Literary rejections

March 19, 2010
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jacket imageLapham’s Quarterly reprints two rejection letters, illustrating the perils of publishers everywhere.
Back in 1912, the London publisher Arthur Fifield channeled the author to reject the manuscript for Three Lives by Gertrude Stein. Droll. “Hardly one copy would sell here.” Nearly a century later, the book remains in print. And in another month or two, we will bring back into print lectures that Stein delivered at the University of Chicago in 1935 as Narration.
And, one of the best-crafted (and probably best known) rejection letters in literary history, Norman Maclean rejects an entreaty by an editor at Alfred A. Knopf. We can’t help but re-read that one every time. There but for the grace of Allen Fitchen . . .

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