A Literary Companion edited by Andre Bernard.
Time for a laugh and for feeling very much superior to editors such as these, who must have been having a bad hair day or two or three (at the very least) when they penned their rejection slips.
Time also for realizing that rejections are not the end, but in very many cases, the beginning. This kind of thing must make the aspiring writer feel quite smug. "Hey, I'm not the only one." Always good to know you're not alone.
THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD by John le Carre
"...You're welcome to le Carre - he hasn't got any future."
THE MYSTERIOUS AFFAIR AT STYLES by Agatha Christie (1920)
Christie's first book and, needless to say, it is still in print.)
"...It is very interesting and has several good points, but it is not quite suitable for our list."
JOURNEY BACK TO LOVE by Mary Higgins Clark (19620
"...We found the heroine as boring as her husband had."
THE IPCRESS FILE by Len Deighton (1963)
"...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 puts me off badly..."
WELCOME TO HARD TIMES by E.L. Doctorow (1960)
"...Things improve a bit with the rebuilding of the village but then go to hell in a hack at the end. Perhaps there is a public that can take all this with a straight face but I'm not one of them."
A STUDY IN SCARLET by Arthur Conan Doyle (1887)
"...Neither long enough for a serial nor short enough for a single story."
SANCTUARY by William Faulkner (1931)
"...Good God, I can't publish this. We'd both be in jail."
LORD OF THE FLIES by William Golding (1954)
"...It does not seem to us that you have been wholly successful in working out an admittedly promising idea."
THE TIN DRUM by Gunter Grass (1961
"...It can never be translated."
THE LAST OF THE PLAINSMEN by Zane Grey (1908)
"...I do not see anyting in this to convince me you can write either narrative or fiction."
CATCH 22 by Joseph Heller (1961)
"...I haven't really the foggiest idea about what the man is trying to say. It is about a group of American Army officers stationed in Italy, sleeping (but not interestingly) with each others' wives and Italian prostitutes, and talking unintelligibly to each other..."
THE BLESSING WAY by Tony Hillerman (1970)
"...If you insist on rewriting this, get rid of all that Indian stuff."
UNTITLED SUBMISSION by Rudyard Kipling (1889)
"...I'm sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don't know how to use the English language."
LADY CHATTERLEY'S LOVER by D.H. Lawrence (1928)
"...For your own good do not publish this book."
GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES by Anita Loos (1925)
"...Do you realize, young woman, that you're the first American writer ever to poke fun at sex?"
A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT by Norman MacLean (1976)
"...These stories have trees in them."
ANIMAL FARM by George Orwell (1945)
"...I think the choice of pigs as the ruling caste will no doubt give offense to many people, and particularly to anyone who is a bit touchy, as undoubtedly the Russians are..."
SWANN'S WAY (REMEMBERANCE OF THINGS PAST) by Marcel Proust (1913)
"...My dear fellow, I may be dead from the neck up, but rack my brains as I may I can't see why a chap should need thirty pages to describe how he turns over in bed before going to sleep."
AND TO THINK THAT I SAW IT ON MULBERRY STREET by Dr. Seuss (1937)
(My favorite Dr. Seuss book next to HORTON HATCHES AN EGG. I believe Mulberry Street was rejected around 52 times. It is still in print.)
"...too different from other juveniles on the market to warrant its selling."
THE TIME MACHINE by H.G. Wells (1895)
"...It is not interesting enough for the general reader and not thorough enough for the scientific reader."
POEMS by William Butler Yeats (1895)
"...I would not read a page of it again for worlds...That he has any real paying audience I find hard to believe."
MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH COOKING by Julia Child and Simone Beck (1961)
(A book still very much in print.)
"...It is a big, expensive cookbook of elaborate information and might well prove formidable to the American housewife. She might easily clip one of these recipes out of a magazine but be frightened by the book as a whole."
THE GOOD EARTH by Pearl Buck (1931)
"...(We) regret the American public is not interested in anything on China."
LOLITA by Vladimir Nabokov (1955)
"I recommend that it be buried under a stone for a thousand years."