As Baz Luhrmann reads the mixed reviews for his adaptation of F. Scott Fitgerald's "The Great Gatsby," he can take heart in the fact that the novel got its share of pans, too.
To be sure, most reviews were positive when the book was published in 1925. And even some of the harshest critics praised Fitzgerald's writing, despite thier disdain for his plot and often unlikeable characters.
But it seems safe to say, with 88 years years distance, that some critics just didn't get it.
"F. Scott Fitzgerald's latest a dud," said a now-infamous headline in the New York World.
“A little slack, a little soft, more than a little artificial, 'The Great Gatsby' falls into the class of negligible novels,” said the Springfield Republican.
No wonder the woman on the book's cover looks so blue.
"Mr. Scott Fitzgerald deserves a good shaking. Here is an unmistakable talent unashamed of making itself a motley to the view," said L.P. Hartlet in the Saturday Review. "The Great Gatsby is an absurd story, whether considered as romance, melodrama, or plain record of New York high life.”
And this was before you could anonymously pan books on message boards.
One of the most painful reviews was H. L. Mencken's, because the journalist and critic doesn't seem to have just looked at the back cover and breezed through the book before expressing his disappointment. His review carefully considered the book and its place among Fitzgerald's previous work, and he praised the author's craftsmanship.
"This story is obviously unimportant, and though, as I shall show, it has its place in the Fitzgerald canon, it is certainly not to be put on the same shelf, with, say, 'This Side of Paradise,'" Mencken wrote.
He went on to call the book "a far inferior story at bottom" that was "plainly the product of a sound and stable talent, conjured into being by hard work."
Critics might be wise to consider Nick Carraway's opening to "The Great Gatsby": "Whenever you feel like criticizing any one… just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had."
They might also remember that they might look very silly in a few decades.