Rejected! – Carl E. Reed


Rejections. The bane of every working—or would-be working—writer. One hunkers down in front of the keyboard (or pad of paper, typewriter, tape recorder) and . . . writes . . . whatever process that active verb sums up for you. And when finished revising (You do revise, don’t you? Surely you’re not one of those rank amateurs who inflicts first drafts upon their readers? “The first draft of anything is shit.”—Ernest Hemingway. “The first draft reveals the art; revision reveals the artist.”—Michael Lee) one sends the resultant manuscript out into the world to an editor (assuming one wishes to be published, that is; not self-published) and breathlessly awaits Caesar’s verdict: thumbs-up or thumbs-down. And when that all-but-guaranteed rejection comes bouncing back . . .

There are countless articles out there that counsel the writer how to react soberly and professionally to rejection. This is not one of those articles. No indeed! Today friends and neighbors, fellow long-suffering Knights of the Quill, midnight scritch-scribblers, far-seeing farcical fantasists and quotidian-focused literary fictioneers alike we are going to allow ourselves the inestimable sublime pleasure of hooting and howling at a select group of cement-headed cretins. I mean, of course, the critical mediocrities who rejected first-rank artists and their attendant masterworks with such clueless, querulous verbal spasmings [sic] as:

    • Peter J. Bentley of Bentley & Son Publishing House: First, we must ask, does it have to be a whale? While this is a rather delightful, if somewhat esoteric, plot device, we recommend an antagonist with a more popular visage among the younger readers. For instance, could not the Captain be struggling with a depravity towards young, perhaps voluptuous, maidens?”
    • Moberly Luger of Peacock & Peacock Publishing: “If I may be frank — you certainly are in your prose — I found your efforts to be both tedious and offensive. You really are a man’s man, aren’t you? I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that you had penned this entire story locked up at the club, ink in one hand, brandy in the other. Your bombastic, dipsomaniac, where-to-now characters had me reaching for my own glass of brandy.”
    • Name Omitted: “An endless nightmare. I think the verdict would be ‘Oh don’t read that horrid book.”
    • Name Omitted: “I haven’t the foggiest idea what the man is trying to say. Apparently the author intends it to be funny.”
    • Name Omitted: “I rack my brains why a chap should need thirty pages to describe how he turns over in bed before going to sleep.”
    • Name Omitted: “…overwhelmingly nauseating, even to an enlightened Freudian … the whole thing is an unsure cross between hideous reality and improbable fantasy. It often becomes a wild neurotic daydream … I recommend that it be buried under a stone for a thousand years.”

    • Name Omitted: “. . . you just don’t know how to use the English language.”

    • Name Omitted: “You’d have a decent book if you’d get rid of that Gatsby character.”

    • Name Omitted: “We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.”

      answers to the above: http://mentalfloss.com/article/91169/16-famous-authors-and-their-rejections


I’ll close with one of my all-time personal favorites:

Name Omitted: “The author of this book is beyond psychiatric help.”

(speaking of Crash, by J. G. Ballard)


13 thoughts on “Rejected! – Carl E. Reed

  1. mimispeike says:

    OMG, Carl! To quote George Harrison: Gives us hope, helps us cope.

    Am I dense? Did Mental Floss make them up? Some of this sounds genuine. So they take a nugget of real and blow it up, like I do?

    Liked by 3 people

  2. atthysgage says:

    Thanks for posting these, Carl. Great fun to read.

    I was compelled to go back and read Nabokov’s own afterword to Lolita, particularly for his perspective on prospective publisher’s reaction to the novel. I’ll quote a bit below:

    “Their refusal to buy the book was based not on my treatment of the theme but on the theme itself, for there are three themes which are utterlly taboo as far as most American publishers are concerned. The two others are: a Negro-White marriage which is a complete and glorious success resulting in lots of children and grandchildren; and the total atheist who lives a happy and useful life, and dies in his sleep at the age of 106.

    “Some of the reactions were very amusing: one reader suggested that his firm might consider publication if I turned my Lolita into a twelve-year-old lad and had him seduced by Humbert, a farmer, in a barn, amidst gaunt and arid surroundings, all this set forth in short, strong ‘realistic’ sentences (“He acts crazy. We all act crazy, I guess. I guess God acts crazy.” Etc.)…”

    “…an otherwise intelligent reader who flipped through the first part described Lolita as ‘Old Europe debauching young America,’ while another flipper saw in it ‘Young America debauching old Europe.'”

    I suspect that Nabokov took some delight, mingled with contemptuous disgust no doubt, that so many people wanted to turn the story into something other than what it was, but that no one could agree exactly what they were so offended about. Some suggested that it was a reflection of Nabokov’s own prediliction for young girls (it wasn’t) or, conversely, that he intended the reader to feel disgust with Humbert’s unsavory urges. Nabokov said he didn’t feel disgusted with Humbert, but that Humbert felt disgusted with Humbert, and that, friends, makes all the difference.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes indeed, Atthys. I’ve read Lolita. As hilarious and biting and savage a black comedy as one could ever hope to encounter. It’s Humbert’s self-inflicted agonies of humiliation, intellectual frustration (he has no one to talk to!) and misdirected eros (half ecstatic outburst; half queasy recrimination and guilt) that make the book the masterpiece it is. Yet one has to be–dare we say it?–fairly literate and cultured oneself to truly empathize with Humbert’s inexhaustible exasperation and self-loathing. This is not a prurient book (plot tells you nothing in this instance); it is something quite different–a comedy of manners that reveals the alienation and desperate longing for meaningful connection of a morally flawed, preternaturally intelligent upper-class gentleman in thrall to his own self-destructive Dionysian impulses.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. mimispeike says:

    Carl, why aren’t you teaching somewhere? I would love to have you as a teacher, talking me through classic works. Discussing them with me. When I lived in Cambridge, MA there was an alternative informal school, I took batik classes there, and a silkscreen class, and a children’s book writing class. I took a French class also. It begins to come back to me.

    Is there nothing like that near you?

    Atthys, you could do the same. Have you thought about it?

    Liked by 3 people

      • Perry Palin says:

        In my region we have non-credit, community ed or continuing ed courses in many disciplines taught by people with no academic teaching credentials. One of my friends, a retired insurance salesman, will be teaching a course this fall on self-publishing.The school is paying him a pretty good wage to come in for coaching on teaching techniques.

        When I worked for the local technical college, our program instructors needed formal teaching credentials for our institutional accreditation. Where did we find a welding instructor or a carpentry instructor or an Emergency Medical Technician instructor or an IT instructor with teaching credentials? Nowhere. We hired subject matter experts with an interest in teaching and with potential to be good teachers, and we made them into credentialed teachers through paid time and tuition reimbursement.

        Carl, if this is something you’d like to do, don’t let the credential issue stop you without doing research with schools near you.

        Liked by 4 people

  4. mimispeike says:

    That school in Cambridge was called, I think, Cambridge Center For Adult Education. I don’t think they required credentials to teach. I think they looked at your body of work.

    How about giving a class at a bookstore? It’s a way to get yourself some publicity.

    Liked by 2 people

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