Friday, May 2, 2008

Barf-o You, VQ

A commenter on this blog named PUC (thank you all for picking names; it makes the anonymice nest less confusing), found this delightful insight from Virginia Quarterly Review. It's a list of comments from their screening readers, which probably ought to have been left a private joke, but now appears on the VQR blog posted by Waldo Jaquith, as follows:

"Since I often get a laugh out of reading through some of the notes that our beleaguered readers provide for these particularly unfortunate submissions, it seems worthwhile to share them.  Here are some of my favorites:
  • The emotional problems of clipping fingernails. Actually the best of his submissions.
  • OK, I’m just going to say it. This writing is plain ugly.
  • “Soon he fitted his body into mine like a puzzle piece.” NONONONONONONONONO!
  • Planet of the Apes fan-fiction! Have we no standards?
  • Why does the speaker’s wife only want babies from Chinese shacks? This is the craziest poem. And the scariest. I feel like we should the call the cops on this guy. (There should be a category called “Inappropriate to Humanity.”)
  • Unpublished Faulkner. Should remain unpublished.
  • I can’t enumerate all the ways in which this is horrible.....[more here, but I lost heart]
  • This guy has either the best or the worst cover letter ever. As for the poem, barf-o."
Charming! (There are more comments from LROD readers in response to yesterday's post, if you are interested.)


Pauline said...

I thought this was funny.

Gloria, Writer Reading said...

Its astonishing what poor writers the reviewers of our writing are. And they are utterly witless. That is, their alleged "humor" is puerile and unintelligent. I get wittier criticism of teachers coming from the back seat of my car-pool minivan on the way home from high school. Simply frightening that these are the juveniles assessing our manuscripts for publication. Cringeworthy.

Anonymous said...

It's like mean being mean. Like the whole thing is a joke. (Which I think it is.) If it were serious business, the comments of these readers would be sent to the writers. VQR would stand behind it. Imagine this was a peer reviewed medical journal, and these were comments on the nonfiction papers being submitted. University of Virginia offers degrees for this stuff?

Gloria, Writer Reading said...

Right. Where's any actual "critique"? I've worked in publishing eons ago, perhaps in better times, or maybe I was just more conscientious. I wrote slush pile manuscript summaries for a book publisher so the editor could use excerpts for her rejection letter. My little critiques were tiny works of art and very, very specific. These joking comments are practically illiterate.

Dave Clapper said...

I think it's ridiculous they posted their readers' comments.

To Gloria, though: really? You expect editors to write in-depth critiques on every piece submitted? Magazines are not workshops. If the editors know a piece is a "no," how in depth should they be? Seriously, when I'm going through subs, if a piece isn't close, my comment in our admin center could be as brief as "no" or, if the writing was awful from the start, "dnf" (did not finish). If another editor comes in and disagrees, then we can get into in-depth critiques. But if a piece isn't ready and it's clearly not ready, I'm not surprised at all that there would be some dark humor between staff members.

But that's where it should have stayed: internal.

ExScriptReader said...

I thought this was funny, too. And I totally sympathize with the readers at these journals.

I read for an indie house that produced several 'major indies' (read: low budget Sundance winners). We only accepted scripts from agents, or those passed along from other firms. Even then, some of the stuff we got was beyond awful. The worst.

After you've flipped through enough bad material, the only way to get through that shit is to lampoon the bejesus out of it. Those of us in the reading pool - we were a chummy group - kept ourselves amused by competing to write the funniest coverage for the worst scripts.

It kept morale up. It kept us unified. The producers loved it. We improved our comedic writing ability.

To answer Gloria:

I'm not sure how VQ covers their submissions, but if it was anything like the coverage I did, the works were ALWAYS critiqued, and critiqued well. The one-liners blurbed in the post usually served as the one-line closer.

Writer Reading said...

Dave Clapper: First of all, note I said "tiny." Just a couple of catch phrases more constructive than the stupid posted insults. Secondly, I neglected to mention I was working for a major book publisher, just out of college. I was trying to please and they were all book manuscripts. A constructive two sentence "critique" of some aspect of the manuscript takes no more effort than writing a stupid snarky joke, each "reader" trying to out-snark the next, like a pissing contest.

Writer Reading said...

Oh, also, just being out of college, I felt really sorry for the rejects. I didn't last long. Constantly rejecting the hard work of writers was depressing. I quit and went to graduate school to be a therapist. I clearly wasn't cut out to be a Rejector. Instead, I help people cope with life's rejections.

A Seksy Potato said...

Worst of all about that poor-excuse-for-a-joke-of-a-post is the arrogant, self-congratulatory tone Mr. Jaquith takes in answering comments from writers who express discomfort at having this snark published. In particular, one woman had been rejected by VQR two weeks prior to coming across the post. The response? Along the lines of, "We wouldn't snark about submissions from people who have the obvious good taste of reading our journal."

I've been a reader for a lit journal and, fine, you do snark. But to air it out in public? What purpose does it serve? Especially considering nobody reads their blog who isn't a writer, likely.

stan f. said...

Wow. So this is how it works. All I have to say is this makes me like the rejected writer's manifesto more and more.

richard savage said...

Did anyone archive the page in question at VQR?

They did what I suspected they would do - what any coward/wimp would do: they actually removed the "offending" content!!

Yes, that's right folks, the Virginia Quarterly Review totally does NOT have the courage of its convictions! They don't stand for anything! Not a thing! Not even their smarmy, "cool" commentaries on the slush!

Who knows what they're saying about us behind our backs - we can assume they're still sniggering - but this takes the cake, no?

I call for a public boycott of the magazine. Let them continue to publish their friends. Let's not add any submissions to their funny slush pile. Let's make sure they sink a bit in terms of respectability.

Writer, Rejected said...

No, they left the blog post up. But they did apologize for offending writers. I think the apology was a good move.

richard savage said...

Didn't Genoways say in the apology that he removed offending content?

Anyway, I'm one sick, sick writer. Yes I'm sick of this. Sick of first readers and their cute behind-our-backs comments, sick of editors who claim to read everything in their slush but have a mysterious one hour form letter turn around, sick of stupid agents and their gimmicky books, sick of nepotism and non-paying markets, sick of nobody reading and sick of everything on the magazine racks, sick of how shallow even the most "literary" writing has become, just sick of it all.

Thanks for providing a home for my bile. I'll clean it up. I promise.

Writer, Rejected said...

Correction: Thought it was a good move....and then I read it. What is wrong with those peeps?