Alice Jones: Dear Loser. Now that's what I call a rejection letter

IMHO... Elly Nowell would have done well to check out the brilliant Letters of Note blog

Share
Related Topics

Dear Ms Nowell, Many thanks for your letter. I have now considered your widely publicised decision to withdraw your application for a place to read Law at Magdalen College, Oxford and I regret to inform you that your rejection letter does not quite reach the standards required to enter the annals of history. Thank you for the brief diversion – we all enjoy a letter that "goes viral" – but in future you may wish to bear in mind the following advice.

Yours sincerely,

Alice Jones

Is it possible to reject a rejection letter? I hope so. This week, A-level student Elly Nowell (pictured) turned the tables on Oxford University and, following an interview she described as intimidating torture, sent them packing with a regretful rejection before they could offer her a place. Whether or not you agree with her precocious sally – I happen to think that shooting yourself in the foot is rarely the way to get ahead – the flurry it provoked highlighted the allure of the written rebuff.

We've all had them, in one form or another, and we've all longed to parlay the pain they bring into a snooty response of our own. Nowell's letter, though, lacks the qualities of a true classic – neither fiery nor chilly enough. She would have done well to stick to a single killer line, or really let rip and vent her spleen properly. She would have done well, in fact, to do her homework and check out the brilliant Letters of Note blog – soon to be a book – which republishes historically significant correspondence daily to a delighted audience.

It has some excellent examples of the sling-yer-hook genre. There are the hindsight classics where future greats are let down, from Atlantic Monthly who skipped over Kurt Vonnegut's juvenilia for not being "quite compelling enough", to Moma who rejected a work sent by Andy Warhol with the crushing postscript: "The drawing may be picked up from the museum at your convenience."

The best rejection letters, though, are the ones which go to extremes of honesty.

Nothing chills the veins more than the haiku-like simplicity of this reply to the hapless would-be student Harvey Wax: "In reply to your recent letter, I regret that we must inform you that Princeton University has no Law School."

By contrast, take Hunter S Thompson's response to a piece submitted to Rolling Stone. It begins, "You worthless, acid-sucking piece of illiterate s***! Don't ever send this kind of brain-damaged swill in here again!". My favourite, though, is the standard negative response from record label Sub Pop which begins simply: "Dear Loser". Sometimes, you just have to be cruel to be kind.

* Not Helen, the face that launched a thousand ships, but Domnica, the blonde who sank one. As a week of ever more incredible revelations about the Costa Concordia disaster draws to a close, the media have been thrilled to add a "mystery woman" to the mix. Domnica Cemortan, a dancer from Moldova, was allegedly seen on the bridge with the captain Francesco Schettino shortly before the horrifying crash. Reports suggest that the "slim blonde" may have distracted the captain with her womanly wiles, or that he might have been trying to impress her with a "showboating" sail past Giglio. Male drivers of the world can breathe a sigh of relief – as usual, it turns out to be a woman's fault.

* Three cheers for Sue Townsend. Not just because 30 years ago she gave birth to Adrian Mole, acne-ridden bard of Ashby-de-la-Zouch, but also because she provided an uplifting moment this week. Asked on Radio 4's Today to choose her second favourite of her own books (after the Mole volumes), she answered: "My favourite book is always the one that sells least ... Oh God. What's it called? I can't remember." Her publishers were no doubt wringing their hands but for the rest of us it made a lovely change from the self-publicists who clog up morning radio and television most of the time.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: Every privatised corner of the NHS would be taken back into public ownership

Philip Pullman
 

Errors & Omissions: Magna Carta, sexing bishops and ministerial aides

John Rentoul
As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links