Bill Henderson & André Bernard

Bill Henderson & André Bernard
Rotten Reviews & Rejections

Every one of today’s literary giants was once blasted by devastating comments from a reviewer or publisher. Every best-seller was sneered at by someone; every masterpiece got rejected.

You could take this to mean one of several things: that editors and critics are doofuses, incapable of recognizing genius when it bites them on the ankle; that it was just as hard to get published 100 years ago as it is today; that few people can resist the urge to denigrate.

But I suspect the purpose of this book was more basic—to console fledgling authors whose work is being disparaged or dismissed. One way or another, it makes for vastly entertaining reading.

A few of the critiques leveled at now-famous books and writers:

Sanctuary, William Faulkner: “Good God, I can’t publish this. We’d both be in jail.”

And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, Dr. Seuss: “Too different from other juveniles on the market.”

A Remembrance of Things Past, Marcel Proust: “I can’t see why a chap should need thirty pages to describe how he turns over in bed before going to sleep.”

Charles Dickens: “We do not believe in the permanence of his reputation.”

Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll: “Stiff, overwrought story.”

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald: “Falls into the class of negligible novels.”

The Spy Who Came In from the Cold, John le Carré: “You’re welcome to le Carré—he hasn’t got any future.”

Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë: “It will never be generally read.”

Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy: “Sentimental rubbish.”

Rudyard Kipling: “I’m sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.”

The bottom line: If you’re wallpapering your apartment with rejection slips—as Scott Fitzgerald was said to do—you’re in good company.

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