By Jack Engelhard
Readers at the New York Times have already spoken about the most overrated books of all time and the winners (or rather, the losers) are J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye” and God’s “The Bible.” I read all about it in the Times’ Paper Cuts blog ( “Plaster Saints?”) and arrived at the conclusion that the least favorable works were usually those that failed to adhere to political correctness.
Hence, Books That Could Never Get Published Today
The Hebrew Bible: Too Jewish.
Confessions of St. Augustine: Too Christian.
Moby Dick — Dear Mr. Melville: A quite similar book has already been done by Jonah and it is still in print. We’d reconsider if you could produce a more sensitive Capt. Ahab. You do go on about whaling. Also, your opening line does not work for us. Can you come up with something better than “Call me Ishmael?” (Our first readers, by the way, were rooting for the whale.)
The Old Man and the Sea — Dear Mr. Hemingway: We no longer use the term “old man.” (Our first readers, by the way, were rooting for the fish.)
Leaves of Grass — Dear Mr. Whitman. Good for you. We are glad that you celebrate America. We don’t. Also, we are larger than you and contain more multitudes.
Ivanhoe — Dear Sir Walter Scott: Glorifies chivalry. Women can take care of themselves and don’t need men except to take out the garbage. Or haven’t you heard?
Exodus — Dear Mr. Uris: We could give this further thought if you would delete all references to Israel. Can you find some other country?
Diary — Dear Miss Frank: We might consider this work if you would delete all references to the genocide known today as the Holocaust, also to your reminding people that you are Jewish. Can’t you make yourself more “universal” for a broader readership? We enjoyed your tone of voice and some of our editors suggest that you place your predicament somewhere in Los Angeles, you know, growing up as a mixed-race foster child on the mean streets of south-central LA. We have already had great success with such a memoir, though later proven to be fraudulent. In your hands, however, this could work.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn — Thank you for both submissions, Mr. Clemens. You have captured the times we live in so perfectly. You have presented our culture admirably. Your dialogue is pitch-perfect. You have not shied from using language that is offensive, insulting and derogatory. This is the mark of a great novelist – the boldness to tell life as it really is. Future generations have a right to know how it really was in America, warts and all. These two works – entirely authentic! What courage! For all those reasons, we pass. Good luck elsewhere.
Women — Dear Mr. Bukowski: You must be kidding. Are you aware how insulting this is to women? Give it up and stick to your job at the Post Office.
Dear Mr. Whitman: We understand that, since you could find no traditional publisher, including ourselves, you went ahead and SELF-PUBLISHED Leaves of Grass. As we told you, our editors are the finest in the land and if we passed on it, it means that your book is unworthy. Going the self-publishing route is a guarantee that Leaves of Grass will never succeed. We regret that you had to take that step. Good luck finding another line of work.
The Metamorphosis — Dear Mr. Kafka: We fail to get the symbolism. The man wakes up to find himself turned into a monster insect? We’ve been tossing this around from editor to editor and can’t see the metaphor. Perhaps, however, you intend this to be a political novel, your political statement, in which a Democrat wakes up to find himself a Republican (in other words, monster insect) and thus raises havoc and horror among family, neighbors and friends. If that is the case, be more specific and we’ll have another look.
Dear Moses: All right already! Thunder, lightning, hail, fire and brimstone were over the top and quite unnecessary. How do we get rid of all these frogs?
The Bathsheba Deadline: An Original Novel Jack Engelhard’s latest novel, “The Bathsheba Deadline,” now available in paperback, places journalism at the center of our war on terror and has been hailed (by author Letha Hadady) as “a towering literary achievement.” Engelhard wrote the international bestselling novel “Indecent Proposal” that was translated into more than 22 languages and turned into a Paramount motion picture starring Robert Redford and Demi Moore. Indecent Proposal He can be reached at his website www.jackengelhard.com.
Note: [The first two chapters of his novel about the perils of getting published, “Slot Attendant,” are available for sampling on his website.]