Ro’mama’s Rotten Rejections: James Lee Burke

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I’m not a big reader of literary fiction. Most of the great high-brow books of the modern era leave me with a distinctive “WTF??” at the end, along with regret over the time I used up reading something that had no point. Sorry. It’s a failing in me, I know. But give me a Laurens or Quinn (or even a Clancy or King) over a Didion any day.

Still, I have to give credit where it is due, and I think we can all agree that getting nominated for a Pulitzer Prize indicates that a book is better than your run of the mill slush pile MS. So, obviously, such a book would reveal itself in all its literary glory to well-informed, high-minded cognoscenti who work as editors and agents, right? I can just see the MS laying in an editor’s inbox, effortlessly emitting the soft glow of literary brilliance.

Well, hold on there, partner. Not exactly. Seems that not one, not even five or six, but ONE HUNDRED AND ELEVEN of the literary experts rejected James Lee Burke’s novel about a Korean War veteran, The Lost Get Back Boogie. Yep, 111. It took him over a decade to get it published, and even then, it was by a university press (LSU), not one of the NYC elite.

Once it got published, of course, the critics went all fangirl on him, and The Lost Get Back Boogie got said Pulitzer nomination. Bet there were some red faces in NYC around that time, hmmm?

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