Reviewers are tasked with the daunting challenge of critically assessing a work’s artistic merit, and determining whether a book is worth readers’ valuable time. They are often also expected to predict — or influence — a novel’s future, an assignment that may be impossible to fulfill with complete accuracy. Which is one reason why the art of the negative review has been called into question recently — not only do writers need our support, there’s also often a dissonance between critical reception and, say, Goodreads’ crowd-sourced opinions. The Goldfinch is just one recent example of a title that failed to garner the support of top reviewers, but charmed book lovers (not to mention the 2014 Pulitzer judges) nevertheless.
Donna Tartt was preceded by a slew of talented writers whose works were initially snubbed by critics. Fitzgerald’s Gatsby (y’know — the Great one?) was originally panned as “obviously unimportant,” and Brave New World was once said to be “heavy-handed propaganda.” Yikes! Below are 12 classic books that once received bad reviews:
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