cover image Rotten Reviews: A Literary Companion

Rotten Reviews: A Literary Companion

. W. W. Norton & Company, $12.5 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-916366-40-7

""The judgment of the ages settles old scores'' in this amusing but instructive, slender collection of unfavorable reviews of now classic literature. Culled from periodicals, critical essays, diary entries, letters and reported conversation, the detractions take aim at Anna Karenina (``sentimental rubbish''), The Great Gatsby (``falls into the class of negligible novels'') and Gulliver's Travels (``evidence of a diseased mind''). Notables have sometimes missed the mark as critics: Lord Byron found Chaucer ``obscene and contemptible,'' and John Quincy Adams ``always believed Byron's verses would soon rank with forgotten things.'' But readers who bog down midway through Ulysses may take comfort in knowing that Virginia Woolf thought it ``a misfire . . . diffuse . . . brackish . . . pretentious.'' Illustrations. (December 4)