Tag Archives: literary oddities

Rotten Reviews: On Edgar Allan Poe

“After reading some of Poe’s stories one feels a kind of shock to one’s modesty. We require some kind of spiritual ablution to cleanse our minds of his disgusting images.”

Leslie StephenHours in a Library 1874

“A verbal poet merely; empty of thought, empty of sympathy, empty of love for any real thing…he was not human and manly.”

John Burroughs, The Dial 1893

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

Rotten Reviews: On John Milton

“His fame is gone out like a candle in a snuff and his memory will always stink.”

William Winstanley, diary 1687

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

The Devil’s Dictionary: Dullard (n)

“Dullard, n. A member of the reigning dynasty in letters and life. The Dullards came in with Adam, and being both numerous and sturdy have overrun the habitable world. The secret of their power is the insensibility to blows; tickle them with a bludgeon and they laugh with a platitude. The Dullards came originally from Boetia, whence they were driven by stress of starvation, their dullness having blighted the crops. For some centuries, they infested Philistia, and many of them are called Philistines to this day. In the turbulent times of the Crusades they withdrew thence and gradually overspread all Europe, occupying most of the high places in politics, art, literature, science, and theology. Since a detachment of Dullards came over with the Pilgrims in the Mayflower and made a favorable report of the country, their increase by birth, immigration, and conversion has been rapid and steady. According to the most trustworthy statistics the number of adult Dullards in the United States is but little short of thirty millions, including the statisticians, The intellectual center of the race is somewhere about Peoria, Illinois, but the New England Dullard is the most shockingly moral.” 

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

Rotten Rejections: The Four-Chambered Heart

“Miss Nin’s usual rather sensitive and lyrical writing on her usual theme of erotica interlarded with psychoanalytic interpretations… Miss Nin is distinctly caviar to the general public but I’m afraid it’s only red caviar at that…”

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

The Devil’s Dictionary: Proofreader

“Proof-reader, n. A malefactor who atones for making your writing nonsense by permitting the compositor to make it unintelligible.”

Ambrose Bierce

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

Rotten Rejections: The Image and the Law

“If the object of poetry is obscurity, Howard Nemerov is a great poet… I am, perhaps, a confirmed reactionary in poetry, preferring ‘I stood upon a little hill’ and…’Pepsicola hits the spot for just a nickel you get a lot’… Nuts, I say.”

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

Devil’s Dictionary: Republic (n)

“Republic, n. A nation in which, the thing governing and the thing governed being the same, there is only a permitted authority to enforce and optional obedience. In a republic the foundation of public order is the ever lessening habit of submission inherited from ancestors who, being truly governed, submitted because they had to. There are as many kinds of republics as there are gradations between the despotism whence they came and the anarchy whither they lead.”

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