There is hope for us all! It turns out that the Nobel Prize committee rejected the Lord of the Rings author J.R.R Tolkien for poor storytelling and bad writing. Nominated in 1961 by his fellow Inkling and author C.S Lewis, but he was rejected by the jury. One member said that the work “has not in any way measured up to storytelling of the highest quality”.
And he was not the only reject. Nobel Prize documents have been released, showing other writers such as Robert Frost, Lawrence Durrell and E.M Forster were also overlooked. Frost, an American poet living in England, was thought to be too old, Durell was too preoccupied with “erotic complications” and Forster was deemed past his peak with his last novel – A Passage to India (published in 1924).
It makes me think of all those that have struggled to even get published over the years. For Tolkien, it took him 60 years (though that could be down to his perfectionism). For Rowling she was outright rejected by four publishing houses before Harry Potter was accepted (how much are they kicking themselves now!)
For every writer – published, unpublished, hopeful or brilliant or average – there a two words that send a dreaded shiver down the spine: “slush pile”. The place manuscripts go to die. How many brilliant stories have festered at the bottom of it, how many have suffered rejection after rejection? Even talking about it gives me the creeps. The Nobel Prize, admittedly, is a few steps on from getting published in the first place, but that’s beside the point. If the likes of Forster can be dismissed, it’s no surprise they so easily discard people at the first hurdle.
And if Tolkien – the hailed creator of a whole genre – could be rejected as not good enough, it certainly gives us all mere aspiring writers hope! (If I ever get back around to writing again, which seems impossible right at this moment – more of that in another post).