Tag Archives: literary oddities

Rotten Rejections: Zuleika Dobson, by Max Beerbohm

(It’s worth noting here that this novel, a satire of undergraduate life at Oxford, is included in Modern Library’s List of the 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century in the English Language (it’s number 59). At the time of the list’s publication, I recall many critics remarking that for this type of academic satire, Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis or The Groves of Academe by Mary McCarthy would have been better choices.

“I do not think it would interest us. The author is more highly esteemed by himself than by anyone else, and has never reached any high standard in his literary work.”

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

Rotten Reviews: Julius Caesar

”There is not a single sentence uttered by Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar that is, I will not say worthy of him, but worthy of an average Tammany boss.”

George Bernard Shaw, Saturday Review

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

Rotten Rejections: Julia Child, et al

Rotten Rejections: Mastering the Art of French Cooking, by Julia Child, Simone Beck, and Louisette Bertholle.

“What we envisage as saleable…is perhaps a series of small books devoted to particular portions of the meal…. We also feel that such a series should meet a rigorous standard of simplicity and compactness, certainly less elaborate than your present volumes, which, although we are sure are foolproof, are undeniably demanding in the time and focus of the cook, who is so apt to be a mother, nurse, chauffeur, and cleaner as well.”

“…It is a big, expensive cookbook of elaborate information and might well prove formidable to the American housewife. She might easily clip one of these recipes but be frightened by the book as a whole.”

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

Rotten Reviews: Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh

“Mr. Waugh displays none of the elan that distinguishes the true satirist from the caricaturist. For all its brilliance the writing lacks vitality. The invention is tired, and effects are too often got by recourse to the devices of slapstick exaggeration.”

Dudley Fitts, The Nation

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

Pretty Much, Yeah.

“If you attack stupidity you attack an entrenched interest with friends in government and every walk of public life, and you will make small progress against it.”

Samuel Marchbanks

Excerpted from: Winokur, Jon, ed. The Portable Curmudgeon. New York: Plume, 1992.

Rotten Rejections: Samuel Beckett

Rotten Rejections, Samuel Beckett I: Dream of Fair-to-Middling Women

“I wouldn’t touch this with a barge-pole. Beckett’s probably a clever fellow, but here he has elaborated a slavish and rather incoherent imitation of Joyce, most eccentric in language and full of disgustingly affected passages—also indecent: the book is damned—and you wouldn’t sell the book even on its title.”

Rotten Rejections, Samuel Beckett II: Molloy and Malone Dies

“I couldn’t read either book—that is, my eye refused to sit on the page and absorb meanings, or whatever substitutes for meaning in this kind of thing…. This doesn’t make sense and it isn’t funny…. I suspect that the real fault in these novels, if I cared to read them carefully, would be simply dullness. There’s no sense considering them for publication here; the bad taste of the American public does not yet coincide with the bad taste of the French avant-garde.”

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

Rotten Reviews: Ernest Hemingway on Gertrude Stein

“It’s a shame you never knew her before she went to pot. You know a funny thing, she never could write dialogue. It was terrible. She learned how to do it from my stuff… She never could forgive learning that and she was afraid people would notice it, where she’d learned it, so she had to attack me. It’s a funny racket, really. But I swear she was damned nice before she got ambitious.”

Ernest Hemingway, in Green Hills of Africa, 1935

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