Writing Wednesday: Writer versus Writer

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If you are ever feeling down because nobody knows your name, then take heart: at least the cutthroat world of writing rivalries cannot take you down for everyone to see. Historically, authors have come up with some of the harshest, most demoralising insults to condemn their contemporaries. And this comes as no surprise – they are, after all, famed for their ways with words. Sports rivalries and even musical beefs have nothing on some of the things authors have said about their fellow writers.

Shaw v Shakespeare
Shaw versus Shakespeare image source: The List Love

And if lists are not your thing, Jan Diehm has created an interactive “Way Harsh” infographic for the Huffington Post to show which authors truly hated each other’s work.

Noël Coward versus Oscar Wilde

“Am reading more of Oscar Wilde. What a tiresome, affected sod.”

Oscar Wilde versus Alexander Pope

“There are two ways of disliking poetry; one way is to dislike it, the other is to read Pope.”

Gustave Flaubert versus George Sand

“A great cow full of ink.”

Gore Vidal versus Truman Capote

“Capote I truly loathed. The way you might loathe an animal. A filthy animal that has found its way into the house.”

Truman Capote versus Jack Kerouac

“None of these people [in the Beat Generation] have anything interesting to say, and none of them can write, not even Mr. Kerouac. It’s not writing, it’s typing.”

Henry James versus Edgar Allan Poe

“An enthusiasm for Poe is the mark of a decidedly primitive stage of reflection.”

H.G. Wells versus George Bernard Shaw

“All through the war we shall have this Shavian accompaniment going on like an idiot child screaming in a hospital, discrediting, confusing. He is at present… an almost unendurable nuisance.”

George Bernard Shaw versus William Shakespeare (and Homer and Sir Walter Scott)

“With the single exception of Homer, there is no eminent writer, not even Sir Walter Scott, whom I can despise so entirely as I despise Shakespeare. The intensity of my impatience with him occasionally reaches such a pitch, that it would positively be a relief to me to dig him up and throw stones at him.”

Vladimir Nabokov versus Fyodor Dostoevsky

“Dostoevsky’s lack of taste, his monotonous dealings with persons suffering with pre-Freudian complexes, the way he has of wallowing in the tragic misadventures of human dignity — all this is difficult to admire.”

Vladimir Nabokov on Joseph Conrad

“I cannot abide Conrad’s souvenir shop style and bottled ships and shell necklaces of romanticist clichés.”

Joseph Conrad versus D.H. Lawrence

“Filth. Nothing but obscenities.”

D.H. Lawrence on Herman Melville

“Nobody can be more clownish, more clumsy and sententiously in bad taste, than Herman Melville, even in a great book like ‘Moby Dick’….One wearies of the grand serieux. There’s something false about it. And that’s Melville. Oh dear, when the solemn ass brays! brays! brays!”

William Faulkner versus Ernest Hemingway

“He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.”

Ernest Hemingway versus William Faulkner

“Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?”

William Faulkner versus Mark Twain

“[A] hack writer who would not have been considered fourth rate in Europe, who tricked out a few of the old proven ‘sure fire’ literary skeletons with sufficient local color to intrigue the superficial and the lazy.”

Mark Twain versus Jane Austen

“Every time I read Pride and Prejudice, I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.”

Friedrich Nietzsche versus Dante Alighieri

“A hyena that wrote poetry on tombs.”

Bret Easton Ellis versus David Foster Wallace

“I continue to find David Foster Wallace the most tedious, overrated, tortured, pretentious writer of my generation.”

David Foster Wallace on Bret Easton Ellis

“[American Psycho] panders shamelessly to the audience’s sadism for a while, but by the end it’s clear that the sadism’s real object is the reader herself.”

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