OUCH! GREAT WORKS, TERRIBLE REVIEWS

The nail biting starts early, and never stops. Writers and filmmakers alike crave attention and praise, while bad reviews tend to induce panic, rage or despair. Most of us have suffered a few critical knocks (my worst was 'Oh, why was I reading this dreadful book?') and taken a drink or several, and moved on. Remember, you're never alone - others have been slaughtered too. If the critics have you in a funk, don't despair - take a look at these early damning reviews of now-classic works. Ouch indeed.

"Monsieur Flaubert is not a writer.” Le Figaro, 1857, on Madame Bovary.

"Monsieur Flaubert is not a writer.”

Le Figaro, 1857, on Madame Bovary.

"The old master has turned out another Hitchcock-and-bull story in which the mystery is not so much who done it as who cares." Time, 1958.

"The old master has turned out another Hitchcock-and-bull story in which the mystery is not so much who done it as who cares."

Time, 1958.

“The arguments are selected from the customary communistic sources and arguments... Consistency is not, and any informed reader knows that it cannot be, a quality either of the Communistic mind or Communist propaganda.” San Francisco Examiner, 1936.

“The arguments are selected from the customary communistic sources and arguments... Consistency is not, and any informed reader knows that it cannot be, a quality either of the Communistic mind or Communist propaganda.”

San Francisco Examiner, 1936.

“[American Psycho] is throughout numbingly boring, and for much of the time deeply and extremely disgusting. Not interesting-disgusting, but disgusting-disgusting: sickening, cheaply sensationalist, pointless except as a way of earning its author some money and notoriety.” Andrew Motion, The Observer, 1991.

“[American Psycho] is throughout numbingly boring, and for much of the time deeply and extremely disgusting. Not interesting-disgusting, but disgusting-disgusting: sickening, cheaply sensationalist, pointless except as a way of earning its author some money and notoriety.”

Andrew Motion, The Observer, 1991.

"Here all the faults of Jane Eyre (by Charlotte Brontë) are magnified a thousand fold, and the only consolation which we have in reflecting upon it is that it will never be generally read.” James Lorimer, North British Review, 1847.

"Here all the faults of Jane Eyre (by Charlotte Brontë) are magnified a thousand fold, and the only consolation which we have in reflecting upon it is that it will never be generally read.”

James Lorimer, North British Review, 1847.

“This blending of farce with brutal killings is as pointless as it is lacking in taste, since it makes no valid commentary upon the already travestied truth. And it leaves an astonished critic wondering just what purpose Mr. Penn and Mr. Beatty think they serve with this strangely antique, sentimental claptrap…” Bosley Crowther, The New York Times, 1967.

“This blending of farce with brutal killings is as pointless as it is lacking in taste, since it makes no valid commentary upon the already travestied truth. And it leaves an astonished critic wondering just what purpose Mr. Penn and Mr. Beatty think they serve with this strangely antique, sentimental claptrap…”

Bosley Crowther, The New York Times, 1967.

“There are two equally serious reasons why it isn't worth any adult reader's attention. The first is that it is dull, dull, dull in a pretentious, florid and archly fatuous fashion. The second is that it is repulsive...” Orville Prescott, The New York Times, 1958.

“There are two equally serious reasons why it isn't worth any adult reader's attention. The first is that it is dull, dull, dull in a pretentious, florid and archly fatuous fashion. The second is that it is repulsive...”

Orville Prescott, The New York Times, 1958.

“No better in tone than the dime novels which flood the blood-and-thunder reading population…’ The Springfield Republican, 1885.

“No better in tone than the dime novels which flood the blood-and-thunder reading population…’

The Springfield Republican, 1885.

“The book is an emotional hodgepodge; no mood is sustained long enough to register for more than a chapter.” Richard G. Stern, The New York Times Book Review, 1961.

“The book is an emotional hodgepodge; no mood is sustained long enough to register for more than a chapter.”

Richard G. Stern, The New York Times Book Review, 1961.

“Sentimental rubbish... Show me one page that contains an idea.” The Odessa Courier, 1877, on Anna Karenina.

“Sentimental rubbish... Show me one page that contains an idea.”

The Odessa Courier, 1877, on Anna Karenina.

“The only remarkable thing about Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather Part II is the insistent manner in which it recalls how much better his original film was…Part II's dialogue often sounds like cartoon captions... its insights are fairly lame.... It’s not really much of anything that can be easily defined.” Vincent Canby, The New York Times, 1974.

“The only remarkable thing about Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather Part II is the insistent manner in which it recalls how much better his original film was…Part II's dialogue often sounds like cartoon captions... its insights are fairly lame.... It’s not really much of anything that can be easily defined.”

Vincent Canby, The New York Times, 1974.

“[Ulysses] appears to have been written by a perverted lunatic who has made a specialty of the literature of the latrine… There are whole chapters of it without any punctuation or other guide to what the writer is really getting at. Two-thirds of it is incoherent, and the passages that are plainly written are devoid of wit, displaying only a coarse salacrity [sic] intended for humour.”  The Sporting Times, 1922.

“[Ulysses] appears to have been written by a perverted lunatic who has made a specialty of the literature of the latrine… There are whole chapters of it without any punctuation or other guide to what the writer is really getting at. Two-thirds of it is incoherent, and the passages that are plainly written are devoid of wit, displaying only a coarse salacrity [sic] intended for humour.” 

The Sporting Times, 1922.

“For all [Lowry’s] earnestness he has succeeded only in writing a rather good imitation of an important novel.” The New Yorker, 1947.

“For all [Lowry’s] earnestness he has succeeded only in writing a rather good imitation of an important novel.”

The New Yorker, 1947.

"Mad Max is ugly and incoherent, and aimed, probably accurately, at the most uncritical of moviegoers." Tom Buckley, New York Times, 1980.

"Mad Max is ugly and incoherent, and aimed, probably accurately, at the most uncritical of moviegoers."

Tom Buckley, New York Times, 1980.

“Mr. Scott Fitzgerald deserves a good shaking. Here is an unmistakable talent unashamed of making itself a motley to the view. The Great Gatsby is an absurd story, whether considered as romance, melodrama, or plain record of New York high life.” L.P. Hartley, The Saturday Review, 1925. "What has never been alive cannot very well go on living. So this is a book of the season only..."  New York Herald Tribune, 1925.  

“Mr. Scott Fitzgerald deserves a good shaking. Here is an unmistakable talent unashamed of making itself a motley to the view. The Great Gatsby is an absurd story, whether considered as romance, melodrama, or plain record of New York high life.”

L.P. Hartley, The Saturday Review, 1925.

"What has never been alive cannot very well go on living. So this is a book of the season only..." 

New York Herald Tribune, 1925.

 

“Simultaneously fascinating and repellent, Goodfellas is Martin Scorsese’s colorful but dramatically unsatisfying inside look at Mafia life in 1955-80 New York City.” Joseph McBride, Variety, 1990.

“Simultaneously fascinating and repellent, Goodfellas is Martin Scorsese’s colorful but dramatically unsatisfying inside look at Mafia life in 1955-80 New York City.”

Joseph McBride, Variety, 1990.

“It is no discredit to Walt Whitman that he wrote Leaves of Grass, only that he did not burn it afterwards.”  Thomas Wentworth Higginson, The Atlantic, 1867.

“It is no discredit to Walt Whitman that he wrote Leaves of Grass, only that he did not burn it afterwards.” 

Thomas Wentworth Higginson, The Atlantic, 1867.

“Nothing short of an invasion could add much to Casablanca.” Time, 1942.

“Nothing short of an invasion could add much to Casablanca.”

Time, 1942.