Earlier this week DM posted a notorious rejection letter that EMI may (or may not) have sent to Venom in 1980; the letter (real or not) is a simple example of typewriter art, with the words “FUCK YOU” being spelled out with the respective letters (“F” “U” etc.) typed several dozen times to spell out the well-known phrase, much like the ASCII art of the mid 90s internet era.
Some have claimed, pretty reasonably, that EMI never sent out any such letter. We don’t really know one way or the other. Today’s artifact is a little bit better verified, I believe, and also not nasty or obscene in the least; in fact it is delightful.
It takes the merest glance at any issue from the heyday of MAD (1960s-1980s?) to realize that the editors and writers there were probably real mensches—they might have been irascible but they would be dead set against any kind of corporate hardassery or uptightness. The freewheeling, exuberant, and nonconformist (fun) tone of editor-in-chief Al Feldstein’s shop is perfectly captured by a rejection letter that is undated but appears to have been sent in the 1960s, as we’ll see in a moment.
In it, Feldstein does his duty of rejecting the submission but it’s quite long and detailed and takes the trouble to treat the “contributor” as an individual (quite remarkable in what must be a form letter) and actually tells him/her to ask “What, me worry?” and contemplate the awful alternative fate of being—shudder—“ACCEPTED!”
Here it is (transcript below):
I mentioned that we know that the letter is not an Internet-era fabrication and that evidence suggests that it existed, for real, in the 1960s. I took the trouble of searching on a key phrase in the letter and was rewarded with a hit from Google Books, a periodical called The Writer dating from 1967 that references the missive as an praiseworthy example of a humane rejection letter.
Leave to the “usual gang of idiots” to identify with and empathize with the angst and pathos of submitting material to a national magazine.
Sorry, but we’ve got bad news!
You’ve been rejected!
Don’t take this personally though. All of us feel rejected at one time or another. At least, that’s what our group therapist tells us here at MAD. He says we shouldn’t worry about it.
So that should be your attitude: “What-Me worry?”
Besides - although you’ve been rejected, things could have been a lot worse. Your material might have been ACCEPTED!
Then where would you be?
(Signed, ‘Al Feldstein’)
P.S. Our group therapist also mentioned that many people are so rejected by a rejection that they don’t try again. And we wouldn’t want THAT! We really WOULD like you to keep sending us your article ideas and scripts. . .so we can keep sending you these idiotic rejection slips!
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
EMI sends Venom the greatest rejection letter of all time, 1980
Let Edmund Wilson’s form rejection card inspire you in 2014