I love Cracked. It’s a superb website for shit like this. Me being such a book nerd, of course I have to go through this list myself. These are all classic books that were not well received when first published.
Critical reaction to Brave New World was “largely chilly,” which is the short way of saying that it did to the literary world what Willy Wonka’s boat ride did to your childhood.
It’s a fantastic book, if you haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. It basically centers on a world (ours eventualy? possibly?) where everyone’s slapped into roles in society and have long since quit questioning their places and duties. Everyone’s dosed on soma every day, the feel good drug of choice. They’re so used to their way of life but a new person who’s been on the outside of this whole culture comes in and is quite perplexed by it. There’s a good rundown of the complexities of this book at huxley.net
The Grapes of Wrath received less than a warm welcome when it was released.
Since “Fuck the Poor” had pretty much been America’s policy all the way from the Gilded Age to the Roaring Twenties, Steinbeck’s devastating depictions of American poverty, plight and migrant camps came off as “depressing” to most readers, and by depressing we mean part of a communist/socialist conspiracy.
The Grapes of Wrath was denounced as a “pack of lies” and “a libel” from both the left and right wing of the political spectrum. The book was censored, banned and even burned in towns across the United States including Steinbeck’s own hometown.
I’ve been meaning to read this one, although I suspect I’d wind up watching the film version instead, just to save myself some time. SparkNotes offers up some commentary about the nature of the story in terms of themes worth noting – including the fact that people are often what make life worse for people, not monetary problems or weather patterns.
William Golding’s brilliant work of social commentary and symbolism was a complete commercial failure when it was released, but the truth is Golding was lucky that the book even made it that far. More than 20 publishers passed on the Lord of the Flies, no doubt due to the “excessive violence and bad language” Golding smacked his audience with like a blackjack upside the head.
The book sold less than 3,000 copies before going out of print in the 50s.
Fortunately, interest in the book increased later. I’m trying to recall if I read the book at some point or not. I’m sure I must have. I know I missed reading it in high school (and counted my lucky stars at the time, too) but it’s a book filled with themes and motivations that certainly interest me now from a literary perspective. Novelguide offers up the explanation Golding gave critics for why he wrote the book in the first place – to remind people that a political system will only be as good as the people who run it. It will always be limited by what a person is willing or able to bring to it.
The Catcher In The Rye was written in the “vulgar” tongue, which was common vernacular for the time. However, since the vulgar tongue does tend to involve lots of curse words and pussy jokes, the book kind of took a wrecking-ball to the social norms of Greatest Generation, and thus cemented the book’s reputation as one of the most infamous works of the 20th century.
I finally read this one just to find out what the fuss was about. Turned out to be a whole lotta nuthin’ — at least compared to the behaviours and attitudes of teenagers now. The anti-hero aspects of Holden Caufield must have been horrible to contemplate when the book was new. Hell, it still bothers people and often winds up on banned book lists all over the place. I just hope a film version (finally possible now that Salinger has passed on) does not actually include Justin Bieber.
Contemporary reviews for Moby-Dick were harsh. Very, very harsh. Think Son of the Mask meets Battlefield Earth.
I’ve seen neither of those films, nor have I read this book. I seem to recall wanting to try the film version with Patrick Stewart in the lead role but I think something got in the way of actually doing that. Apathy, probably. I see the whole of the book is available to read at online-literature.com though. I have no good excuses.
According to the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia, “No ‘mainstream critic’ appreciated The Lord of the Rings.”
The reasons for Tolkien’s negative feedback were numerous, not the least of them being that he was a career linguist, not a professional writer. The New York Times described Tolkien’s writing as “high-minded” and “death to literature itself.”
It sure took me a while to try tackling them. The Hobbit I devoured somewhere around grade 8 or 9 I think, but I kept getting bogged down by all those poems in the first book of the trilogy. Before Peter Jackson’s first film of the series came out, I figured I should at least try to get through it. I was impressed by how much I did enjoy the story, actually. I cried heavily at least once (where the orcs capture poor Frodo, I think) and found myself lining up early with all the lifelong fans to see the films, which I did enjoy quite a bit. I wasn’t a big enough fan to really pick apart where things got rearranged or lost in the telling. It was a hard series to streamline anyway, I’m sure, so I think they did pretty well.