I wonder how William Golding felt?
We all know what it’s like to be rejected: your best friend at school goes off with someone else, the one you love says it’s over (and no amount of it’s not you, it’s me eases the pain), you don’t get the job you want, and on and on throughout life, we suffer the knock-backs – big and small – dust ourselves down, and move on.
For writers, rejection is part of the package. Your work is constantly being weighed
and more often that not, found wanting. You didn’t make the shortlist in the competition; your writing group think a character doesn’t work; ten different agents say ‘no thank you’; an editor says ‘I need more context’. And, IT HURTS.
So, I was especially pleased this weekend to read some rejections of the work of famous authors.
In a letter dated September 1953, William Golding wrote to the publishing house Faber, then known as Faber and Gwyer:
I sent you the typescript of my novel ‘Strangers from Within’ which might be defined as an allegorical interpretation of a stock situation.
I hope you will feel able to publish it.
Across the top of the letter, an editor had scrawled: Absurd and uninteresting fantasy about the explosion of an atom bomb on an island. A group of schoolchildren who land in jungle near New Guinea. Rubbish and dull. Pointless. (OUCH)
I presume that comment refers to ‘Lord of the Flies’!
Less damning but still a rejection was from TS Eliot to WH Auden: Sorry to have kept your poems so long. I do not think any of the enclosed is quite right. I’m afraid I’m much too busy to give you any detailed criticism.
Perhaps the funniest was Eliot’s report on Harold Acton’s poetry which simply said: I cannot endure this stuff. !!! (I hadn’t heard of HA – apparently he wrote novels and memoir – so perhaps Eliot might have had a point.)
But I couldn’t help wondering how many people have uttered the same despairing comment about Eliot’s poetry?!