Archive for April, 2012

April 28, 2012

Ouch! Classic Works Scorched Back in the Day

If you’re a writer whose gotten lukewarm reviews for something you’ve penned or your rejection folder is disturbingly full, CHIN UP!  You’re in good company. Really good company. Over at Mental Floss, they have a post titled. 11 Early Scathing Reviews of Works Now Considered Masterpieces.

  • Among them is Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass review from The Atlantic in 1882:

“… the book cannot attain to any very wide influence.”

  • And there was this scathing review of Moby Dick:

“…Our author must be henceforth numbered in the company of the incorrigibles who occasionally tantalize us with indications of genius, while they constantly summon us to endure monstrosities, carelessnesses, and other such harassing manifestations of bad taste as daring or disordered ingenuity can devise…” -Henry F. Chorley, London Athenaeum, October 25, 1851

“How a human being could have attempted such a book as the present without committing suicide before he had finished a dozen chapters, is a mystery. It is a compound of vulgar depravity and unnatural horrors.” –Graham’s Lady Magazine

  • Emily’s sister, Charlotte, was less than enthusiastic about Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice:

“Anything like warmth or enthusiasm, anything energetic, poignant, heartfelt, is utterly out of place in commending these works: all such demonstrations the authoress would have met with a well-bred sneer, would have calmly scorned as outré or extravagant…”

  • Another instance of a writer who gave his two cents about another writer’s work was George Bernard Shaw letting the world know how he really felt about Ulysses penned by his fellow countryman James Joyce:

 “In Ireland they try to make a cat clean by rubbing its nose in its own filth. Mr. Joyce has tried the same treatment on the human subject.” 

  • They also included a couple rejections, one of which was Orwell’s Animal Farm, of which a publisher said:

“It is impossible to sell animal stories in the USA.” 

  • And then there was the presumably deaf and blind testing director at MGM who said about Fred Astaire:

“Can’t act. Can’t sing. Slightly bald. Can dance a little.”

Read the whole list here.

April 21, 2012

“Writer Idol”: I Was Wondering When This Might Happen

According to The Guardian, the latest slew of contests for would-be popsters, dancers, models, and even artists has moved into the writing realm. Hence, “Writer Idol”. No, it’s not a TV show, more like a talent contest that unfolds in front of judges, other writers, and onlookers. Writer Idol will take place in Ireland at the West Cork Literary Festival. According to The Guardian, it will go something like this:

In essence, Writer Idol is a very simple idea. Potential “contestants” are invited to send in one page of their writing anonymously. On the day, the selected entries will be read by Kate Thompson to an audience which will include the “lucky” authors and a panel of judges consisting of novelist Anita Shreve, commissioning editor Suzanne Baboneau and literary agent Marianne Gunne-O’Connor. Each judge will raise their hand when they’ve heard enough; if all three hands are raised, the reading will stop immediately.

This comes on the heals of another event also called Writer Idol that takes place each year at the Boston Book Festival. Perhaps more happen at other literary festivals that I don’t know about.

Apparently there are no prizes involved, no book deals, no fame or fortune – just a chance for writers to get their work read by some big wigs in the industry and an audience. It makes all the cutthroat literary workshops I took in grad school seem like child’s play. I guess in a time when it’s nearly impossible for writers to get our work read anywhere, it can’t hurt. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Now I have to wonder when they’ll make it a TV show.

April 18, 2012

Pimped-out Poe

From mlkshk.com today:

April 17, 2012

No Fiction Pulitzer for You!

For the first time in 35 years, there was no Pulitzer Price awarded in the fiction category. The Pulitzer fiction board, made up of jurors Susan Larson (former editor of The Times-Picayune), Maureen Corrigan (book critic for NPR’s Fresh Air), and novelist Michael Cunningham who won the 1999 Pulitzer for The Hours couldn’t reach the necessary consensus  to award a winner to one of the three fiction finalists.

The three finalists were Train Dreams by Denis Johnson, The Pale King by David Foster Wallace, and Swamplandia! by Karen Russel.

In an email that she wrote the Associate Press (AP), 1992 Pulitzer Prize fiction winner, Jane Smiley, wrote:

“I can’t believe there wasn’t a worthy one. It’s a shame. But sometimes a selection committee really cannot agree, and giving no award is the outcome. Too bad.”

While I don’t know the logistics behind choosing a book for the prize, I can imagine it must feel like a slap in the face to the finalists (except Foster Wallace who is deceased) or to anyone who wrote a noteworthy novel in 2011. What gives?

April 11, 2012

Who Said It? James Joyce or Kool Keith?

My husband sent me this quiz. You must guess if the quote was by James Joyce or rapper and former Bellevue mental patient, Kool Keith.

I only got 6 out of 10 right!

April 7, 2012

What Does Your Bedside Table REALLY Look Like?

Berlin-based illustrator Christoph Niemann, who has cartooned for The New Yorker and Wired (among others)  has recently had his work anthologized in a book titled Abstract City. To celebrate the launch of the book, he drew a very funny cartoon for The Huffington Post of what he’d like his bedside table to look like and what it really looks like.

When I saw it, I laughed.

Hard.

Let’s just say I can relate.

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