Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Questions of Good Taste and Practice

“Oh, it’s just like everything else, dear. Practice, practice.”
—Cyd Charisse, on how she was able to dance in high heels

Once upon a time, publishers Charles and James Ollier put out a book that elicited the equivalent of a great fat public raspberry. So the Olliers wrote to the author’s brother:
We regret that your brother ever requested us to publish his book, or that our opinion of its talent should have led us to acquiesce in undertaking it. . . . By far the greater number of persons who have purchased it from us have found fault with it in such plain terms, that we have in many cases offered to take the book back rather than be annoyed with the ridicule which has, time after time, been showered upon it.
Never mind that the book they trashed, Poems, included this and this. Fortunately for us, the author, John Keats, had friends like Leigh Hunt and Percy Bysshe Shelley to encourage him and, more important, his own good taste and a belief in his poetry (at least enough to carry on).

Keats didn’t have nearly the time Ira Glass has in mind (thanks Mike), but Glass’s point—that those who create tend to have good taste, and that artists should keep trying until their taste and ability meet—well, it’s a variation on a wise theme, and it’s well said.

And although this well-established poet (e.g.), in his response to a form rejection letter, makes some valid arguments, a look at UMD professor and poet Stanley Plumly’s new biography, Posthumous Keats (and the New Yorker review of it) just might encourage anyone faced with rejections (e.g.), bad reviews, and other such fun to move on and get back to work. Tout de suite.


  1. on the low end of 'good taste'...

    theres that blog

    literary rejection on display

  2. Yeah, actually I should have credited them for Turco's post, but the main page at the time was really, really depressing. (So I am crediting them now.)