Thursday, 20 October 2011

Worst literary reviews

Following up from my post on literary insults I have been checking bad reviews of some of our most famous writers throughout history, and offer them here for your enjoyment.

Samuel Pepys on William Shakespeare's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream':

"To the King's Theatre, where we saw 'Midsummer Night's Dream', which I had never seen before, nor shall ever again, for it is the most insipid ridiculous play that ever I saw in my life."

Queen Victoria on William Shakespeare's 'King Lear':

"A strange, horrible business, but I suppose good enough for Shakespeare's day."

Samuel Johnson on John Milton's 'Paradise Lost':

"'Paradise Lost' is one of the books which the reader admires and lays down, and forgets to take up again. None ever wished it longer than it was."

Samuel Johnson

Samuel Johnson on Laurence Sterne's 'Tristram Shandy':

"Nothing odd will do long. 'Tristram Shandy' did not last.'

(Of a novel that is still read nearly 250 years later, and inspirer of other books, an opera and films.)

Mark Twain on Jane Austen's 'Pride and Prejudice':

"Every time I read 'Pride and Prejudice' I want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shin bone."

J Lorimer on Emily Bronte's 'Wuthering Heights':

"All the faults of 'Jane Eyre' are magnified thousandfold and the only consolation which we have in reflecting upon it is that it will never be generally read."

Emily Bronte
The Examiner on Emily Bronte's 'Wuthering Heights':

"...wild, confused; disjointed, and improbable."

Graham's Lady Magazine on Emily Bronte's 'Wuthering Heights':

"How a human being could have attempted such a book as the present without committing suicide before he had finished a dozen chapters, is a mystery. It is a compound of vulgar depravity and unnatural horrors."

Saturday Review on publication of Charles Dickens' 'Little Dorrit':

"We do not believe in the permanence of his reputation... our children will wonder what their ancestors could have meant by putting Dickens at the head of the novelists of today."

Damon Runyon on Lewis Carroll's 'Alice in Wonderland':

"Nothing but a pack of lies."

Odessa Courier on Leo Tolstoy's 'Anna Karenina':

"Sentimental rubbish... Show me one page that contains an idea."

Katherine Mansfield on E M Forster's 'Howard's End':

"Putting my weakest books to the wall last night I came across a copy of 'Howard's End' and had a look into it. Not good enough. E M Forster never gets any further than warming the teapot. He's a rare fine hand at that. Feel this teapot. Is it not beautifully warm? Yes, but there ain't going to be no tea. And I can never be perfectly certain whether Helen was got with child by Leonard Bast or by his fatal forgotten umbrella. All things considered, I think it must have been the umbrella."

George Bernard Shaw on James Joyce's 'Ulysses':

"It is a revolting record of a disgusting phase of civilisation; but it is a truthful one; and I should like to put a cordon around Dublin; round up every male person in it between the ages of 15 and 30; force them to read it; and ask them whether on reflection they could see anything amusing in all that foul mouthed, foul minded derision and obscenity."

James Joyce

Virginia Woolf on James Joyce's 'Ulysses':

"Never have I read such tosh. As for the first two chapters, we will let them pass, but the third, the fourth, the fifth, the sixth - merely the scratchings of pimples on the body of the boot boy at Claridges."

New York Herald on F Scott Fitzgerald's 'The Great Gatsby':

"This is a book of the season only."

H L Menken on F Scott Fitzgerald's 'The Great Gatsby':

"a glorified anecdote"

Dorothy Parker on Benito Mussolini's 'The Cardinal's Mistress':

"This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force."

Mary McCarthy on J D Salinger's 'The Catcher in the Rye':

"I don't like Salinger, not at all. That last thing isn't a novel anyway, whatever it is. I don't like it. Not at all. It suffers from this terrible sort of metropolitan sentimentality and it's so narcissistic. And to me, also, it seemed so false, so calculated. Combining the plain man with an absolutely megalomaniac egotism. I simply can't stand it."

J D Salinger

The New Yorker on James A Michener's 'Chesapeake':

"I have two recommendations. First, don't buy this book. Second, if you buy this book, don't drop it on your foot."

('Chesapeake' is over 2,000 pages long.)

Harold Bloom on J K Rowling's 'Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone':

"How to read 'Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone'? Why, very quickly, to begin with, and perhaps also to make an end. Why read it? Presumably, if you can't be persuaded to read anything better, Rowling will have to do."

Susan Cohen on Stieg Larsson's 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo':

"This is easily one of the worst books I've ever read."

1 comment:

  1. I've just come across this Faber and Faber reader's report on the manuscript of William Golding's 'Lord of the Flies': "Absurd and uninteresting fantasy...rubbbish...dull and pointless." Then she wrote a big R for Rejection. Fortunately someone else in Faber must have read the ms more favourably; they published it and the book, now an acknowledged literary classic all over the world, became one of their most sustained best-sellers.