Monthly Archives: October 2012

The 13 Worst Reviews of Classic Books

This post is reblogged entirely from its original as a Publishers Weekly article, available here.

 

A quarter century ago, Pushcart editor Bill Henderson put together Rotten Reviews Redux, a collection of the meanest and most scathing reviews of classic books and the writers who penned them. The vitriol returns in a 2012 edition of the book with a new introduction from Henderson. We sorted through the book to find 13 of our favorites.

“The final blow-up of what was once a remarkable, if minor, talent.” The New Yorker, 1936, on Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner

 

“Whitman is as unacquainted with art as a hog is with mathematics.” The London Critic, 1855, on Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

 

“That this book is strong and that Miss Chopin has a keen knowledge of certain phrases of the feminine will not be denied. But it was not necessary for a writer of so great refinement and poetic grace to enter the overworked field of sex fiction.” Chicago Times Herald, 1899, on The Awakening by Kate Chopin

 

“What has never been alive cannot very well go on living. So this is a book of the season only…” New York Herald Tribune, 1925, on The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

“Here all the faults of Jane Eyre (by Charlotte Brontë) are magnified a thousand fold, and the only consolation which we have in reflecting upon it is that it will never be generally read.” -James Lorimer, North British Review, 1847, on Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

 

“That a book like this could be written–published here–sold, presumably over the counters, leaves one questioning the ethical and moral standards…there is a place for the exploration of abnormalities that does not lie in the public domain. Any librarian surely will question this for anything but the closed shelves. Any bookseller should be very sure that he knows in advance that he is selling very literate pornography.” Kirkus Reviews, 1958, on Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

 

“Her work is poetry; it must be judged as poetry, and all the weaknesses of poetry are inherent in it.” New York Evening Post, 1927, on To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

 

“An oxymoronic combination of the tough and tender, Of Mice and Men will appeal to sentimental cynics, cynical sentimentalists…Readers less easily thrown off their trolley will still prefer Hans Andersen.” Time, 1937, on Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

 

“Its ethics are frankly pagan.” The Independent, 1935, on Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham

 

“A gloomy tale. The author tries to lighten it with humor, but unfortunately her idea of humor is almost exclusively variations on the pratfall…Neither satire nor humor is achieved.” Saturday Review of Literature, 1952, on Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor

 

Middlemarch is a treasure-house of details, but it is an indifferent whole.” -Henry James, Galaxy, 1872, on Middlemarch by George Eliot

 

“At a conservative estimate, one million dollars will be spent by American readers for this book. They will get for their money 34 pages of permanent value. These 34 pages tell of a massacre happening in a little Spanish town in the early days of the Civil War…Mr. Hemingway: please publish the massacre scene separately, and then forget For Whom the Bell Tolls; please leave stories of the Spanish Civil War to Malraux…” Commonweal, 1940, on For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

 

“Monsieur Flaubert is not a writer.” Le Figaro, 1857, on Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

 

 

There’s hope for us all!

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The Emancipist by Veronica Sweeney


(This article is also featured on Writing.ie)

Veronica Sweeney has been a published novelist for twenty-eight years. She wrote her trilogy, The Emancipist, after nine and a half years of research. It was first published in one volume by Pan MacMillan in 1985 and reprinted consistently for twenty years by publishing houses such as Century Hutchinson, Simon & Schuster, Avon Books, Bantam and HarperCollins. It is now being printed by Selfpublishbooks.ie as a trilogy.

“I was surprised that the publishers didn’t want a trilogy,” she says, “It was published as one book, which I had to cut in order to make the single large volume … much was left out, and I was very happy to discover Kindle, so the eBook contains material left out of the original.”

 

I ask Veronica which books or authors inspire her. “I like the works of Ruth Rendell and PD James – they produce great stories with fine writing. I love Terry Pratchett, clever writing with a heart. Other than these I read everything from Jane Austen to Eric Fleming. No Fifty Shades fan here, then? “Not much into modern romances,” she replies, “too predictable!”

 

Veronica expands her answer, revealing a characteristic charm of her work: “Publishers have always complained that my work is ‘quirky’, and I like books that are slightly different and have the author’s own voice without being too formulaic. I love it when I want to read a sentence twice because it’s so clever or insightful. I like having to admit, ‘Jeez, I wish I’d written that!’”

 

As for inspiration, Veronica names only one thing: “My mother read to me all through my childhood – following the words on the page meant that I could read at the age of three. She also read me poetry – there were loads of books of poetry in the house. So I think I grew up with the cadence of words, and their power. She bought me a book on stories from Shakespeare, which inspired me to read the originals. I read all the plays of Shakespeare at thirteen and I think … that this was a pivotal time for me, the inspiration of a rattling good yarn beautifully written. Something to aspire to, but unattainable of course!”

 

Veronica is an established novelist with an international reputation, but when she recently made the switch from traditional publishing to self-publishing, she knew she was taking a risk. “But I needn’t have worried,” she said, “It’s been fun … and – I can’t stress this enough – to be able to choose my own covers and design after twenty-eight years as a professional novelist has been the best part.” Lettertec, the printing press in County Cork with a self-publishing imprint Selfpublishbooks.ie, is producing The Emancipist in three separate volumes this year.

 

I ask Veronica how self-publishing caught her eye: “Amazon Kindle first of all – it’s levelled the playing field for writers at last. We’re back to the early days of the printing press, like Erasmus! Get a good idea and take it to the printer – before publishers and agents became involved!

 

“The whole process was very speedy,” she adds, “I think it took about two weeks, and that was mostly me being very fussy about the cover.

 

Any other reason? “Despite the advent of reading devices such as Kindle and Nook, so many people really like the physical feel of a book, and The Emancipist was the obvious choice, as it’s my favourite of all my work, the one people are always asking me about – and complaining because it’s the size of a house brick! The new version from Lettertec, being in three volumes, solves that!”

 

I also asked Veronica if she had any advice for writers thinking of self-publishing. “Anyone going the way of self-publishing for the first time really should pay the bit extra to have their book checked by a professional editor … The way I work is to finish the seventh, eighth, ninth draft, then put it in a drawer for several months and then come back to it. Self-publishing is no place for wishful thinking … the writing has to be tight and professional, or no one will buy your book but your family.”

 

How was the printed product? “Far better quality than any book I’ve had published. Some paperbacks seem to be printed on newspaper. This version of The Emancipist is a real collector’s copy, limited edition. The first run of Pan MacMillan’s was 100,000 copies! But I’m very proud of my limited run Emancipist – it’s the book I always wanted to see.”

 

Every author has her favourite. Veronica happily imparted hers: “Shannonbrook [Book Three of The Emancipist] … by then Aidan is in middle-age, and very much a product of all that has happened to him. He’s successful, but still believes he can control his environment. … When I did the book tour of Australia, half the women I spoke to said he was a thorough rat and a rogue, and the other half said he was so real that he must exist!”

 

She gleefully adds: “It was fun to create his children, who give him a great shock in refusing to be what he expects.”

 

What’s next, Veronica? “Editing – again – Books Two and Three before sending them to Lettertec, and after that I’ll be uploading my Australian thriller, Dark Obsession – though the title will now be His Dark Obsession – to Amazon Kindle. But there’ll be more books printed by Lettertec, deciding on which ones depends on which ones my readers ask for!”

 

Book One of The Emancipist – titled The Big House – is available now. Books Two and Three will be available in early December, ready for Christmas.

 

To find out more about Veronica and The Emancipist, check out her website veronicasweeney.net

 

 

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Teresa Collins’ Reiki at Hand

What is Reiki? Selfpublishbooks.ie author, Teresa Collins, has written the book on it. Reiki is a spiritual practice developed by Japanese Buddhist Mikao Usui, which has since been adapted by various teachers of varying traditions. It uses a technique commonly called ‘palm healing’ or ‘hands-on healing’ as a form of complementary therapy. Through the use of this technique, practitioners believe that they are transferring universal energy (i.e. reiki) in the form of qi (Japanese: ki) through the palms, which allows for self-healing and a state of equilibrium.

Teresa Collins grew up on a farm outside Cork City in Ireland. From a very young age, she identified the sacred in nature. She qualified as a physiotherapist in Trinity College and went to live in Canada for twelve years. There she met many  spiritual mentors and pursued all things spiritual and mystical.

She returned to Ireland in 1993 bringing a cornucopia of experience and knowledge with her. She taught Reiki and wrote the first Irish published book on Reiki. She returned to the land once again giving tours to Sacred Sites in Ireland and reconnecting with the Celtic Spirituality she grew up with. Presently she gives workshops on Reiki, Angels, Empowerment and Inner Peace. She also gives individual sessions on these areas as well as reading Tarot and in  mediumship.

Reiki at Hand, her guide to the practice, is a very practical handbook  for students and teachers of Reiki. Teresa taught Reiki for twenty years and wrote this book based on questions asked during the workshops.  It is user friendly as you can find the answers to any questions you have. It has great illustrations  to accompany the text. She is a qualified physiotherapist and Reiki at Hand emphasises through out the safe use of Reiki for both practitioner and client. This book is a must for all Reiki practitioners.

Her latest book, Secrets of an Irish Mystic, explores her own mystical experiences while encouraging the reader to identify similiar  experiences in their own lives. She strongly feels that each person is a mystic but because it is not talked about it goes unnoticed. She hopes in this book to language mysticism through her own personal experiences.

If you want to learn more about Reiki or order a copy of the book yourself, contact the author on her website, her phone (00353-86-8102338) or email tercol@eircom.net

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