A Crowded Marketplace

At this time of year where I live, you can hardly walk along the street without dodging people with suitcases on wheels, many of them young. Quite a few of these seasonal visitors are hoping to make a name for themselves by showcasing their talent, which often involves trying to be funny. But however good they are, this can only work if people come to see their show. And so we have a serious outbreak of posters.

These railings at St Patrick’s Square bear a heavy load, as do many other places such as Chambers Street and the South Bridge.

Those responsible for marketing and publicity often try to make their charges stand out from the crowd by having them adopt a zany expression and even zanier posture. But sometimes they do come up with an arresting image.


So what do we make of this one? It’s a steam iron, no dloubt, but on this occasion Miss Clarke is supplying the steam. Are we hooked? Just in case the image isn’t sufficient, someone called Jordan Gray is quoted as claiming that the Sian Clarke Experience is a “Funny and Terrifying Anus Tightening Mind F*ck.” I don’t know about you, but I can get along just fine without Miss Clarke having this effect on my anus. Ultimately, though,  the only way to know if this advertising is effective is to discover how many people turn up for the show each night.

For those of us who write books and try to sell them the process, though not so obvious, is similar. We don’t compete with each other by displaying large clover blow-ups side by side on railings, but our titles can be found next to each other in bookshops and – more akin to the St Patrick’s Square situation – side by side on web pages.

Wanting to write a positive notice?

You may find it hard going, especially if you have to write several for a book-festival brochure. Every book in your festival is good or it wouldn’t be featured, but every book is good in its own way. The trick is to ring the changes. Fortunately, some ready-made words and phrases already exist. This is a small selection. Feel free to rape and pillage for your own fell purposes.

hilarious and heartbreaking
steeped in psychological tension
a fleet-footed paean
breath-taking ability
a coruscating analysis
an evocative memoir
pin-sharp, hilarious snapshots
a deliciously sharp sense of humour
compelling insight
by turns tragic and hilarious
riveting and horrifying in equal measure
a complex and rewarding tale
a razor-sharp collection of stories
profoundly moving
astute and perceptive
a riveting and moving tale
a dystopian tale
startlingly original
playfully innovative
deceptively simple
deeply moving
succinct and highly personal
lyrical, subversive and hilarious
a captivating tale of betrayal and revenge
a sensitive evocation