Saturday, October 31, 2020

Worst Reviews of Classic Books

There are some literary classics that are nearly unimpeachable. We’re thinking Of Mice and Men and The Great Gatsby: the best of the best. Except that they’re decidedly not unimpeachable — or at least they weren’t when they first hit bookshelves. These books and many others that are now considered masterpieces got their fair share of scathing reviews when they first came out, and in reputable publications no less. Sure, hindsight is 20/20, but we can’t help having this to say to these brutal reviewers: ha, ha.

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




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



“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



“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