edited by Bill Shapiro
Over my long Thanksgiving break, I let my brain turn to mush. I watched too much TV and hardly read at all. Since then, I've been in a book-funk. I kept taking books home and just couldn't get into anything: "The Devil Wears Prada" (although I love the movie), Michael Caine's biography "The Elephant to Hollywood" (by the way, "Noises Off!" has got to be the funniest movie I have ever seen despite the reviews it received), "Bridget Jones' Diary," "Napalm & Silly Putty," "Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk" - it certainly wasn't for lack of trying.
But I found a book to pull me out of my funk: "Other People's Rejection Letters." Now, this has got to be some kind of record. I was on hold for this book since I first found out about it in July. That's right, I waited 6 months for a book that took me about 2 hours to read. And yet, I think it was worth it.
This book is just what it advertises: a collection of various people's rejection letters. I really enjoyed it. And as Shapiro writes in his introduction, "I felt comforted [...] I saw that no one is alone in getting shot down in love, work and creative pursuits." However, being the person I am, I did feel some sense of schadenfreude.
There are so many great treasures in this book: James Hendrix's discharge notice from the army (he spent too much time thinking about his guitar), Jackie Robinson's letter of disappointment in the President, Mary Ford being told women have no place in illustration with Disney, Harry Truman's telegram to Senator McCarthy telling him he has no sense of responsibility! Mark David Champan's rejection for parole in 2004!
Arthur Gonzalez turned his rejections into works of art. I would like to see an exhibition of those. (I'm thinking of buying his book "The Art of Rejection.")
F. Scott Fitzgerald's letter to his daughter is pretty harsh. Although what stuck me is that he denounces his daughter for behaving just like the women of "Gatsby."
I love that Shapiro included some background information and accompanying stories to some of the letters as a postscript. It adds some depth and needed understanding to some of the rejections.
This book is well worth a flip-through, at the very least. It's funny and sad and poignant. Shapiro came up with an excellent idea for a book and I find it entirely successful. I'm now inspired to keep rejection letters of my own to remind me of the chances I took, and are yet to take (my grad school applications are all submitted, and now I just have to wait...).