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Famous Authors’ Harshest Rejection Letters

Rejected: On the Road, by Jack Kerouac

Now heralded as the beat bible, Jack Kerouac’s magnum opus On the Road was finally published by Viking Press in 1957, six years after it was written. But in 1951, given its provocative content and untraditional style, publishing houses wouldn’t touch it. Knopf was just one of many whose editors reviewed the manuscript harshly and reported it as untouchable to their editors. In 2007, NPR interviewed Richard Oram, associate director of the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas, where the Knopf archives are stored, and he shared a bit of On the Road‘s bleak review. Listen to it here, where Oram reads out part of a Mr. Parks’ review:

“…this is a badly misdirected talent and … this huge sprawling and inconclusive novel would probably have small sales and sardonic indignant reviews from every side.”

Followed by the even nastier, pithy review of another editor:

“I don’t dig this one at all.”