Often times writers feel like giving up. Why? The review that shreds your work like chum thrown to sharks, or the unkind words of a blogger can dampen ones’ spirits even if they are wrong. PW posted this today and I couldn’t feel better. Look at the company we writers keep and think again what the future holds.
The 13 Worst Reviews of Classic Books
A quarter century ago, Pushcart editor Bill Henderson put together Rotten Reviews Redux, a collection of the meanest and most scathing reviews of classic books and the writers who penned them. The vitriol returns in a 2012 edition of the book with a new introduction from Henderson. We sorted through the book to find 13 of our favorites.
“The final blow-up of what was once a remarkable, if minor, talent.” –The New Yorker, 1936, on Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
“Whitman is as unacquainted with art as a hog is with mathematics.” –The London Critic, 1855, on Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
“That this book is strong and that Miss Chopin has a keen knowledge of certain phrases of the feminine will not be denied. But it was not necessary for a writer of so great refinement and poetic grace to enter the overworked field of sex fiction.” –Chicago Times Herald, 1899, on The Awakening by Kate Chopin
“Here all the faults of Jane Eyre (by Charlotte Brontë) are magnified a thousand fold, and the only consolation which we have in reflecting upon it is that it will never be generally read.” -James Lorimer, North British Review, 1847, on Wuthering Heightsby Emily Brontë
“That a book like this could be written–published here–sold, presumably over the counters, leaves one questioning the ethical and moral standards…there is a place for the exploration of abnormalities that does not lie in the public domain. Any librarian surely will question this for anything but the closed shelves. Any bookseller should be very sure that he knows in advance that he is selling very literate pornography.” –Kirkus Reviews, 1958, on Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
“Her work is poetry; it must be judged as poetry, and all the weaknesses of poetry are inherent in it.” –New York Evening Post, 1927, on To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
“An oxymoronic combination of the tough and tender, Of Mice and Men will appeal to sentimental cynics, cynical sentimentalists…Readers less easily thrown off their trolley will still prefer Hans Andersen.” –Time, 1937, on Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
“Its ethics are frankly pagan.” –The Independent, 1935, on Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham
“A gloomy tale. The author tries to lighten it with humor, but unfortunately her idea of humor is almost exclusively variations on the pratfall…Neither satire nor humor is achieved.” –Saturday Review of Literature, 1952, on Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor
“Middlemarch is a treasure-house of details, but it is an indifferent whole.” -Henry James, Galaxy, 1872, on Middlemarch by George Eliot
“At a conservative estimate, one million dollars will be spent by American readers for this book. They will get for their money 34 pages of permanent value. These 34 pages tell of a massacre happening in a little Spanish town in the early days of the Civil War…Mr. Hemingway: please publish the massacre scene separately, and then forget For Whom the Bell Tolls; please leave stories of the Spanish Civil War to Malraux…” –Commonweal, 1940, on For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
“Monsieur Flaubert is not a writer.” –Le Figaro, 1857, on Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert