Last week, I found a great little book that is in part hysterical, in part sad, and in part “Boy did that publisher make a mistake!”
Rotten Rejections: A literary Companion, edited by André Bernard, Pushcart Press, Wainscott, NY, 1990.
Per the blurb – “The editor has selected the nastiest rejection letters he could discover, many contributed by the rejected authors and a few by the rejecting editors.” Then they list some of the well-known authors. I won’t share that list with you now but introduce them as the series progresses. But I will share the listing of the publishers who had been so rotten!
Not a shabby list at all.
We are going to enjoy this book together. I am going to start at the beginning of the book and pick the “really good ones” or do I mean “the really bad ones”. When I get enough for the musing, I will stop and put the book aside until I do the next one in the series. And the book has some great drawings as well and I’ll share these as we go along.
I trust you will enjoy them and maybe even shocked by the dumb rejection. Hindsight is great, isn’t it?
The Ability to Kill, Eric Ambler, 1963
We both enjoyed this, especially that wonderful, crooked leading character – but it’s all pretty rough stuff for us, so we’ll have to pass
Black Oxen, Gertrude Atherton, 1923
I have no hesitation in advising you to decline Mrs. Atherton’s novel…principally for the reason that it is an apology for adultery…Besides this radical immorality contains many passages of pseudo-philosophy that would give offense to religious persons.
Dream of Fair-to-Middling Women, Samuel Beckett, 1951
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.
Zuleika Dobson, Max Beerbohm, 1911
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.
The Good Earth, Pearl Buck, Love & Money, 1931
Regret the American public is not interested in anything on China.
The Postman Always Rings Twice, James M. Cain, 1934
I think it is only a matter of time before you reach out into more substantial efforts that will be capable of making some real money as books.
Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, Stephen Crane, 1893
... to cruel for us.
The Ipcress File, Len Deighton, 1963
Not only does this bog down in the middle, but the author tends to stay too long with non-essentials. He seems to have little idea of pace, and is enchanted with his words, his tough style, and that puts me off badly.
Young Renny, Mazo de la Roche, 1935
Mary is wooden, Malahide a caricature, (this) is a failure and will, if published, end the Whiteoak family once and for all. It will have a disastrous effect upon your public.
Welcome to Hard Times, E. L. Doctorow, 1960
Things improve a bit with the rebuilding of the village but then go to hell in a hack at the end. Perhaps there is a public that can take all this with a straight face but I’m not one of them.
A Study in Scarlet, Arthur Conan Doyle, 1887
Neither long enough for a serial nor short enough for a single story.
The Silence of History, James T. Farrell, 1963
Although these manuscripts are physically a mess, they are also lousy.