Tag Archives: literary oddities

Rotten Rejections: Isabel of Bavaria

[The squib refers to the novel by Alexandre Dumas.]

“Stick to drama, my dear fellow. You know you are a dramatic through and through.”

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

The Devil’s Dictionary: Book Learning (n)

“Book-learning, n. The dunce’s derisive term for all knowledge that transcends his own impenitent ignorance.”

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 Reviews: Lady Chatterly’s Lover

D.H. Lawrence has a diseased mind. He is obsessed by sex…we have no doubt that he will be ostracized by all except the most degenerate coteries in the literary world.”

John Bull

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

Rotten Reviews: Under the Volcano

Mr. Lowry is passionately in earnest about what he has to say concerning human hope and defeat, but for all his earnestness he has succeeded only in writing a rather good imitation of an important novel.”

The New Yorker

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

The Day of the Locust

[I read The Day of the Locust in high school and remember really enjoying it; I’ve been meaning to reread it ever since.]

“A dark novel (1939) by the US writer Nathanael West (1903-1940). The work explores the seamy underside of Hollywood (where West himself had worked as a scriptwriter), and shows how it eats away at people’s better selves. At the end Homer, a harmless but unexciting accountant, knocks down a boy who attacks him, and is in turn overwhelmed by a group of people (like a swarm of locusts) who are waiting for the arrival of stars at a a premiere.

‘I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpillar, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you.’

Joel 2:25

John Schlesinger’s 1975 film of West’s book, with Donald Sutherland and Karen Black, was highly regarded.”

Excerpted from: Crofton, Ian, ed. Brewer’s Curious Titles. London: Cassell, 2002.

Rotten Reviews: George Bernard Shaw Pans Othello

“Pure melodrama. There is not a touch of characterization that goes below the skin.”

George Bernard Shaw, Saturday Review 1897 

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

The Devil’s Dictionary: Serial (n)

A literary work, usually a story that is not true, creeping through several issues of a newspaper or magazine. Frequently appended to each installment is a ‘synopsis of preceding chapters’ for those who have not read them, but a direr need is a synopsis of succeeding chapters for those who do not intend to read them. A synopsis of the entire work would be still better.

The late James F. Bowman was writing a serial tale for a weekly paper in collaboration with a genius whose name has not come down to us. They wrote, not jointly but alternately, Bowman supplying the instalment for one week, his friend for the next, and so on, world without end, they hoped. Unfortunately they quarreled, and one Monday morning when Bowman read the paper to prepare himself for his task, he found the work cut out for him in a way to surprise and pain him. His collaborator had embarked every character of the narrative on a ship and sunk them all in the deepest part of the Atlantic.”

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