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Author Smack Talk: The Literary Diss


Perhaps it’s mean and base of me, but I really enjoyed this article that I found on The Examiner. It lists 50 examples of authors trash talking each other’s works.  Reading a highly articulate slam from one of the century’s greatest authors against another literary titan is something I find very amusing – perhaps because they would all write circles around me.  I find it most funny if you imagine all of these authors sitting in a large circle, with each author taking a turn a telling the next in line just how bad their prose is.  I think it would go something like this …

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.

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.

Ernest Hemignway on William Faulkner: Have you ever heard of anyone who drank while he worked? You’re thinking of Faulkner. He does sometimes — and I can tell right in the middle of a page when he’s had his first one.

Tom Wolfe on Ernest Hemingway: Take Hemingway. People always think that the reason he’s easy to read is that he is concise. He isn’t. I hate conciseness — it’s too difficult. The reason Hemingway is easy to read is that he repeats himself all the time, using ‘and’ for padding.

John Irving on Tom Wolfe: He doesn’t know how to write fiction, he can’t create a character, he can’t create a situation…You see people reading him on airplanes, the same people who are reading John Grisham, for Christ’s sake….I’m using the argument against him that he can’t write, that his sentences are bad, that it makes you wince. It’s like reading a bad newspaper or a bad piece in a magazine….You know, if you were a good skater, could you watch someone just fall down all the time? Could you do that? I can’t do that.

You can read more examples on the original Examiner article.

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