Panned in Their Day: Scathing Reviews for Books That Became Classics

Image © Shutterstock
Image © Shutterstock

Want to hear how some of the greatest books ever written were royally dissed by critics upon release? Look no further. For example, in 1958 the New York Times cited two reasons why Lolita wasn't worth reading: "The first is that it is dull, dull, dull in a pretentious, florid, and archly fatuous fashion. The second is that it is repulsive.”

Hugo Weaving voiced the evil Megatron for the "Transformers" movies, but he wants you to know that it was a meaningless experience. According to a recent interview, the actor never read any of the scripts and never met director Michael Bay: he just showed up, read his lines (without knowing what they meant), and collected his pay. If giving a soulless performance in a schlocky action movie is what it takes for a great actor like Weaving to make a little financial wiggle-room and hold out for more meaningful projects, I'm all for it. I doubt any of the nine-year-olds who saw the movie were able to tell the difference.

The new "Masters of the Universe" movie, on the other hand, will have far more creative integrity. Director Jon Chu has expressed surprise and amazement at the script's "fresh, unexpected approach," and at the instant emotional connection he felt. It's important to remember that despite being super corny, the 1987 film featured talents like Frank Langella and Courtney Cox (not to mention Meg Foster's sublime turn as Evil-Lyn). In other words, there is a weird precedent for people working harder than absolutely necessary to elevate this material.

Remember that post we ran recently about fan-made trailers? I recently screened the "Go Ask Alice" one at a NYC event devoted to the 1973 TV movie, with guests Amy Sedaris ("Strangers With Candy"), singer/songwriter Jill Sobule, and "Alice" herself, Jamie Jackson. You can hear snippets of their banter at the beginning and end of my new interview podcast, Evening Dilemma. Bonus: this episode also includes an interview with John Epperson, who played the jaded piano player in Darren Aronofsky's "Black Swan." Enjoy!