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Rotten Rejections – Part 3

· Fine Book Collecting,Halifax,Rotten Rejections,Publishers,George Orwell

In late March 2022, I found a great little book that is in part hysterical, in part sad, and in part “Boy did that publisher make a mistake!”

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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!

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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.

This is the third in the series.

Let’s look at some more great rejection notes!

Ulysses, James Joyce, 1922

We have read the chapters of Mr. Joyce’s novel with great interest, and we wish we could offer to print it. But the length is an insuperable difficulty to us at present. We can get no one to help us, and at our rate of progress a book of 300 pages would take at least two years to produce…I have told my servants (servants!!) to send the MS back to you.

Untitled Submission, Rudyard Kipling, 1889

I'm sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don't know how to use the English language.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover, D. H. Lawrence, 1928

For your own good do not publish this book.

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The Rainbow, D. H. Lawrence, 1915

It is unpublishable as it stands because of its flagrant love passages.

The Spy who Came in from the Cold, John le Carré, 1963

You're welcome to le Carré - he hasn't got any future.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Anita Loos, 1925

Do you realize, young woman, that you’re the first American writer ever to poke fun at sex?

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Under the Volcano, Malcolm Lowry, 1947

Its quality is too good to be successful.

A River Runs Through It, Norman MacLean, 1976

These stories have trees in them.

The Deer Park, Norman Mailer, 1948

This will set publishing back 25 years.

A Flea Story, Don Marquis, 1927

We like it but it is over the heads of our readers.

Brutal and Licentious, John Masters, 1958

Retired curry colonels writing their reminiscences of India are two a penny.

Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov, 1955

It should be, and probably has been, told to a psychoanalyst, and it has been elaborated into a novel which contains some wonderful writing, but it is overwhelmingly nauseating, even to an enlightened Freudian. To the public, it will be revolting, it will not sell, and it will do immeasurable harm to a growing reputation…It is a totally perverse performance all around…the whole thing is an unsure cross between hideous reality and improbable fantasy. It often becomes a wild neurotic daydream, and the plot often gets confused, especially in the chaste parts…It comes out as ghastly self-savagery. I am most disturbed at the thought that the writer has asked that this be published. I can see no possible cause could be served by its publication now. I recommend that it be buried under a stone for a thousand years.

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The Four-Chambered Heart, Anaïs Nin, 1950

Miss Nin’s usual rather sensitive and lyrical writing on her usual theme of erotica interlarded with psychoanalytic interpretations…Miss Nin is distinctly caviar to the general public but I’m afraid it’s only red caviar at that…

Animal Farm, George Orwell, 1945

I don’t see that the whole book could be of interest to American readers. This is because it is addressed to Mexicans…

The Labyrinth of Solitude, Octavio Paz, 1962

I don’t see that the whole book could be of interest to American readers. This is because it is addressed to Mexicans…

Folio Club Tales, Edgar Allan Poe, 1836

Readers in this country have a decided and strong preference for works… in which a single and connected story occupies the entire volume.

Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, 1957

…the book is much too long. There are too many long speeches…I regret to say that the book is unsaleable and unpublishable.

Memo from Samuel Johnson…

Your manuscript is both good and original; but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good.