Wednesday, January 10, 2007

How Frank John O'Hara received a rejection letter

John O'Hara, in a letter to Harold Ross, January 1939:



Dear Harold:

I have decided to reject your rejection of this piece[1] and to give you a chance to read it over again. I think you often are unduly influenced by bulk—that is, when you get three pieces at a time you think they can’t all be good, and then you go beyond that and think none of them can be good. The result: three rejections, which, of course, are unsalable elsewhere.

As a matter of fact when a writer writes in spurts, as I do, there is just as good a chance that everything he produces in a spurt will be good. In this case I happen to agree with you that one of the three pieces you just rejected is not the best I ever wrote, and that another of them could stand some rewriting. However you too frequently reject flatly when a piece could easily be salvaged. That is my squawk about some pieces. In the case of the enclosed I honestly think you ought to read it again.

[1] Unidentified; probably “that collage piece” mentioned in 8
February letter to William Maxwell.



The rest of the letter at the wonderful blog, Today In Letters.

Update: much mortified at having got John O'Hara mixed up with Frank; thanks Cheshire Cat.

I wish someone will tell me how to do a strike-thorough, so it doesn't look like I've sneakily altered the post in fundamental ways without acknowledging my carelessness.

Besides, I like strike-throughs.

Update 2: Van the Man Ludwig has shown us the way!

8 comments:

Cheshire Cat said...

You've got your O'Haras mixed up - the letter is by John, not Frank. Loved that reference to "Mother Woolcott".

Space Bar said...

Chesshire cat: truly I have. On the other hand, so has Brian, on his blog! Will be mended!

Cheshire Cat said...

Yeah, you shouldn't be mortified, "Today in Letters" made the mistake in the first place. Actually, I wish Frank had written it, it would have been much funnier then.

Space Bar said...

Yes, wouldn't it? the tone of the letter would be such a pleasant contrast to the rest of his work. i feel rather sad about having removed his poems from the post.

so do you know how to do a strike-through?

Ludwig said...

Put the text in between an <s> and and </s> perhaps?

equivocaliser said...

Aw, you know what, i really wish it was Frank too-- I have no idea who John O Hara is. And the tone seemed to oddly fit, too-- I'm not sure what you mean when you say the tone is very different from his poems (do you know Talking to the Sun at Fire Island: http://www.levity.com/digaland/celestial/ohara/sun.html ?). The only thing that doesn't seem right was his worry about being saleable-- since some of his best poems are recovered from letters he wrote to friends, etc, but then again, that could have been part of him too.

Can we maybe try to pretend?

Space Bar said...

equivocaliser: yes, let's pretend!

I hadn't read Fire Island; I was thinking more about Why I Am Not A Painter and Meditations On An Emergency.

:D

Space Bar said...

that's in and emergency.