25 Rejection Letters to Famous Authors

17 01 2017

Kristen Twardowski

conan-rejection-letter

I’ve mentioned before that to be a writer is to be rejected, but how have famous authors really been treated by the publishing industry? I’ve tracked down several excerpts from rejection letters to well-known authors and shared them below. Some of them are hysterical. Others are horrifying. But all of them offer a brief peek into the realm of publishing.

Rejection Letter Excerpts

—     —     —

1. “You’d have a decent book if you’d get rid of that Gatsby Character.” – to F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

2. “Stick to teaching.” – to Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

3. “We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.” -to Stephen King, Carrie

4. “I rack my brains why a chap should need thirty pages to describe how he turns over in bed before going to sleep.” – to…

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LIVE AND LET DIE by Ian Fleming

5 08 2014

In my review of Casino Royale (following on from my reading of James Bond: The Authorised Biography) I mentioned – it was difficult to avoid it – the overt sexism. In Live and Let Die, while the sexism is still there (of course, it was written in the fifties) it is more the racism that sticks in our PC-brainwashed throats. Mixing my metaphors a bit here, but you know what I mean.

Let’s start with one or two quotes, not from philosophers or politicians, but from novelists, because the novel is what this blog is really all about

“I believe that political correctness can be a form of linguistic fascism, and it sends shivers down the spine of my generation who went to war against fascism.”

That’s P. D. James.

Doris Lessing quote

Note that they are both women.

So what exactly is the problem here? First and foremost, I imagine, the continual use of the word “Negro”. But this book was first published in 1954. Even ten years later, the word “Negro” was being used without any pejorative connotations by one and all – witness Martin Luther King’s use of it in his great speech delivered on the 28th August 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C.:

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

(http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkihaveadream.htm)

Now let’s get back to the book. Speaking of “Mr Big, a negro gangster”, Fleming has M say:

And the negro races are just beginning to throw up geniuses in all the professions – scientists, doctors, writers. It’s about time they turned out a great criminal […] They’ve got plenty of brains and ability and guts.

Which leads us straight to Mr Big himself:

Born in Haiti […] initiated into voodoo as a child […] emigrated to America and worked successfully for a hi-jacking team in the Legs Diamond gang […] bought half-shares in a small nightclub and a string of coloured call-girls. His partner was found in a barrel of cement in the Harlem River in 1938 and Mr Big automatically became sole proprietor of the business. [After the war] he disappeared for five years, probably to Moscow […] returned to Harlem in 1950 […] bought up three nightclubs and a prosperous chain of Harlem brothels […] as a result of weeding by murder, he was expertly and diligently served […] originated an underground Voodoo temple in Harlem […] rumour started that he was the Zombie or living corpse of Baron Samedi himself, the dreaded Prince of Darkness, and he fostered the story […] commanded real fear, strongly substantiated by the immediate and often mysterious deaths of anyone who crossed him or disobeyed his orders.    

A much more entertaining villain than poor old Le Chiffre in Casino Royale.

But what about the ageism? Bond and Solitaire are heading for St Petersberg, Florida. She tells him about it:

Everybody’s nearly dead in St Petersberg […] It’s the Great American Graveyard […] Everybody goes to bed around nine o’clock in the evening and during the day the old folks play shuffleboard and bridge, herds of them […] but most of the time they sit squashed together in droves on things called “Sidewalk Davenports”, rows of benches up and down the sidewalks of the main streets. They just sit in the sun and gossip and doze. It’s a terrifying sight, all these old people with their spectacles and hearing-aids and false-teeth […] You’ll love it […] You’ll probably want to settle down for life and be an “Oldster” too.

God forbid,” says Bond. As well he might.

Later, he is there with Felix Leiter.

Bond noted the small grudging mouths of the women, the sun gleaming on their pince-nez; the stringy, collapsed chests and arms of the men displayed to the sunshine in Truman shirts. The fluffy, sparse balls of hair on the women showing the pink scalp. The bony bald heads of the men. And everywhere a prattling camaraderie […] You didn’t have to be among them to hear it all. It was all in the nodding and twittering of the balls of blue fluff, the back-slapping and hawk-and-spitting of the little old baldheads. [And so on.]

That offend you? If you are one of them, it almost certainly does . Time to hear from Stephen Fry, well known representative of another minority group, but not a great fan of Political Correctness or a supporter of censorship or bowdlerisation:

Stephen Fry quote

The bottom line is: do we, can we, recognise that our notions of political correctness are purely local in time and space?

Live and Let Die is a great story. We have no more right to criticise it on PC grounds than we do to criticise the Bible or Homer or Shakespeare – or Harriet Beecher Stowe or Mark Twain – on those same grounds. It, and they, are true to their day and age. You don’t have to read it if you fear some of the words or notions in it may offend you, but if you do read it, I think you will enjoy it.

And here to close with is something I found on the internet:

political_correctness_04

http://xaxor.com/funny-pics/10352-funny-images-in-the-age-of-political-correctness.html





Two more good ones from Kindle …

16 12 2013

I love these free downloads from Amazon Kindle!

The Muse of Violence by Bruce Hartman

Muse of Violence cover

The narrator is the leader of a writers’ group who tells a tale reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians (“And Then There Were None”). It all begins with Jackie, a young woman who collects married men. They have to be married. The only married man Jackie is not interested in is her husband, who, according to a story she reads to the group, is a pathetic little wimp called Larry.

The following week, Eleanor, an older woman, reads a story she has written in which a wife follows the young blonde seducer of her husband and … Only Jackie is not there to hear it. Why not? It turns out that she has already been murdered, and the story Eleanor told is remarkably similar to what actually happened to Jackie.

Could Eleanor have murdered her? She seems to have a foolproof alibi, but the narrator is not convinced.

And so it continues. Read your story, meet your maker.

Excellent and gripping. And there is someone in the writers’ group for every reader to identify with – always important to me. I identified in this case not with the narrator, who would be most people’s choice, I imagine, but with Caroline, whose viewpoint we also get from time to time. The extracts from her diary make her in effect a second narrator, and I have to say I would have preferred rather more of her and rather less of him.

Nomad by J L Bryan

NOMAD-by-JL-Bryan

 

A teenage child soldier from a future dystopia finds herself inexplicably in this world dressed in the ragged remains of what she had obviously been wearing there/then, and clutching a backpack containing wads of dollars and strange clothes clearly intended for a large man.

And a gun. A gun from the future that she knows how to assemble and operate, though she has no idea how she knows.

She lost her memory in the time-jump, but gradually comes to the realisation that she is here to asassinate the young man, at present a student at Yale, who is destined to become the tyrant responsible for creating the hellish world in which she grew up.

Without him that will never happen.

Or will it?

And another thing. What will happen to her if the world she comes from no longer exists? Will she become a time-nomad, with no world of her own to return to?

That question, so well handled in this book, led me to another question. Isn’t that what happens to all of us? The world we grew up in no longer exists. As James Munro puts it in his poem Fin de Millennium:

You take the high road,
you take the low road,
you take the bloody motorway:
but I was in Scotland ‘afore ye …

And in Ireland. And England. Roads were narrow then,
the high with low stone walls, the low with hedges,
blossom, finches, trains were grimy,
dog-end-filled and stopped at every village station,
bells ringing, whistles blowing, steam and
hats and skirts all blowing; time:
the whistles and the bells fell silent, cigarettes
were antisocial, steam and stations uncommercial,
girls wore jeans, wore strings, wore …

Then was another world. You’d be an alien there.

In Andalusia I sat down and wept;
in Casablanca I remembered then, remembered
cold, grey seas and grassy dunes, the grey-green marshes
and the silence of the north
(a far-off bird, a summer insect,
breaking waves upon a distant beach: a lamb calling).

Catch a plane! Go home! they said. A plane?
I’d need a time machine.