Tag Archives: classic

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!

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Authors, Latest News

John Banville to Regenerate Raymond Chandler’s Detective Philip Marlowe


Raymond Chandler, the great American novelist and screenwriter, passed away in 1959, leaving behind him some of the most influential prose in history, a legacy that would impact the Coen Brothers, Paul Auster, Quentin Tarantino, Haruki Murakami to name a few. Chandler is famous for his hardboiled suspense novels, and their subsequent film adaptations, notably Humphrey Bogart’s portrayal of  L.A. Detective Philip Marlowe in films like The Big Sleep.

John Banville — Irish writer born in 1945 — is, according to the British Council, “a philosophical novelist concerned with the nature of perception, the conflict between imagination and reality, and the existential isolation of the individual.” His novel The Sea won the Man Booker Prize in 2005. He also has a crime fiction pen name, Benjamin Black, under which he has written five detective novels.

Yesterday, GalleyCat announced that Banville is to bring back Chandler’s L.A. Detective in a new novel following a press release from the Benjamin Black website. Banville will write the new novel under his pseudonym — this was confirmed by his editor, John Sterling. The book will be written under an arrangement with the Chandler estate, and the US Macmillan imprint Henry Holt will publish the book in 2013.

Along with Marlowe, Banville will bring back policeman Bernie Ohls, “the gumshoe’s good friend”. The book will have an original plot and take place in the 1940s. The setting will remain in Bay City – Chandler’s fictional stand-in for Santa Monica, California – and feature Chandler’s hallmark noir ambience. Banville promises to create a “slightly surreal, or hyper-real, atmosphere” for the novel, exploring some of Marlowe’s Los Angeles.

Banville said: “I love the challenge of following in the very large footsteps of Raymond Chandler. I began reading Chandler as a teenager, and frequently return to the novels. This idea has been germinating for several years and I relish the prospect of setting a book in Marlowe’s California, which I always think of in terms of Edward Hopper’s paintings. Bay City will have a slightly surreal, or hyper-real, atmosphere that I look forward to creating.”

According to Banville’s editor, John Sterling, “John Banville writing as Benjamin Black recreating Raymond Chandler is a perfect literary hand-off. There is no one better to bring Philip Marlowe back to life for the vast readership that loves noir crime fiction.”

Sterling acquired first serial, electronic and audio rights for the book in the United States and Canada from Ed Victor of Ed Victor Ltd. Victor represented both Banville and the Chandler estate in the negotiation. As outlined by the Bookseller, there is yet no word about the book’s publication in the UK, where Banville is represented by Pan Macmillan.

Leave a comment

Filed under Authors, Latest News