Oops! Famously Scathing Reviews of Classic Books from the Times’s Archive

From The New York Times:

 What can we say? We don’t always get it right. Here’s a look back at some of our most memorable misses.

On the Origin of Species, by Charles Darwin (1860)

. . . .

“This Salinger, he’s a short-story guy.”

The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger (1951)

. . . .

“The author’s probable intention was to exhibit a unique development in this little asylum waif, but there is no real difference between the girl at the end of the story and the one at the beginning of it.”

Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery (1908)

. . . .

“Not one syllable of what Hemingway has written can or will be missed by any literate person in the world.”

Across the River and Into the Trees, by Ernest Hemingway (1950)

Link to the rest at The New York Times

5 thoughts on “Oops! Famously Scathing Reviews of Classic Books from the Times’s Archive”

  1. My all time favorite: Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses, by Samuel Clemens (1895)


    Excerpt: “It seems to me that it was far from right for the Professor of English Literature at Yale, the Professor of English Literature in Columbia, and Wilkie Collins to deliver opinions on Cooper’s literature without having read some of it. It would have been much more decorous to keep silent and let persons talk who have read Cooper.

    Cooper’s art has some defects. In one place in “Deerslayer,” and in the restricted space of two-thirds of a page, Cooper has scored 114 offenses against literary art out of a possible 115. It breaks the record.”

    • I agree with Twain’s characterization of Cooper’s prose, but IMO it is a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

      Twain published The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson two years before his critique of Cooper’s prose. Pudd’nhead Wilson ranks among the most egregious works of prose in the English language.

      Twain violated his own “nineteen rules governing literary art“:
      4. They [rules governing literary art] require that the personages in a tale, both dead and alive, shall exhibit a sufficient excuse for being there.

      Yet in Pudd’nhead Wilson we have this: “Then there was Colonel Cecil Burleigh Essex, another F. F. V. of formidable caliber—however, with him we have no concern.”

      The courtroom scene in Pudd’nhead Wilson is ridiculous. The sheriff performs the office of bailiff without explanation, the rules of evidence are ignored, and the conclusion is reached without a verdict from the jury. It is evident that Twain had never sat through a court proceeding. Or, if he had, he slept through it.

      So, yes, Cooper’s prose was execrable, but Twain was guilty of the same crimes.

  2. Never got more than a hundred pages into Last of the Mohicans. Still have a copy somewhere and I try every so often. I enjoyed Pudd’nhead Wilson, although Huck Finn, it is not.

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