When a young publicist at Simon & Schuster sent Evelyn Waugh a copy of Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 back in 1961, his response was a lot less enthusiastic than what she was hoping for. Among the zingers in his scathing response to one the greatest literary works of the 20th century: “I am sorry that the book fascinates you so much. It has many passages quite unsuitable to a lady’s reading. It suffers not only from indelicacy but from prolixity. It should be cut by about a half. In particular the activities of ‘Milo’ should be eliminated or greatly reduced.”
But wait! That’s not all! He then goes on to write, “You are mistaken in calling it a novel. It is a collection of sketches — often repetitious — totally without structure.”
What do you think? Is this as vicious as what the Brideshead Revisited author had to say about Marcel Proust in our roundup of the harshest author-on-author insults in history? Before you decide, head over to Letters of Note to read the full text of his letter, including the blurb that he so generously offers up.