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

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Read Next
Former N-Dubz singer Tulisa Contostavlos gives a statement outside Southwark Crown Court after her trial  

It would be wrong to compare brave Tulisa’s ordeal with phone hacking. It’s much worse than that

Matthew Norman
The Big Society Network was assessed as  

What became of Cameron's Big Society Network?

Oliver Wright
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn