In our time when professional book reviews and blog reviews have become so entangled, when everyone’s personal opinion is considered informed criticism, when subjective feelings are proffered as knowledgeable criticism, every writer should have a copy of Rotten Reviews on their desk. Then you could read…
“I am at a loss to understand why people hold Miss Austen’s novels at so high a rate, which seem to me vulgar in tone, sterile in artistic invention, imprisoned in the wretched conventions of English society, without genius, wit, or knowledge of the world.”
Or so wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1861.
“We fancy that any real child might be more puzzled than enchanted by this stiff, overwrought story.”
A contemporary review of Alice in Wonderland
“An eccentric, dreamy, half-educated recluse in an out-of-the-way New England village—or anywhere else—cannot with impunity set at defiance the laws of gravity and grammar… Oblivion lingers in the immediate neighborhood.”
Or so wrote Thomas Bailey Aldrich about Emily Dickinson in 1892.
“Recent war novels have accustomed us all to ugly words and images, but from the mouths of the very young and protected, they sound peculiarly offensive.…the ear refuses to believe.”
Contemporary book review of The Catcher in the Rye.