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Five Terrible Reviews of Famous Books

Jeevan Sivasubramaniam Posted by Jeevan Sivasubramaniam, Managing Director, Editorial, Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.



Literary critics are notorious for their verbal savagery, but they're not always accurate in their assessments as many panned works go on to not just become bestsellers, but def....
Literary critics are notorious for their verbal savagery, but they're not always accurate in their assessments as many panned works go on to not just become bestsellers, but define entire canons and genres. Here are five examples of such books and the criticism they received:

1. Absalom,  Absalom! -- William Faulkner, 1936
 "The final blowup of what was once a remarkable, if minor, talent."
-- Clifton Fadiman, The New Yorker

2. Hamlet -- William Shakespeare, 1601
"One would imagine this piece to be the work of a drunken savage."
-- Voltaire (1768)

3. Anna Karenina -- Leo Tolstoy, 1877
"Sentimental rubbish...Show me one page that contains an idea."
--The Odessa Courier

4. Breakfast of Champions -- Kurt Vonnegut, 1973
"From time to time it's nice to have a book you can hate -- it clears the pipes -- and I hate this book."
-- Peter Prescott, Newsweek.

5. Leaves of Grass -- Walt Whitman, 1855
"Whitman is as unacquainted with art as a hog is with mathematics."
-- The London Critic