Tag Archives: literary oddities

Rotten Rejections: Memo from a Chinese Economic Journal…

“We have read your manuscript with boundless delight. If we were to publish your paper, it would be impossible for us to publish any work of lower standard. And as it is unthinkable that in the next thousand years we shall see its equal, we are, to our regret, compelled to return your divine composition, and to beg you a thousand times to overlook our short sight and timidity.”

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

The Devil’s Dictionary: Attorney

“Attorney, n. A person legally appointed to mismanage one’s affairs which one has not himself the skill to rightly mismanage.”

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 Postman Always Rings Twice

James M. Cain’s novel The Postman Always Rings Twice stirred up something of a sensation when it was first published in 1934. It wasn’t about the postal service, it was about sex. Cain explained that he had given his book its odd title because before it was accepted for publication it was rejected many times, and each day that the postman brought a letter of rejection he rang twice.”

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

A Miscellania of Rotten Rejections

Peyton Place, that ersatz Desire Under the Elms, a mish-mash of small-town sext steamy enought to tempt, you would think, all profit-minded publishers (and what other kind, you might ask, is there?) was turned down by fourteen of them. A work as different from Peyton Place as can imagined, William Appelman Williams’s The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, was rejected by more than twenty publishers before it was finally accepted. It has now been reprinted several times and is recognized as an outstanding revisionist work. Jonathan Livingston Seagull also flew through some twenty rejections.”

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

George Bernard Shaw on Newspapers

“A newspaper is a device unable to discriminate between a bicycle accident and the collapse of civilization.”

George Bernard Shaw

Excerpted from: Winokur, Jon, ed. The Big Curmudgeon. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal, 2007.

Rotten Rejections: A Man of Property (from The Forsyte Saga)

“Take your long novel down the street to my friend William Heinemann who specializes in fiction, and sit down and write a play for me–I think you’d do that well.”

*

The author writes to please himself rather than to please the novel reading public and accordingly his novel lacks popular qualities…the average reader may be pardoned if he fails to become interested in the intricate family relations involved in the opening chapters of the book…from beginning to end there is not one really admirable character, and it is hard to feel sympathy even for those who undergo sorrow and suffering.”

*

“…the slight plot, the fact that all the characters are distinctly British, both seem to make it clear that the volume would not have any real sale in this country….”

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

The Algonquin Wits: George S. Kaufman

[Here are two quotes that demonstrate that George S. Kaufman could laugh at himself in the face of personal failure. The play Someone in the House, a Google search suggests, has been forgotten by history.]

“During the influenza epidemic of 1918, just after his first play had opened in New York, Kaufman reportedly went around advising people to ‘avoid crowds–see Someone in the House.'”

“After the flop of his first play, Someone in the House, Kaufman remarked, ‘there wasn’t.'”

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