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This review is taken from PN Review 45, Volume 12 Number 1, September - October 1985.

THE DESCRIPTIVE ARTS Peter Porter, Fast Forward (Oxford University Press) £4.50 pb.
David Harsent, Mister Punch (Oxford University Press) £4.50 pb.
Alex Barr, Letting in the Carnival (Harry Chambers/Peterloo Poets) £3.00 pb.
Blake Morrison, Dark Glasses (Chatto & Windus) £3.95 pb.

Reviewers are, if I may put it this way, quantitatively versed in blurb. In this sense they are unlike solitary bookshop browsers, browsers who, in their capacity as honoured choosers, have swelled Faber's poetry sales by 38% during this past year. Bookshop browsers are the designated recipients of blurb, and Faber's swelling poetry sales can be put down, I think, to some timely issuing along with neat promotion work, rather than to a wholesale renaissance of interest in verse. The abortive Helicopter Tour almost qualified as aerial blurb, and Faber's blurbs proper, book-blurbs, are teeth-rattlingly magisterial.

But reviewers are not browsers. They do not honourably choose blurb; blurb is thrust upon them. If blurb is regarded as a kind of outer garment, wrung and pressed in the infernal steam of the market forces Laundry, then browsers, as choosers, are presumably attracted by (among other things) the quality and packaging of the product. (Indeed, there may exist somewhere a strange by-product of such a transaction, the Closet Blurbist.) Reviewers, however, are in no such fortunate position. Blurb is to be read as a minor and often tedious duty. The only consolation the reviewer has, as he scans the blurb creeping backwards across his desk, is the ability to absorb blurb upside-down. And it is a reflection of blurb's purposelessness to the reviewer that this last course of action is often more educational than absorbing blurb the right way up, 'processing it leftwards to rightwards in the modality of ...


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