Knopf’s rejections

It might be worth considering what you want archived. From Knopf’s archives at the University of Texas come the following judgments:

  • Jorge Luis Borges: “Utterly untranslatable”
  • Isaac Bashevis Singer: “It’s Poland and the rich Jews again”
  • Anaïs Nin: “There is no commercial advantage in acquiring her, and, in my opinion, no artistic”
  • Sylvia Plath: “There certainly isn’t enough genuine talent for us to take notice”
  • Jack Kerouac: “His frenetic and scrambling prose perfectly express the feverish travels of the Beat Generation. But is that enough? I don’t think so”
  • Vladimir Nabokov (Lolita): “Too racy”
  • James Baldwin (Giovanni’s Room): “Hopelessly bad”

This was published in a NYT article, but I got it from Three Percent.

Read more about rejection.

(BTW, on the subject of rejection, Madeleine L’Engle’s recent obituaries contained the information that her A Wrinkle in Time was rejected by 26 publishers.)

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  1. Oh My God. If I were the archivist at Knopf, I would have made sure these sorts of notes never made it into a permanent file. I know that “us” artists are supposed to take rejection in stride but I wonder what those editors would have felt like if somebody had treated them in such a fashion. They might have been at least a bit more civil, if not more astute.

  2. I don’t know that this is what they said to the authors. I think it’s their internal memoranda. But it’s interesting to see their thinking, so I’m glad they archived it, even if it doesn’t show them in the most favorable light.

  3. Always a comforting read. 🙂