Most midlisters are dying to get any review whatsoever, good or bad, so long as their title and cover get out there a little bit. But what if you wrote a good book that got so scathing a review (in the NYT) that it went out of print and disappeared for 30 years? Maud points to a Papercuts piece about Joy Williams’ triumphant return with the previously evicerated The Changeling.
it has long been argued that Joy Williams’s second novel, “The Changeling,” published by Farrar Straus & Giroux in 1978, was burned and then buried alive by a review it received by Anatole Broyard in the daily New York Times.
Williams was a rising presence at the time. Her previous novel, “State of Grace,” had been a finalist for a National Book Award in 1972. Broyard had admired that first book, but he found nothing to like about “The Changeling,” a book about a young, heavy-drinking woman named Pearl.
In his first sentence, he called it “startlingly bad”; he wrote that its story was “an arbitrary muddle”; and he wrote that the children in it were “as artificially tiresome as any I have ever met in literature.”