Ernest Hemingway's Lost Rejection Letter
Dear Mr. Hemingway
75 Wiley Street
New York, N.Y.
June 14th, 1925.
Dear Mr. Hemingway:
Thank you for sending us your manuscript, The Sun Also Rises. I regret to inform you that we will not be offering you publication at this time.
If I may be frank, Mr. Hemingway -- you certainly are in your prose -- I found
your efforts to be both tedious and offensive. You really are a manís man, arenít you? I wouldnít be surprised to hear that you had penned this entire story locked up at the club, ink in one hand, brandy in the other. Your bombastic, dipsomaniac, where-to-now characters had me reaching for my own glass of brandy -- something to liven up 250 pages of men who are constantly stopping to sleep off the drink. What Peacock & Peacock is looking for, in a manuscript, is innovation and heart. Iím afraid that what you have produced here does not fit that description.
A great story, Mr. Hemingway, is built on a foundation of great characters. I had trouble telling yours apart. Remind me, which is the broken-hearted bachelor who travels aimlessly across Europe? Ah, yes! They all do! As I understand it, Jake Barnes is intended to be your hero. A hero, Mr. Hemingway, is a person the reader can care about, root for. Jake Barnes is too detached, too ineffective; I doubt heíd have the energy to turn the page and find out what happened to himself. I take exception, also, to your portrayal of Mike. There is nothing less appealing than a character who sits blithely by while his wife sleeps with half of the continent. I have not yet said anything about Brett, your only prominent female character. As a woman, was I intended to identify with this flighty girl who takes in men the way the others take in after-supper coffees? Let me tell you, Mr. Hemingway, I did not. Your languid characters deserve each other, reallyóeach one is more hollow than the next.
Of course, I doubt itís possible to create a three-dimensional character with such two-dimensional language. Have you never heard of crafted prose? Style? Complexity of diction? Itís hard to believe an entire novelís worth of pages could be filled up with the sort of short, stunted sentences you employ here. Let me be specific: at the start of the novel, you sum up a key character, Robert Cohn, with just five short words, ìI was his tennis friend.î This tells us nothing. Later, when Jake is looking out on the Seine -- the beautiful, historic, poetic Sein -- you write, ìthe river looked nice.î Nice? The river looked nice? I dare say my young son could do better!
In short, your efforts have saddened me, Mr. Hemingway. I was hopeful that by 1925, the brutes would have stopped sending me their offerings. We at Peacock & Peacock, are looking to publish novels that will inspire. God knows, itís what people need at this time. Certainly, what is not needed are treatises about bullfights and underemployed men who drink too much.
Mrs Moberley Luger