Tag Archives: literary oddities

Rotten Reviews: Raymond Carver

“There is nothing here to appease a reader’s basic literary needs.”

Atlantic Monthly

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

7 Chemicals of Alchemist’s Arcana

“Sulphuric Acid * Iron Oxide * Sodium Carbonate * Sodium Nitrate * Liquor Hepatis * Red Pulvis Solaris * Black Pulvis Solaris

The alchemist’s vocabulary does not always translate directly into a modern formula. They were keen on Natron, which was a generic word that included both the salts of sodium carbonate and sodium nitrate. Vitriol, however, is what we know as sulphuric acid and Aqua Fortis was nitric acid. Black pulvis solaris was formed from ground black antimony (stibnite–a sulphide of antimony) mixed with ground sulphur. Red pulvis solaris was a mixture of mercury (which could be extracted by heating cinnabar) and sulphur.

The alchemists also made a strong connection between the seven prime metals and the planets. The sun was linked to gold, the moon to silver, Mars to iron, Mercury to quicksilver, Saturn to lead, Jupiter to tin, and Venus to copper.

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

Rotten Reviews: In Cold Blood

[In this squib, Stanley Kaufmann alludes to Truman Capote’s famously snarky remark about Jack Kerouac’s prose, to wit, “That’s not writing, that’s typing”.]

“One can say of this book–with sufficient truth to make it worth saying: ‘This isn’t writing. It’s research.'”

Stanley KaufmannThe New Republic

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

Rotten Reviews: Nova Express

“…The book is unnecessary.”

Granville HicksSaturday Review

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

Devil’s Dictionary: Hell

“Hell, n. The residence of the late Noah Webster, dictionary-maker.”

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

Bestiaries

bestiaries: Allegorical poems or books giving descriptions of various animals or stories concerning them, with Christian application or moral appended to each. Although the characteristics and habits assigned to each animal were largely legendary, bestiaries were often treated during the Middle Ages as treatises on natural history, as well as moral instruction, and were highly popular.

The beast-fable, popular from Aesop to the medieval Roman de Renart, was usually satirical and pragmatic in its moral; a 4th-century work in Greek was probably the first to turn animal descriptions into specifically Christian allegory, and its translations into Latin Physiologi were the basis of most English and Continental bestiaries. The best known are the Latin Physiologus (11th century) by the abbot Theobaldus, the Bestiary by the Anglo-Norman poet Phillippe de Thaun, and an anonymous Middle English Bestiary (c1250).”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

Rotten Rejections: And To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street

[This, of course, refers to Dr. Seuss’s 1937 book, which refers to Mulberry Street in Springfield, Massachusetts, which was the good doctor’s home, rather than the famous street in Little Italy in Manhattan.]

“…too different from other juveniles on the market to warrant its selling.”

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