I’m not sure it’s legal to work in publishing and not love Dorothy Parker. The dame’s snarkiness has inspired millions of mean rejection letters from editors so ground under by their thankless jobs that the only joy they find in their dark, miserable lives is putting their rage (at incoherent prose, ill-formed thoughts, ridiculous storylines) on their publisher’s letterhead and sending it out to agents, who take the blow for their clients.
It’s not just editors. Ms. Parker is also the patron saint of agents who have to sift through unreadable queries (see Jim’s blog posts on this topic), spend their evenings with manuscripts so flawed you literally don’t know where to begin pointing out problems, and stare agape at vicious e-mails from authors who did not take kindly to their form letter rejection or clients who took even less kindly to their attempts at righting their sinking ships. I think all of us here at DGLM have at one time or another crafted bitingly sarcastic, splendidly caustic, unimaginably cruel letters in response to an offensive query or manuscript. And, then, we’ve hit “delete” and taken the high, boring, inoffensive road.
In fact, I think all intelligent readers have a bit of Dorothy Parker in them. How often have you wanted to throw a book across the room in bitter disappointment or indulged in homicidal fantasies about a bestselling author you’re convinced was taught to write by feral monkeys? How about when, as Jane recently mused, you plod through a book everyone has touted as the best thing since Nutella only to find that you hate, hate, hate it (The Help, anyone)?
Unfortunately, in this era of political correctness and “everybody wins” thinking, Ms. Parker’s take-no-prisoners approach to criticism is becoming obsolete. Which is why we should treasure every snarky word and phrase…like these.
C’mon, get mean. Share some imaginary putdowns you’d throw out about a book or author you just can’t stand.