I love a game of Would You Rather. If you had to choose, would you pick smelling terrible for the rest of your life or having both your legs amputated? Would you rather have the main character in every movie replaced by Nicholas Cage or every song sung by Nickelback? Would you rather have 12 kids or zero? Would you rather have the ugliest house in a fancy neighborhood or the most beautiful one in an average one? Would you rather a year of travel or a $100,000 check?
One of the fallback prompts that I’ve found to be a telling insight into a person is the following: Would you rather live an average life, die, and be largely forgotten, or would you rather be Van Gogh’d– ridiculed and impoverished during your earthly days and then remembered as a genius forever forward? I think I’d go with the tame and average life (and look at how dutifully I’m walking that talk, ha), but the idea of having people refer to others who have been influenced by HRCK the Herald and its lasting legacy is pretty tempting.
I was reminded of that would you rather when I came across this post– 11 Early Scathing Reviews of Works Now Considered Masterpieces. Here are a few from the list:
Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen (1813)
Early Reaction: …Charlotte Brontë (of Jane Eyre fame) wasn’t buying the hype: “Anything like warmth or enthusiasm, anything energetic, poignant, heartfelt, is utterly out of place in commending these works: all such demonstrations the authoress would have met with a well-bred sneer, would have calmly scorned as outré or extravagant…”
Fred Astaire (1899 – 1987)
Early Reaction: “Can’t act. Can’t sing. Slightly bald. Can dance a little.” –MGM Testing Director’s response to Astaire’s first screen test
Ulysses, by James Joyce (1918)
Early Reaction: “In Ireland they try to make a cat clean by rubbing its nose in its own filth. Mr. Joyce has tried the same treatment on the human subject” –George Bernard Shaw
Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman (first pub. 1855)
Early Reaction: Upon reading the newly published Leaves, Whitman’s boss at the Department of the Interior took offense—and gave his underling the axe.
*Fellow poet John Greenleaf Whittier supposedly hurled his 1855 edition into the fire.
*“A mass of stupid filth” -Rufus Wilmot Griswold, The Criterion, November 10, 1855
*“It is no discredit to Walt Whitman that he wrote Leaves of Grass, only that he did not burn it afterwards.” –Thomas Wentworth Higginson, The Atlantic, “Literature as an Art,” 1867
*“… the book cannot attain to any very wide influence.” –The Atlantic, January 1882
So, to reduce all this to a nice little message,
Go do your thang.