THE New York Times Book Review of May 1 featured a series...


May 04, 1994

THE New York Times Book Review of May 1 featured a series of fictional rejection slips that might have been received by Henry Thoreau, T.S. Eliot, Lewis Carroll and other renowned scribes. The fake rejections, penned by such writers as Garrison Keillor, Calvin Trillin and Anna Quindlen, were written as the entertainment for a recent Authors Guild Foundation event. All the pieces were entertaining. But the Keillor offering, an editor's thumbs-down of Thoreau's "Walden," was especially amusing. Here's a sample:

"What this book needs is structure, and what I'm thinking, Henry, is calendar. One page per month, one aphorism per day, one of your quickies, like 'Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in' or 'Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes' -- both great. Or: 'Our life is frittered away by detail . . . Simplify. Simplify.' That's all we're asking you to do, really, is simplify your book and make it a calendar. People get some inspiration, they get a space to write in doctor appointments and birthdays, they get some nice etchings of trees and leaves, and along the way they start to wonder: 'Where can I read more of this Thoreau? He's pretty good.' And then we bring out your next book, which I hope is going to be less about the universe and more about you. And a chapter about Ralph Waldo Emerson, personal anecdotes, the Emerson nobody knows -- that wouldn't hurt either. As you yourself say, 'Only that day dawns to which we are awake.' In other words, if nobody buys your book, pal, then what's the point?

"Think about it. Let's aim for an 1855 calendar. That would give us plenty of time to line up advertising. Would you have any objection to Colt's revolvers? . . . "

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