It is fortunate that the great authors of antiquity are not alive today. If so, their most magical flights of figurative fancy, that skillful, mysterious plotting, those timeless, heart-wrenching turns of phrase all might have ended up in the paper shredder. Below are samples of the rejection letters the great authors likely would have received in our current, dismal literary market.
The Catcher in the Rye
Dear J.D. Salinger,
We very much appreciated reading your non-fiction book about a down-on-his-luck baseball player lost in a cornfield. Even though this narrative isn’t right for us—since we exclusively publish bildungsromane featuring cynical boarding school dropouts—we thank you for the opportunity to consider your work.
John B. Riley
Assistant to the Assistant Editor, Random House
The Sun Also Rises
Dear Mr. Hemingway,
We feel grateful to have been fortunate enough to read your ambitious, insightful novel. Unfortunately it does not meet our needs at this time.
Since you asked for feedback, might we suggest you make this slightly less depressing? We understand that the cyclical nature of drinks and dull conversation is intended as a realistic portrait of the ex-pat circles in Paris post WWI, but we still feel the novel needs a shocking climactic twist in the end à la a James Patterson novel.
One option would be to have Brett shoot Jake in the face and then have Robert Cohen punch out Brett and then have the bullfighter finish them all off with his sword as Mike looks on and chuckles while the sun also rises.
Best of luck!
Intern, Penguin Group
Dear Mr. Camus,
May we suggest psychological counseling?
Dear Mr. Joyce,
Are you on Facebook? How many Twitter followers do you have? Would you be willing to fake your own death to boost sales?
While this book isn’t right for us, we need someone to write a teen vampire saga in the style of Twilight. Do this and we’ll consider turning Ulysses into a made-for-TV movie.
As for Ulysses’s prospects as a stand-alone novel, again, our deepest regrets, but it has far too much merit for us to ever seriously consider it.
Vile Human Being Literary Agency
Lady Chatterley’s Lover
Dear Mr. D.H. Lawrence,
We regret to inform you that we will be unable to consider Lady Chatterley’s Lover for publication without a drastic rewrite. It is our belief that what this narrative needs is a paddle, a pair of handcuffs, and a ball gag.
While the quality of your writing is undeniable, the sex scenes between Lady Chatterley and the gamekeeper seemed far too prudish. Nor were they sufficiently frequent. We suggest you reread the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy and cut and paste where appropriate.
The Hot Nipple Press
Waiting for Godot
Dear Mr. Beckett,
Dull characters. Zero plot. Please consider rereading Aristotle.
Dear Mr. Shakespeare,
We really think this would work better as a high-concept romantic comedy. That or as a documentary about goldfish. Don’t ask.
The New Testament
Dear Twelve Apostles,
While we appreciated your very dramatic rendering of the story of Jesus H. Christ, we regret to inform you that we can only publish one of your testimonies. We suggest all of you go home, revise your holy testimony, and resend it to us with a $45 reading fee, and a statement about what you would do with the $12.57 in royalties in the unlikely event you actually get published.
The Lakewood Church Bible Group
A Tale of Two Cities
Dear Mr. Dickens,
We’ll publish this, but only if you make it a tale about one city. And that city has to be Cleveland.
Dear Egyptian Slaves,
We are sorry to report that we cannot publish your excellent hieroglyphs. Market conditions are tough and we cannot make sense of some of these—even with the Rosetta Stone. But we encourage you to keep engraving your ancient psychobabble into everything from a tomb to a sphinx in hopes that they’ll eventually end up in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
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