- Wilde would whisper flowery sweet nothings in your ear during foreplay but then have his very dirty way with you
- Fitzgerald would spend like an hour bragging about how good he was and then come much too soon
- Shakespeare would make up positions on the spot but they’d be awesome
- Doyle would please you once and then complain when you kept asking him to do the same thing over and over again
- Hemingway would explain in no uncertain terms exactly what he was going to do, and do exactly one very simple act, but goddamn if it wasn’t the best time you’ve had in years anyways
- Joyce would take FOREVER but eventually satisfy you
- Rand would make you do all the work yourself
- Poe would cry
1. Mark Twain - “He had his leather bound notebooks custom made according to his own design idea. Each page had a tab; once a page had been used, he would tear off its tab, allowing him to easily find the next blank page for his jottings”
2. Charles Darwin - “The notebooks were filled with memorandum to himself on things to look further into, questions he wanted to answer, scientific speculations, notes on the many books he was currently reading, natural observations, sketches, and lists of the books he had read and wanted to read. But the progression is far from orderly: the entries are chaotically arranged and wide-ranging; they jump from one scientific subject to the next and are interspersed with notes on correspondences and conversations. He would rest the notebook on his desk and write horizontally down the page with a pen, and, like Isaac Newton, he would sometimes start in from both ends of the notebook at once and work towards the middle.
3. Jack Kerouac - The notebook entry reads:
“Ginsberg — intelligent enuf, interested in the outward appearance & pose of great things, intelligent enuf to know where to find them, but once there he acts like Jerry Newman, the photographer anxious to be photographed photographing —— Ginsberg wants to run his hand up the backs of people, for this he gives and seldom takes — He is also a mental screwball
*(Tape recorder anxious to be tape recorded tape recording) (like Seymour Barab anxious to have his name in larger letters than Robert Louis Stevenson, like Steinberg & Verlaine Rimbaud Baudelaire”
4. Ernest Hemingway - The notebook entry reads:
“My name is Ernest Miller Hemingway
I was born on July 21, 1899
My favorite authors are Kipling, O. Henry and Steuart Edward White.
My favorite flower is lady slipper and tiger lily.
My favorite sports are trout fishing, hiking, shooting, football and boxing.
My favorite studies are English, zoology and chemistry.
I intend to travel and write.”
1. F. Scott Fitzgerald:
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
2. John Keats:
“Here lies one whose name was writ in water.”
3. Sylvia Plath:
“Even amidst fierce flames the golden lotus can be planted.”
4. Robert Frost:
“I had a lovers’ quarrel with the world.”
5. Dorothy Parker:
“Excuse my dust.”
- William S. Burroughs was an exterminator. He really liked that job. He liked the word, too, and published a collection of short stories called Exterminator! not to be confused with a collaborative collection of stories with Brion Gysin called The Exterminator.
- Vladimir Nabokov was an entomologist of underappreciated greatness. His theory of butterfly evolution was proven to be true in early 2011 using DNA analysis.
- Margaret Atwood first worked as a counter girl in a coffeeshop in Toronto, serving coffee and operating a cash register, which was a source of serious frustration for her. She details the experience in her essay, “Ka-Ching!”
- Don DeLillo took a job as a parking attendant when he was a teenager. It was so boring that he became an avid reader, which led him to pursue a career in writing.
- Before writing 1984, George Orwell (born Eric Arthur Blair) was an officer of the Indian Imperial Police in Burma. He shouldered the heavy burden of protecting the safety of some 200,000 people, and was noted for his “sense of utter fairness.”
- Though it’s apparent in reading Joseph Conrad’s work (especially Heart of Darkness) that he lived a large part of his life at sea, it’s maybe less obvious that he spent part of that time involved in gunrunning and political conspiracy.
- Sylvia Plath: There certainly isn’t enough genuine talent for us to take notice.
- Rudyard Kipling: I’m sorry Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.
- Emily Dickinson: [Your poems] are quite as remarkable for defects as for beauties and are generally devoid of true poetical qualities.
- Ernest Hemingway (on The Torrents of Spring): It would be extremely rotten taste, to say nothing of being horribly cruel, should we want to publish it.
- Dr. Seuss: Too different from other juveniles on the market to warrant its selling.
- The Diary of Anne Frank: The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the ‘curiosity’ level.
- Richard Bach (on Jonathan Livingston Seagull): will never make it as a paperback. (Over 7.25 million copies sold)
- H.G. Wells (on The War of the Worlds): An endless nightmare. I do not believe it would “take”…I think the verdict would be ‘Oh don’t read that horrid book’. And (on The Time Machine): It is not interesting enough for the general reader and not thorough enough for the scientific reader.
- Edgar Allan Poe: Readers in this country have a decided and strong preference for works in which a single and connected story occupies the entire volume.
- Herman Melville (on Moby Dick): We regret to say that our united opinion is entirely against the book as we do not think it would be at all suitable for the Juvenile Market in [England]. It is very long, rather old-fashioned…
- Jack London: [Your book is] forbidding and depressing.
- William Faulkner: If the book had a plot and structure, we might suggest shortening and revisions, but it is so diffuse that I don’t think this would be of any use. My chief objection is that you don’t have any story to tell. And two years later: Good God, I can’t publish this!
- Stephen King (on Carrie): We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.
- Joseph Heller (on Catch–22): I haven’t really the foggiest idea about what the man is trying to say… Apparently the author intends it to be funny – possibly even satire – but it is really not funny on any intellectual level … From your long publishing experience you will know that it is less disastrous to turn down a work of genius than to turn down talented mediocrities.
- George Orwell (on Animal Farm): It is impossible to sell animal stories in the USA.
- Oscar Wilde (on Lady Windermere’s Fan): My dear sir, I have read your manuscript. Oh, my dear sir.
- Vladimir Nabokov (on Lolita): … overwhelmingly nauseating, even to an enlightened Freudian … the whole thing is an unsure cross between hideous reality and improbable fantasy. It often becomes a wild neurotic daydream … I recommend that it be buried under a stone for a thousand years.
- The Tale of Peter Rabbit was turned down so many times, Beatrix Potter initially self-published it.
- Lust for Life by Irving Stone was rejected 16 times, but found a publisher and went on to sell about 25 million copies.
- John Grisham’s first novel was rejected 25 times.
- Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen (Chicken Soup for the Soul) received 134 rejections.
- Robert Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance) received 121 rejections.
- Gertrude Stein spent 22 years submitting before getting a single poem accepted.
- Judy Blume, beloved by children everywhere, received rejections for two straight years.
- A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle received 26 rejections.
- Frank Herbert’s Dune was rejected 20 times.
- Carrie by Stephen King received 30 rejections.
- The Diary of Anne Frank received 16 rejections.
- Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rolling was rejected 12 times.
- Dr. Seuss received 27 rejection letters
And for the people wondering how I pronounce my name… or how John Scieszka pronounces his name, for that matter, over a thousand authors tell exactly you how to pronounce their names at http://www.teachingbooks.net/pronunciations.cgi
Faulkner was a postmaster, Kafka an insurance agent, Brontë a governess. The day jobs of famous authors.
1. Keeping it in the family, the three talented Brontë sisters published their writing under the surname Bell. Emily published Wuthering Heights as Ellis Bell, Charlotte brought out Jane Eyre as Currer Bell and Anne used Acton Bell to release The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, as well as their joint poetry collections and other works.
2. A. S. Byatt was born Dame Antonia Susan Duffy, but has been publishing writing under her androgynous pseudonym since 1964. Her novelist sister uses her birth name professionally.
3. Vita Sackville-West’s gender-confusing pen name is a shortened version of the far flouncier The Hon Victoria Mary Sackville-West, Lady Nicolson, which she was born with. Famously the lover and muse of Virginia Woolf, Sackville-West published novels and poetry under her pen name, including The Edwardians and All Passion Spent.
4. Despite bringing out the best-selling book series in history (Harry Potter, if you hadn’t heard) in 1997, J.K. Rowling was advised by her publisher to swap her full name for two initials. Born Joanne Rowling, she chose ‘K’ from her grandmother Kathleen, which she adopted again during the Leveson Inquiry when she gave evidence.
5. Jane Austen published her debut novel Sense and Sensibility using merely ‘A Lady’ in 1811. The fact that she was happy to show herself as a woman, but not identify herself further, has mystified academics ever since.
6. Harper Lee dropped the ‘Nelle’ at the beginning of her name to publish her only novel, the autobiographical To Kill A Mockingbird.
7. George Eliot was born Mary Ann Evans, and went on to author seven hugely successful novels, including Mill on the Floss and Middlemarch - which has been deemed the greatest novel in the English language by authors Martin Amis and Julian Barnes. She wanted to be taken seriously, and thus used her male pseudonym, and is still known as such today.
8. An author used to both different languages and pen names, Karen Blixen has published under Isak Dinesen, Osceola and Pierre Andrézel and is famous for her novel Out Of Africa.
9. Despite being deemed the “first modern writer for children” by biographer Julia Briggs, Edith ‘E.’ Nesbit published over 40 children’s books using her first initial, rather than her full name.
By Alice E. Vincent