4 Apr 2014

Top-40 Author-On-Author Insults

Every writer is, first and foremost, a reader.  And equally with us, ordinary bookworms, they have their literary preferences and favourite authors, too. For example, world famous Dostoevsky admired Tolstoi, and Pushkin worshipped Dante. However, what happens when one famous author doesn’t like the work of the other one? By all means, this antipathy should be declared, out loud, in a form highly sardonic and offensive.

It’s funny to read how 2 famous writers of, let’s say, 20th century that are equally beloved now in the 21st, are hurling juicy insults at each other, using quite a strong language and humiliating epithets.  It’s hard to comprehend, really, how anybody would want to dig out Shakespeare’s corpse and pelt it with stones. And how that person could be Bernard Shaw. 

I offer a list of 40 roughest author-on-author insults – juicy, hilarious to read and incredibly offensive.

40. Salman Rushdie on E. L. James
“I've never read anything so badly written that got published. It made 'Twilight' look like 'War and Peace.”

39. Ayn Rand on C.S. Lewis

“The lousy bastard who is a pickpocket of concepts, not a thief, which is too big a word for him…This monstrosity is not opposed to science — oh no! — not to pure science, only to applied science, only to anything that improves man’s life on earth!”

38. Noel Coward on Oscar Wilde
“[I] am reading more of Oscar Wilde. What a tiresome, affected sod.”

37. Gertrude Stein on Ezra Pound
“A village explainer. Excellent if you were a village, but if you were not, not.”

36. Conrad Aiken on Ezra Pound
"For in point of style, or manner, or whatever, it is difficult to imagine anything much worse than the prose of Mr. Pound. It is ugliness and awkwardness incarnate. Did he always write so bardly?"

35. Charlotte Bronte on Jane Austen
"Why do you like Miss Austen so very much? I am puzzled on that point. What induced you to say that you would rather have written 'Pride and Prejudice'...than any othe Waverly novels? I should hardly like to live with her ladies and gentlemen, in their elegant but confined houses."

34. Ralph Waldo Emerson on Jane Austen
“Miss Austen’s novels . . . seem to me vulgar in tone, sterile in artistic invention, imprisoned in the wretched conventions of English society, without genius, wit, or knowledge of the world. Never was life so pinched and narrow. The one problem in the mind of the writer . . . is marriageableness.”

33. Samuel Butler on Goethe
"I have been reading a translation of Goethe's 'Wilhelm Meister'. Is it good? To me it seems perhaps the very worst book I ever read. No Englishman could have written such a book. I cannot remember a single good page or idea... Is it all a practical joke? If it really is Goethe's 'Wilhelm Meister' that I have been reading, I am glad I have never taken the trouble to learn German."

32. Wyndham Lewis on Gertrude Stein
Gertrude Stein's prose-song is a cold black suet-pudding. We can represent it as a cold suet-roll of fabulously reptilian length. Cut it at any point, it is the same thing; the same heavy, sticky, opaque mass all through and all along.”

31. Samuel Johnson on Jonathan Swift
"Swift has a higher reputation than he deserves... I doubt whether 'The Tale of a Tub' to be his; for he never owned it, and it is much above his usual manner."

30. Samuel Pepys on William Shakespeare (A Midsummer Night's Dream)
"...we saw 'Midsummer Night's Dream', which I had never seen before, nor shall ever again, for it is the most insipid ridiculous play that ever I saw in my life."

29. Robert Louis Stevenson on Walt Whitman
“…like a large shaggy dog just unchained scouring the beaches of the world and baying at the moon.”

28. Friedrich Nietzsche on Dante Alighieri
“A hyena that wrote poetry on tombs.”

27. Vladimir Nabokov on Fyodor Dostoevsky
“Dostoevky’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.”

26. Gustave Flaubert on George Sand
“A great cow full of ink.”

25. H. G. Wells on George Bernard Shaw
“An idiot child screaming in a hospital.”

24. Lord Byron on John Keats
“Here are Johnny Keats’ piss-a-bed poetry, and three novels by God knows whom… No more Keats, I entreat: flay him alive; if some of you don’t I must skin him myself: there is no bearing the drivelling idiotism of the Mankin.”

23. Vladimir Nabokov on Joseph Conrad
“I cannot abide Conrad’s souvenir shop style and bottled ships and shell necklaces of romanticist cliches.”

22. Dylan Thomas on Rudyard Kipling
“Mr Kipling … stands for everything in this cankered world which I would wish were otherwise.”

21. Samuel Johnson on John Milton (Paradise Lost)
“'Paradise Lost' is one of the books which the reader admires and lays down, and forgets to take up again. None ever wished it longer than it is.”

20. Martin Amis on Miguel Cervantes
“Reading Don Quixote can be compared to an indefinite visit from your most impossible senior relative, with all his pranks, dirty habits, unstoppable reminiscences, and terrible cronies. When the experience is over, and the old boy checks out at last (on page 846 — the prose wedged tight, with no breaks for dialogue), you will shed tears all right; not tears of relief or regret but tears of pride. You made it, despite all that ‘Don Quixote’ could do.”

19. William Faulkner on Ernest Hemingway
“He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.”

18. Ernest Hemingway on William Faulkner
“Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?”

17. Gore Vidal on Truman Capote
“He’s a full-fledged housewife from Kansas with all the prejudices.”

16. Truman Capote on Jack Kerouac
“That’s not writing, that’s typing.”

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

14. Vladimir Nabokov on Ernest Hemingway
“As to Hemingway, I read him for the first time in the early ‘forties, something about bells, balls and bulls, and loathed it.”

13. Henry James on Edgar Allan Poe
“An enthusiasm for Poe is the mark of a decidedly primitive stage of reflection.”

12. Elizabeth Bishop on J.D. Salinger
“I HATED [Catcher in the Rye]. It took me days to go through it, gingerly, a page at a time, and blushing with embarrassment for him every ridiculous sentence of the way. How can they let him do it?”

11. 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!”

10. W. H. Auden on Robert Browning
“I don’t think Robert Browning was very good in bed. His wife probably didn’t care for him very much. He snored and had fantasies about twelve-year-old girls.”

9. Evelyn Waugh on Marcel Proust
“I am reading Proust for the first time. Very poor stuff. I think he was mentally defective.”

8. Mark Twain on Jane Austen
“I haven’t any right to criticize books, and I don’t do it except when I hate them. I often want to criticize Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can’t conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Every time I read ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ I want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shin-bone.”

7. William Faulkner on 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.”

6. D.H. Lawrence on James Joyce
“My God, what a clumsy olla putrida James Joyce is! Nothing but old fags and cabbage stumps of quotations from the Bible and the rest stewed in the juice of deliberate, journalistic dirty-mindedness.”

5. Robert Louis Stevenson on Walt Whitman
“…like a large shaggy dog just unchained scouring the beaches of the world and baying at the moon.”

4. Henry James on Edgar Allan Poe

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

3. Anatole France on Emile Zola
His work is evil, and he is one of those unhappy beings of whom one can say that it would be better had he never been born.”

2. Mary McCarthy on J.D.Salinger
"I don't like Salinger, not at all. That last thing isn't a novel anyway, whatever it is. I don't like it. Not at all. It suffers from this terrible sort of metropolitan sentimentality and it's so narcissistic. And to me, also, it seemes so false, so calculated. Combining the plain man with an absolutely megalomaniac egotism. I simply can't stand it."

1. Virginia Woolf on James Joyce
“[Ulysses is] the work of a queasy undergraduate scratching his pimples.”

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