For years it has been the habit of the literati to poke fun at the illiteracy of the moving picture magnates. Books, plays, short stories and essays have been written in superior manner each having as its thems some indication of the grossness and ignorance of Hollywood producers. It is therefore with a certain maliciously inclined sense of justice that it can be reported that the movies have no monopoly on stupidity. Book publishers and these are fellows who pride themselves and correct usage of English, are not immune.
Recently two examples came to light which are impossible to ignore and they both occurred in the same publishing house, and not a small one either. It seems that this firm and published a book of non-fiction which was neither very good nor very bad. Reviewers were indifferent. In looking over clippings of reviews the head of the house came across a notice in the Saturday Review of Literature in which it was stated in part, “The book is very redundant.” This publisher, wishing to advertise the volume in its most favorable light, pulled out this line, called his advertising manager and together they worked out and ad which headlined “Very Redundant, Sat. Review of Literature.” The ad was all set up and ready to go to the papers when an editorial man happened to see it. He thought it was a joke at first glance but upon talking to his employer discovered that neither his boss nor the advertising man knew that the word redundant, instead of being a term of praise, was one of unfavorable criticism. Only upon being confronted with a dictionary was the ad withdrawn.
The other example of a “boner” happened when time came to reject the third book of an author who had been published by this house. A relative of the publisher was told to reject the book “but to let the author down as easily as possible.” He wrote a long glowing letter rejecting the manuscript. He stated, meaning to be kindly, “Yours was the most enervating manuscript I have read in months.”
P. S. The author has been showing the letter adound with much glee.
Evidently some of the publishers have been following the war of the sexes that ran in the New Yorker. A few weeks before Melvin Levy’s novel about the North-west was issued his publisher came to him and asked that some of the war stuff be deleted. Levy was surprised. His book barely touched upon the war. He told his publisher this and the latter gentleman answered: “Oh, you don’t know what I mean. I am not referring to the World War. I mean the war over women.”
Of course everyone knows the story about the publisher who turned down the book that was eventually snapped up by another publisher and then sold at least 150,000 copies but this story about Jay Lovestone, head of the Opposition Communist party, is particularly pointed. Two years before Hitler came into power he walked into a publisher’s office with a manuscript which contained in detail a prediction of how Hitler would take control of Germany and how the Jews would be treated. He was literally thrown out as being a lunatic and by a German-Jewish publisher at that.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.