Thanks and Sorry and Good Luck: Rejection Letters from the Eyeshot Outbox

Thanks + Sorry + Good Luck
Thanks and Sorry and Good Luck: Rejection Letters from the Eyeshot Outbox became available in beautiful book form on March 4, 2014, thanks to Barrelhouse Books.

Here’s the first review. This review in Paste Magazine nicely conveys the history and context of these rejections. Here’s the Goodreads page for it. Get it here from the publisher. Or Amazon or Powell’s.

The official rundown and blurbs for the book:

Thanks and Sorry and Good Luck: Rejection Letters from the Eyeshot Outbox compiles a dozen years of disappointment transmitted via e-mail from a single editor to hundreds of writers around the world. Performative and funny one minute, respectful and constructive the next, these rejections both serve as entertaining writing tips (suitable for use in today’s more adventuresome creative writing classrooms) and suggest a skewed story about a boy and his seminal semi-literary website, Eyeshot.net, founded in 1999.

What started as a lark — sending playful rejection notes to writers who’d submitted work for the site — over ten years took on a life of its own, becoming an outlet for Klein to meditate on his aesthetic preferences, the purpose of literature, and the space between the ideal and the real.

Praise for Thanks and Sorry and Good Luck

“These tiny, tight bursts of writing hummed with energy that hopscotched among comical, cruel, warm, demented, high level and nitpicky. Send him a piece of your soul on Microsoft Word, Klein seemed to believe, and you deserved a piece of his soul right back. An amazing little act of generosity, considering the number of terrible pieces of writing out there. (Klein estimates that he has tapped out more than a thousand original rejections.)”

— Jamie Allen in Paste Magazine

“Somewhere on the brutal truth continuum between Bill Hicks and Mussolini, Lee Klein’s rejection letters are mini-masterpieces of literary criticism disguised as no-thank-yous from Writer’s Hell. And yet, in each, a little lesson; a steadfast faith that says ‘I took the time to read what you created and this is exactly what I thought.’ They should be passing these things out under the pillows at MFA camp; we’d all be better off.”

–- Blake Butler, author of “There Is No Year” and “Sky Saw”

“Sometimes writers who succeed against the odds brag about the number of rejections they’ve accumulated. A rejection from Eyeshot’s Lee Klein is a whole different badge of honor. Like a letter from a serial killer on death row, your Tea Party inlaws, or the Pope, they’re suitable for framing and brilliantly repugnant. I kind of want to send him a really shitty story just so I can get one of these in return.”

-– Ryan Boudinot, author of “Blueprints of the Afterlife”

“To ‘decide’ is to ‘cut,’ and Lee Klein in the highly honed collection of rejections, Thanks and Sorry and Good Luck, wields a drawer full of gleaming cutlery, edgy edged instruments of decision. Surely, he holds his pen like a surgeon holds the scalpel. These serrated graphs of glee and screed are incisive incisions—katana, rattled sabers, sharp-tongued stilettos of the split-lipped kiss-off.”

-– Michael Martone, author of “Michael Martone” and “Four for a Quarter”

“Lee Klein made me cry. He was the only editor ever to make me. This was back in 2002. I wish I still had the email. I remember it going something like, ‘whenever you have the instinct to write a line like that, delete it immediately, without prejudice.’ I hated him for a while. I pictured him looking like the guy in that 90’s movie Heavy (the one with Liv Tyler), except housebound and with no redeemable qualities. Then, somewhere around 2004, I met him ‘IRL’ and he was soft-spoken and sweet. It was harder to hate him after that. Reading all of these rejection letters here in this book made me finally fall a little in love with him, I think. I think if I had had access to (and disassociation from) these letters then, I might have fallen in love with him then. This is the funniest book I have read in a long time. It is also the smartest. I feel confused now, like I’m unsure whether to love or hate Lee Klein. But both of us are married now so it doesn’t really matter.”

–- Elizabeth Ellen, author of “Fast Machine”

“I was reluctant to start reading the book because it begins around 2001 and at that time you weren’t mentally or physically or fiscally at your strongest. There’s a manic quality to some of the rejections, and the way you build up momentum in your responses is kind of funny, almost the way Belushi used to work himself up and then throw himself to the floor. I like the sub-story that’s your life that’s happening. You’re funny and weird and sometimes I flinch for the recipient of your rejections, other times you seem like a sweet snark. I have a distinct memory of meeting you for lunch after you were rejected from a job interview or something and I was brutally rejected by a curator of the Drawing Center. You looked very pale and the surface of your skin was oddly moist, like you were really sick. I was worried. It was after 9/11 and all the rest. You led a very unhealthy life in those days, way too much booze, etc. Probably didn’t eat well or exercise either. Anyway, I love how post-Iowa your rejections have gotten richer and so amazingly worded — the last one I read yesterday just soared with such feelings about writing, striving for near perfection. You say something like “preserved in amber.” It’s a beautiful passage. You are so much yourself in these letters. So real and present and unfiltered. Hard, mean, soft, sensitive. It’s all there. Your maturity as a person and writer really comes across in the post-Iowa section, I think. Living in Philadelphia, I think it’s good that you lost that Brooklyn veneer, you’ve fought and sometimes lost a few wars and become richer and deeper emotionally and it shows in the writing. I can also appreciate how exhausting it must be to read submissions when they’re mostly not up to par. But also I think they became your audience, your friends, students — and you fed off them the way I did when I was teaching. Every once in a while, something would just strike me and that was exciting. It’s really autobiographical. But most of all, I love the voice. It’s genuine and the emotional quality sometimes sounds exhausted, other times exasperated, or manic, strung out, hungover. I like all those mood changes. But overall, there’s a sweetness and sensitivity. You use the word “maybe” a lot. Think I did too when I taught. Hard to say anything that’s declarative when critiquing someone’s work.”

Barbara Klein, the author’s mother

Especially interested readers can read an interview with me with Barrelhouse editor Mike Ingram and review some excerpted snippets/not particularly clear images from the book here.

Order here.