I just got a rejection letter from a journal to which I sent a paper for publication. This is kind of a bummer, made worse for the amount of time I’ve been waiting to find out. I sent the paper there two years ago, and somewhere in the middle one of the editors left, which meant that my paper got lost in the shuffle and, in essence, had to start the referee process all over again.
The letter came back with two referee reports. One of them read “This is a very interesting article… The results are interesting and nontrivial. The paper is nicely written and the proofs appear correct. I recommend this paper for publication,” followed by some summary information and some slight revision suggestions. The second report states “The paper seems to be well-written and correct. While the present paper expands on and contains all previously known examples, this referee feels the novelty of the present paper does not merit publication in a journal as selective as this. However, I strongly encourage the author to resubmit it to a different journal; I am convinced the paper will be a good addition to the literature.”
So close, and yet so far.
In any event, as I was standing by my mailbox and reading these reports in the department office, one of my colleagues came in the office. Seeing the disappointment that evidently hung over my face, he asked what was up.
I told him, and read to him the excerpts of the two referee reports.
“Well,” he offered encouragingly, “at least they didn’t say your paper was ghastly written and irrevocably wrong, an embarrassment to mathematics itself and a scar on its otherwise noble legacy.”
I smiled wanly. “I somehow doubt that any serious mathematician would submit a paper that would drive a referee to that.”
He shrugged. “That’s more or less verbatim the first rejection letter I got.”