thing that was little was the type. I had to sit in the kitchen, near the fridge, where the lighting is the best in the house.” –Horace, Grandfather of Five, Akron

Fifty Shades of Grey… soooo not a coloring book.” –Betty, Substitute Art Teacher, Houston

Or better yet, movies and books could go the route of Taco Bell, when the company hired real-life Ronald McDonalds to endorse their breakfast items. Imagine the possibilities, using living people with famous authors’ names.

“This Notebook thingwas pretty sad and good. My girlfriend liked it a ton. She cried for like, three days. I didn’t tell her that I thought it was going to be about an actual notebook. I think I’m so used to these Pixar movies now… the way they always bring ordinary things to life and give them feelings. Thought this might be a story about notebooks and pens and index cards that come alive in an office-supply store. Who knows? Not a bad idea, right?”

–Vick Hugo, Butcher at Meat My Cleaver

“The new Harry Potter book was fun. I’m glad we got another one. I wonder how many more there will be. If you see my dad tell him I’m happy he bought me the book, but what I really wanted was a pony. Tell him to talk to mom. She knows the one. Her name is Petunia.”

–Emily Dickinson, Third Grader at Lincoln Elementary

“Hey, if my daughter wants to look for Waldo all afternoon, that’s fine by me. I mean, I think if a man wants to hide that bad, maybe we should just leave him alone. Who knows what he’s done? Plus, my father told me never to trust a man who wears a beanie with a pom-pom.”

–Toni Morrison, Hairdresser at Curl Up and Dye

A quick Google search pinpointed about thirty Ernest Hemingways (a few Ernies, too), near twenty Robert Frosts (some who prefer “Bobby”), a dozen or so Langston Hughes (one who works as a basketball coach—imagine the halftime speeches), and even a Stephen King who works as a dentist… fillings anyone?

Mathieu Cailler is an award-winning author whose poetry and prose have been widely featured in over seventy national and international publications, including the Los Angeles Times and The Saturday Evening Post. A graduate of the Vermont College of Fine Arts, he is the winner of a Short Story America Prize and a Shakespeare Award. He is the author of the short-story collection, Loss Angeles (Short Story America Press), which has been honored by the Hollywood, New York, London, Paris, Best Book, and International Book Awards; the poetry collection, May I Have This Dance? (About Editions), winner of the 2017 New England Book Festival Poetry Prize; and the children’s book, The (Underappreciated) Life of Humphrey Hawley (About Editions), which has been nominated for the Caldecott Medal and the Newbery Award, among other notable prizes. He has two books forthcoming in 2020: a children’s picture book titled Hi, I’m Night (Olympia) and a poetry collection, Catacombs of the Heart (Spartan Press). For more information, please visit