Saturday, 16 April 2016

The First Cut is the Deepest

How can I reject you, let me count the ways... 

Let's face it, getting rejected is never pretty no matter how it's dressed up or who delivers the crushing blow.                                                                                                                                                                                                    Dorothy Parker's "this is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force" is wittily put and may fall into the 'all publicity is good publicity' category but I can't imagine its recipient was any less bruised than the one clutching the standard 'thanks but no thanks' letter. At least it's a response. Nowadays, even getting far enough on the radar to merit an actual rejection letter rather than a black void of endless silence is probably a cause for celebration. I digress, bitterly...                                                                                                                                        
JK Rowling (who was already Queen of the rebuff after Harry Potter) has been tweeting recently about the withering go-aways she received when she tried to publish under her Robert Galbraith nom de plume. Whether merited or not is not for me to say - her continuing use of male-implying or just plain male names has already ground down enough of my teeth to make actually reading her work too much of a dental risk. There are countless stories of famous novels that have been rejected. Some of these are completely understandable the baffled publishers who turned down Ulysses must be surpassed in their thousands by the baffled readers.

Some, however, are a surprise - how could anyone not love Chocolat? Joanne Harris (making me love her even more) said she made a sculpture out of all the letters: I can only hope it was of Jonny Depp and she then did a wicker-man style burning of it to the gods of acting. There are times when pretty is just not enough. John le Carre's The Spy Who Came in From the Cold was another early casualty - I have no strong feelings about this, it's simply a tenuous reason to post a picture of Tom Hiddlestone. Sometimes pretty is more than enough. 

Rejection, of course, is not just restricted to writers (we just bleat about it a lot). Oprah Winfrey was fired from an evening news reporter job because, as improbable as it sounds, she couldn't separate her emotions from her stories. Walt Disney was sacked from the Kansas City Star because of a lack of imagination. Presumably his whole career was then an attempt to disprove this charge, culminating in the casting of Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins - an over-use of imagination unsurpassed in the American cinema until Ronald Reagan auditioned for the role of President and everyone forgot to say cut.

To survive rejection you need to have armour-plated skin and a touch of the crazies. Walt, Oprah and other famous rejectees such as Elvis and Steven Spielberg were able to pick themselves up and get the career they dreamed of. But, however determined you are, it's not always easy to move on especially if your dreams die painfully in public. Let's hope Oprah gets Ben Affleck on her show soon to give him some tips: he's clearly not coping...

Poor Ben, brutally rejected across the world's media. At least he knew we'd all stopped loving him. 

Apparently the latest crazy in dating, or the latest excuse for journalists to make up another non-story so we'll stop worrying our heads with ISIS or Brexit, is 'ghosting'. For those of you who, to paraphrase Carrie Fisher in When Harry Met Sally don't have to go out there again (I bet she wished she'd taken her own advice when Star Wars called), ghosting means you leave someone by, simply, leaving them. No calls, no texts, no communication at all, just a disappearing act. In other words the reality of life for those of us who had our hearts repeatedly trampled in the pre-social media/mobile phone world when this behaviour was actually the norm. These kids and their middle-class problems...
As depressing as it is to still be saying it, rejection in the professional world remains too often gender-related. A recent US study  revealed that code written by female programmers is more highly rated than code written by men, until gender is disclosed at which point approval tumbles. In 1998 Francine Prose wrote a brilliant article The Scent of a Woman's Ink on the subject of women's writing and attitudes towards it which, to my fury and sadness, feels like it could have been written yesterday. Read it if you're smarting about rejection of any kind - you'll be so fired up walls will be kicked down.  

So let's finish up on a more ass-kicking note: not with women who've been rejected but with female characters who've rejected society's expectations of their behaviour and done exactly what they pleased...

One of my favourite movies is One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Nicholson is amazing (or just playing himself) but the whole film turns on the brilliantly-underplayed, brilliantly-named Nurse Ratched. Far more of a sadist and a psychopath than any of her patients, she doles out lobotomies and humiliation with a smile that would freeze Hell. The media is currently full of Clinton/Ratched parodies - put Hilary and Trump in the scene below and feel the magic...

One of my favourite characters, although more of a narcissist than a sociopath is Scarlet O'Hara. Whether it's curtain-ripping, dancing in her mourning weeds or imagining the death of her best-friend (a term she would use with less sincerity than the cast of Mean Girls), Scarlett uses whatever she can to get what she wants. Her cat-yawning giggle remains the best sex scene in a movie ever and channelling that red-dressed poker-faced shrug has carried me through more tricky moments than I shall ever confess. Does she get Rhett back? Maybe, maybe not, who cares - I like to imagine her moving onto bigger and better targets like a heat-seeking vampire, taking down empires as she goes. Practise the shrug, perfect the eyebrow, we all need our Scarlett moments.  
And finally on my list of women who never get their come-uppance, the gothic glory that is Mrs Danvers from Rebecca. Manipulative, scheming and as mad as a box of frogs, Mrs D is the ultimate fairy-tale baddie with a photo of her beloved in one hand and a can of petrol in the other. Hitchcock may have gone down the witch-burning route, I don't think so - she's out there somewhere, she's certainly in every second wife's head...

So there we have it - next time rejection rears its head, imagine what one of these lovely ladies would do. It may not get you the job/contract/man/seat on the tube but it's a lot more fun that self-doubt and far better for your twisting soul...


  1. Love your take on Mrs Danvers...I liked the movie but wasn't overly struck with the book :)

    1. Thank you! Yes, it's a little overblown.

  2. THIS! "Walt Disney was sacked from the Kansas City Star because of a lack of imagination. Presumably his whole career was then an attempt to disprove this charge, culminating in the casting of Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins - an over-use of imagination unsurpassed in the American cinema until Robert Reagan auditioned for the role of President and everyone forgot to say cut."

    Dear Goddess, I laughed so hard (even though your autocomplete stuck in Robert for Ronald). The whole post is perfect, but this is MORE perfect.

    1. Thank you - hadn't picked that up but sentiment remains!

  3. Barbtaub beat me to it. The line about Ronald Reagan auditioning for president and somebody forgot to say 'cut' is pure genius.


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