Posts tagged ‘George Bernard Shaw’

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.

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