By Richard Jay Parker
One of the most inspirational books I've ever read about writing wasn't a 'How To' book more a 'How They Regretted It' book. It's called Rotten Rejections (edited by Andre Bernard) and I just thought I'd share a couple here. I found them encouraging as well as amusing and they illustrate what a subjective business any writer enters when they excitedly post their manuscripts off to agents and publishers. The book spares the names of the editors responsible but below are a few quotes with the name of the author and book in question underneath.
'Not only does this bog down in the middle but the author tends to stay too long with non-essentials. He seems to have little idea of pace and is enchanted with his words, his tough style and that puts me off badly.'
Len Deighton THE IPCRESS FILE
'I haven't really the foggiest idea about what the man is trying to say.'
Joseph Heller CATCH 22
'It does not seem to us that you have been wholly successful in working out an admittedly promising idea.'
William Golding LORD OF THE FLIES
'Neither long enough for a serial nor short enough for a single story.'
Arthur Conan Doyle A STUDY IN SCARLET
'It is impossible to sell animal stories in the USA.'
George Orwell ANIMAL FARM
'You're welcome to Le Carre - he hasn't got any future.'
John Le Carre THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD
'... improper explicitness.'
Thomas Hardy TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES
'It is unpublishable as it stands because of its flagrant love passages.'
D H Lawrence THE RAINBOW
It seems that those 'love passages' and 'improper explicitness' might be exactly what sells books now. But have a chuckle and then have a hollow one.
They certainly put the moment of opening that unpromising and weighty return envelope into perspective.