A Review in Review – Be Careful Whose Opinion You Ask!

I regularly read PWxyz, the blog of Publishers Weekly. I have always loved the magazine for keeping up with the publishing world, and with the digital age, I can do so every day, rather than waiting for my magazine to arrive in the mail.

Today, I read a post that once again highlights one of PWxyz’s favorite fellow blogs – Letters of Note.

According the the About Me notation: Letters of Note is an attempt to gather and sort fascinating letters, postcards, telegrams, faxes, and memos. Scans/photos where possible. Fakes will be sneered at. Updated every weekday. It is edited by Shaun Usher.

So today, I am stealing a letter featured on Letters of Note and PWxyz, written by Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) because, as a writer and editor, I have received my share of rejection letters and quiver at the thought of a bad review. This review by Twain/Clemens is fair warning to choose your critics wisely. If you want simpering praise, ask your mother to read your manuscript. If you want truth (YOU can’t handle the truth . . . or maybe you can?), then see if you can get a widely-published author to read your manuscript, and brace yourself!

Publishers Chatto & Windus asked (Mark) Twain for a blurb for one of their books, Nuggets and Dust Panned Out in California by Dod Grille, which was by one of Twain’s friends, Ambrose Bierce. The publishers probably expected a kind word from Twain, but instead he ripped the book apart:

SLC

Farmington Avenue,
Hartford

4/8/74

Gentlemen:

“Dod Grile” (Mr. Bierce) is a personal friend of mine, & I like him exceedingly — but he knows my opinion of the “Nuggets & Dust,” & so I do not mind exposing it to you. It is the vilest book that exists in print — or very nearly so. If you keep a “reader,” it is charity to believe he never really read that book, but framed his verdict upon hearsay.
Bierce has written some admirable things — fugitive pieces — but none of them are among the “Nuggets.” There is humor in Dod Grile, but for every laugh that is in his book there are five blushes, ten shudders and a vomit. The laugh is too expensive.

Ys truly

Samuel L. Clemens

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Published in: on September 14, 2011 at 4:29 pm  Comments (1)  
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