Tag Archives: literary oddities

Rotten Reviews: All the King’s Men

Rotten Reviews: All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren

“Somewhere, Mr. Warren loses his grip on his backwoods opportunities and becomes so absorbed in a number of other characters that what might have been a useful study or an irresponsible politician whose prototype whe have had melancholy occasion to observe in the flesh turns out to be a disappointment.”

The New Yorker

“The language of both men and women is coarse, blasphemous, and revolting—their actions would shame a pagan hottentot.”

Catholic World

Excerpted from: Barnard, Andre, and Bill Henderson, eds. Pushcart’s Complete Rotten Reviews and Rejections. Wainscott, NY: Pushcart Press, 1998. 

Book of Answers: The Death of Edgar Allan Poe

How did Edgar Allan Poe die? In October, 1849, the forty-year-old writer was found lying unconscious near a polling place in Baltimore. According to some reports, he had been fed liquor and dragged to various polling places to vote repeatedly. He was taken to a hospital where he remained semi-comatose for three days. On October 7, at 3 A.M. he died of “congestion of the brain” and possibly intestinal inflammation, a weak heart, and diabetes.

Excerpted from: Corey, Melinda, and George Ochoa. Literature: The New York Public Library Book of Answers. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993.

Rotten Rejections: A Confederacy of Dunces

“A southern writer named John Kennedy Toole wrote a comic novel about life in New Orleans called A Confederacy of Dunces. It was so relentlessly rejected by publishers that he killed himself. That was in 1969. His mother refused to give up on the book. She sent it out and got it back, rejected, over and over again. At last she won the patronage of Walker Percy, who got it accepted by the Louisiana State University Press, and in 1980 it won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.”

Excerpted from: Barnard, Andre, and Bill Henderson, eds. Pushcart’s Complete Rotten Reviews and Rejections. Wainscott, NY: Pushcart Press, 1998.

Rotten Reviews: Philip Roth

Portnoy’s Complaint (1971)

This looks and sounds like a Jewish novel. It isn’t. Or, if it is, it is not a good one, a true one…it is finally a definitive something or other. I regret that it is not a definitive something.

America

The best that can be said of Roth’s accomplishment is that Mama Portnoy is a caricature drawn by a master cartoonist, but she’s not more than that…the main trouble with the Jewish family theme is that it has been overwritten.

The Nation

Our Gang (1971)

Nixon’s rough treatment at Roth’s hands may very well invite more sympathy for him than anything since the Checkers speech.

Saturday Review

The Great American Novel (1973)

Roth has, unfortunately, got into such a shouting match with his readers that some of us are going to have to start shouting back.

Encounter

My Life as a Man (1974)

…a totally solipsistic novel, which may well make it a perfect expression of the times.

Commentary

Excerpted from: Bernard, Andre, and Bill Henderson, eds. Pushcart’s Complete Rotten Reviews and Rejections. Wainscott, NY: Pushcart Press, 1998.

Rotten Reviews: Tom Wolfe

The Kandy-Kolored, Tangerine-Flake, Streamlined Baby (1965)

One want to say to Mr. Wolfe; you’re so clever, you can write so well, tell us something interesting.

Saturday Review

The Painted Word (1975)

There is plenty of hot air in this particular balloon, but I don’t see it going anywhere.

John Russell, New York Times Book Review

Excerpted from: Bernard, Andre, and Bill Henderson, eds. Pushcart’s Complete Rotten Reviews and Rejections. Wainscott, NY: Pushcart Press, 1998.

Devil’s Dictionary: Grammar

“Grammar, n. A system of pitfalls thoughtfully prepared for the feet of the self-made man, along the path by which he advances to distinction.”

Excerpted from: Bierce, Ambrose. David E. Schultz and S.J. Joshi, eds. The Unabridged Devil’s Dictionary. Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 2000. 

The Algonquin Wits: Heywood Broun

“On a voyage across the Pacific, Broun and his fellow passengers one day decided to provide themselves with an evening of entertainment. Heywood was asked to box three rounds with a man whose stature closely matched his own 240-pound frame. Before accepting the offer, Heywood engaged the other fellow in a chat, presumably to discover what he was up against. In the course of their talk, the man said to Heywood, ‘I’m going to ask you a question which I have wanted to ask someone ever since I got on this ship. What is this “demitasse” they have on the bill of fare?’ Heywood later sought out the chairman of the entertainment committee and announced, “I’ve changed my mind about boxing with that chap. Any man who doesn’t know what a “demitasse” is must be a tough guy.’”

Excerpted from: Drennan, Robert E., ed. The Algonquin Wits. New York: Kensington, 1985.