Tag: Dubliners

great Gatsby

5 Wild Author Rejection Stories

Sometimes publishers reject books for legitimate reasons, like if a book contains immature prose or an uninteresting concept, or if it bears too much similarity to a book the publisher has recently released. But other times, publishers reject books for simply ridiculous reasons, i.e. maybe The Great Gatsby would be better without Gatsby in it.

 

These five authors were met with outrageous rejections… sometimes with outrageous results.

 

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

'The Great Gatsby' by F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

Editors famously pitched a pretty serious revision: “you’d have a decent book if you’d get rid of that Gatsby character.” We’re lucky that F. Scott Fitzgerald decided to stick to his original plans—The Great Dissolution of the American Dream and the Harsh Reality of Class Divisions isn’t quite as catchy. Fitzgerald’s success story wasn’t a matter of delightful revenge. Critics lambasted The Great Gatsby during Fitzgerald’s lifetime: “one finishes The Great Gatsby with a feeling of regret, not for the fate of the people in the book but for Mr. Fitzgerald.” The critics were right about one thing—Fitzgerald’s fate was as tragic as Gatsby’s. He died from side effects of his alcoholism, destitute, at the age of forty-four. If not for the novel’s resurgence during WWII, the novel might have faded into obscurity. Thankfully, it didn’t. Today, half a million copies of The Great Gatsby are sold every single year.

 

The Thomas Berryman Number by James Patterson

 

'The Thomas Berryman Number' by James Patterson

 

James Patterson got thirty-one rejections for his debut novel before his dreams came true. Well, “came true” is a bit of an understatement—Patterson is the world’s highest-paid author and the world’s foremost bestselling author since 2001. He recently took his success to the next level (note: there wasn’t previously a higher level) with a $150 million dollar book deal—the most expensive deal of all time. The Thomas Berryman Number is the first book in Patterson’s bestselling Alex Cross series, which now has well over eighty million copies in print. As for the publishers who rejected him, Patterson is blunt: “I keep a list of all the editors who turned down my first novel. Sometimes they send me books and ask for blurbs. Mostly, though, they’re dead.”

 

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

 

'Moby Dick' by Herman Melville

 

Herman Melville‘s initial rejection came with some unhelpful advice: “first, we must ask, does it have to be a whale?” If you don’t know—yes, the novel is about a whale (it’s also about an extended metaphor). The publisher followed that up with an equally unhelpful suggestion: “could not the Captain be struggling with a depravity towards young, perhaps voluptuous, maidens?” Probably not. The initial sales seemed to confirm skeptical publishers’ fears—the book sold only 500 copies. Today, critics view Moby Dick as one of the most accomplished novels of all time. The book’s enduring acclaim suggests that maidens just wouldn’t have cut it—even some particularly voluptuous ones.

 

Dubliners by James Joyce

 

'Dubliners' by James Joyce

 

James Joyce‘s Dubliners received a startling eighteen rejections, some of which are wild enough to spark their own novels. Joyce had an ongoing rivalry with publisher George Roberts, and their disagreements (read: their outrageous pettiness) lead to publication difficulties. When George Roberts asked that Joyce remove any references to the king in his short story, “Ivy,” Joyce wrote a letter directly to King George V and asked if the passages were offensive. (For some reason, the king was unable to comment.) When Roberts learned of Joyce’s financial desperation, he actively ghosted Joyce, ignoring all of his correspondence to increase Joyce’s panic. Though Dubliners finally earned publication, Joyce’s contract stipulated that he could earn no royalties until the book sold 500 copies. The book sold 499—and in typical outrageous Joyce fashion, the author himself bought 120 of those copies. Fortunately for Joyce, Dubliners is now an international classic and a staple of high school and university curriculums.

 

The Making of Americans by Gertrude Stein

 

'The Making of Americans' by Gertrude Stein

 

In perhaps the most passive-aggressive (or possibly just actually aggressive) rejection of all time, one publisher rejected Gertrude Stein‘s The Making of Americans by directly mocking Stein’s writing style. In reading his review, readers can imagine which stylistic choices he found unpleasant:

 

Dear Madam,

I am only one, only one, only one. Only one being, one at the same time. Not two, not three, only one. Only one life to live, only sixty minutes in one hour. Only one pair of eyes. Only one brain. Only one being. Being only one, having only one pair of eyes, having only one time, having only one life, I cannot read your M.S. three or four times. Not even one time. Only one look, only one look is enough. Hardly one copy would sell here. Hardly one. Hardly one.

Many thanks. I am returning the M.S. by registered post. Only one M.S. by one post.

 

While it’s true that Stein became famous for ignoring punctuation, capitalization, and many other writing conventions, the publisher was wrong about one thing—namely, that Stein became famous. 

 

 

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dr seuss

5 Literary Locations to Give You the Travel Bug

If you’re anything like me then you might think to yourself, “There are so many things to do and places in the world to see, how will I ever get around to it all?” Luckily for us, we have books to help ease our wallets and escape to new places without the pressure of leaving our responsibilities behind.

 

Of course, in an effort to help us escape our droll lives, I find that it simultaneously makes me eager to visit these far-off lands. The map I’ve marked, mentally, is filled with different literary pins of locations I dream of seeing one day. Here are my top five literary dream destinations.

 

1. Paris

 

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I am a huge fan of French literature in particular, and one of my all-time favorite novels is the 1831 novel by Victor Hugo, Notre Dame de Paris (more commonly known to English-speaking readers as The Hunchback of Notre Dame). I dream of one day approaching that beautiful and ancient cathedral, caressing its stonework with my unworthy hand, and hearing Hugo’s prose ring through my head as I say a silent “thank you” to one of my literary heroes. On top of my own personal love for Victor Hugo and for Hunchback, I also want to visit the city where so many Modernist writers took refuge away from their native lands.

 

2. Rome 

 

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As a Shakespeare enthusiast, there is nothing I would enjoy more than having the opportunity to tour the country where countless of his plays were set. Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, The Merchant of Venice, Taming of the Shrewhave all found homes within the Italian landscape. Although I would be eager to tour the entire peninsula, if I had to pick one location based upon one of Shakespeare’s plays, I would have to go with Rome because of how much I thoroughly enjoyed reading Julius Caesar, as well as being incredibly fascinated by Roman history. To see the ruins of a world that was already ancient when Shakespeare was writing would be to stand in the glory of what humans are capable of accomplishing. 

 

3. Dublin

 

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I could very well be one of the few people alive that will genuinely tell you that I love James Joyce. I loved DublinersI loved Portrait of the Artist as a Young Manand I even loved UlyssesJoyce left Dublin when he was still a young man, and he spent the rest of his life touring Europe before settling in Paris as an ex-patriate of Ireland. Dublin was still his home, however, and all of his literature is set in the city regardless of how long it might have been since he had last inhabited it. Today, Dublin pays massive tribute to Joyce, and I wish for the chance to walk the streets and see the sites that he so vividly recalled in Ulysses. 

 

4. Salem

 

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As someone who delights in horror and Halloween, I am ashamed to admit that I have never been to Salem, Massachusetts. On top of being a haven of history, it’s also been the setting for so many books, movies, and plays. One of the first stories that comes to mind is Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible. The story itself is an allegory for the American fascination with catching Communists during the 50s, but uses the Salem Witch Trial to exemplify this point. Aside from actual literature, though, is the simple fact that so many stories concerning these witch trials and the horrible ways witches were…dealt with have been passed down, orally, through the years. I imagine visiting the New England town during a crisp autumn weekend in October, right before all of the leaves have changed and fallen to the ground. 

 

5. Oxford

 

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I must say that I am a humongous fan of J.R.R. Tolkien, and have always envisioned visiting the place that he called “home” for a large portion of his life. Oxford is the place where he wrote The Lord of the Ringsand it’s also the place where he eventually died. Although Tolkien was actually born in South Africa, he was raised and lived his entire life in England. The small cottage he inhabited is apparently marked by a simple plaque, but regardless, 20 Northmoor Road is a location that I would be more than honored to visit. In addition to his famous trilogy and The Hobbit, Tolkien also translated various early Anglo-Saxon texts such as Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and his translations rank amongst my favorites. 

 

Perhaps one day I will stop spending all of my money on books and food, and actually have the opportunity to save up and visit all of these places rather than simply read about them!

 

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