“Was there a real Robinson Crusoe? Daniel Defoe based The Life and Strange Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1719-20) on the real-life story of Alexander Selkirk (1676-1721), a Scottish sailor who survived for more than four years on the desert island of Juan Fernandez off the Chilean coast. He became a celebrity after his rescue and homecoming in 1709.”
Excerpted from: Corey, Melinda, and George Ochoa. Literature: The New York Public Library Book of Answers. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993.
“One of the best known and most popular works of the US artist Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009). Painted in 1948, it depicts an eerily lit, sharply delineated but featureless farm landscape, with two farm buildings on the high horizon, while in the foreground is the mysterious figure of Christina, a thin-limbed girl propping herself up on the grass. Christina, whose view of the landscape we share, was a crippled neighbor of Wyeth’s in the Brandywine Valley, Pennsylvania.”
Excerpted from: Crofton, Ian, ed. Brewer’s Curious Titles. London: Cassell, 2002.
[It’s worth mentioning here, I think, that Thomas Mann was the Nobel Laureate in Literature for 1929. These Rotten Reviews refer, as above, to Buddenbrooks, published in 1901]
“Very few Americans will take the trouble to read this book ot the end. It contains no climaxes, no vivid surprise…. Interesting as the story may be it is too loosely constructed, and for many readers that will prove a barrier.”
Boston Evening Transcript, 1921
“Nothing but two thick tomes in which the author describes the worthless story of worthless people in worthless chatter.”
Edward Engel, in The Art of Folly 1961
Excerpted from: Bernard, Andre, and Bill Henderson, eds. Pushcart’s Complete Rotten Reviews and Rejections. Wainscott, NY: Pushcart Press, 1998.