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 Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£16575 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity is ava...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A police officer carries a casualty to safety  

Tunisia attack proves that we cannot stop terrorists carrying out operations against Britons in Muslim countries

Robert Verkaik
Alan Titchmarsh MP?  

Alan Titchmarsh MP? His independent manifesto gets my vote

Jane Merrick
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with excess, cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?