I recently rediscovered this bit I wrote for a contest almost a decade ago. The contest's theme was "Reject a Hit," fictional editorial rejection letters for great literature. I remember thinking myself terribly clever to bury a few Dante-related jokes—some obvious, some not so obvious—inside this. I would tweak a few things if I rewrote this now, but I was amused enough while rereading it to want to share. Enjoy!
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Dear Signor Alighieri,
We are delighted to have received your manuscript entitled The Divine Comedy. Though your manuscript possesses some literary merit, we regret we are unable accept it for publication at this time. However, I felt your work was strong enough, often enough, to warrant more than the standard form letter.
There is a thriving market for supernatural narrative, and though you fail to incorporate current trends in werewolves and vampires, a story about the afterlife could certainly sell well. However, we find your constant topical allusions trivialize the subject. How are our readers in Venice, Paris, or London to know the reputation of Florence’s local glutton? Furthermore, your constant political references as well as inexplicable asides about Siena—which represents a large readership—also risk offending readers. In short, such allusions weaken your work’s staying power, which is to say nothing of your gratuitous toilet humor.
There is also—and I broach this subject cautiously—the issue of libel. This is, in fact, the deciding issue in our rejection. We began counting midway through the first section—which you tastelessly call Hell—and soon lost count of actual figures you have derided in your work. Such persons may in fact be dead (though you included a living pope at one point, then explained away his presence in hell by claiming that his body is possessed by a devil—a solution which in no way improves your legal stance), but they have friends and relatives still living, and belonged to organizations which could—and almost certainly will—object to your work. Issues of good taste aside, we cannot leave ourselves open to potential lawsuits which number in the hundreds.
I hope you understand our reservations, and accept our wishes for the best of luck in your other projects. We understand you have authored a few sonnets and a political tract—perhaps it is in those fields that you should pursue fame.
Thank you again for considering us.
Giovanni Rusticucci, Editor