15 Scathing Early Reviews of Classic Novels

There are some literary classics that are near unimpeachable. We’re thinking Lolita, Ulysses, The Great Gatsby: the best of the best. Except that they’re decidedly not unimpeachable — or at least they weren’t when they first hit bookshelves. These books and many others that are now considered masterpieces got their fair share of scathing reviews when they first came out, and in reputable publications no less. Sure, hindsight is 20/20, but we can’t help having this to say to these brutal reviewers: ha, ha. Click through to read 15 harshly negative early reviews of classic novels, and feel free to register your outrage (or your agreement) in the comments.

Lolita, then, is undeniably news in the world of books. Unfortunately, it is bad news. There are two equally serious reasons why it isn’t worth any adult reader’s attention. The first is that it is dull, dull, dull in a pretentious, florid and archly fatuous fashion. The second is that it is repulsive.” — Orville Prescott, The New York Times, 1958