Christmas Books for that Special Person

Browsing an Oxford University Press catalog that came in the mail led me to meditate on the art of the blurb. I read a column once by Russell Baker on the art of writing license plate slogans: Empire State, First in Flight, Live Free or Die, etc. Well, catalog blurbing makes a lot more room available and so is a less demanding art form. Nevertheless, it seems to have gone down hill lately. If words still have meaning – an uncertain proposition – the blurb writers seem not to be wholly aware of it. But here’s a selection of blurbs about books that might be ideal for Christmas giving – if you could tell what they are about:

Lying, Cheating, and Stealing: A Moral Theory of White Collar Crime
. “Green’s book admirably clears away much of the conceptual underbrush surrounding the idea of white collar crime.” “Conceptual underbrush” such as the verbiage in this blurb?

Between War and Politics: International Relations and the Thought of Hannah Arendt. “A well-written and cogently argued and entirely persuasive account of Arendt’s sustained but largely ignored engagement with war and violence.” With pictures of Hannah’s bandages?

The Oxford Illustrated Jane Austen. “R.W. Chapman’s fine new edition has, among its other merits, the advantage of waking the Jane Austenite up . . . The novels continue to live their own wonderful internal life . . .freshened and enriched by contact with the life of facts.” Nothing like coming in contact with facts to enrich your life!

Swarm Creativity: Competitive Advantage Through Collaborative Innovation Networks by Peter A. Gloor. “Gloor’s contribution is the enumeration of a set of principles to improve the probability of incubating a successful collaboration network.” How much successful collaboration have you ever seen in incubators?

Accountability for Human Rights Atrocities in International Law. “This volume . . .is a timely and essential resource for any scholar or practitioner.”

I’ll have to decode the blurbs before deciding who on my Christmas list might benefit from these volumes, but, since the last title is an “essential resource for any . . . practitioner,” I’m thinking of getting one each for George Bush and Dick Cheney.

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