How appropriate; you fight like a cow

21 Jun

It used to be that writers insulted other writers all the time, it was like a game, or sport, or the natural consequence of more than one writer existing in the same world. These days you don’t see it so often which is kind of a shame, because when writers start throwing insults around you’re in for some fun:

Roger Scruton on George Bernard Shaw:
“Concerning no subject would he be deterred by the minor accident of complete ignorance from penning a definitive opinion.”

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

Samuel Johnson on John Milton:
“‘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.”

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

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

George Meredith on Charles Dickens:
“Not much of Dickens will live, because it has so little correspondence to life…If his novels are read at all in the future, people will wonder what we saw in them, save some possible element of fun meaningless to them.”

Katherine Mansfield on E.M. Forster:
“Putting my weakest books to the wall last night I came across a copy of ‘Howards End’ and had a look into it. Not good enough. E.M. Forster never gets any further than warming the teapot. He’s a rare fine hand at that. Feel this teapot. Is it not beautifully warm? Yes, but there ain’t going to be no tea.”

Mark Twain on Jane Austen:
“I haven’t any right to criticise books, and I don’t do it except when I hate them. I often want to criticise 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.”

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.”

Mark Twain on James Fenimore Cooper:
“Cooper’s art has some defects. In one place in ‘Deerslayer’, and in the restricted space of two-thirds of a page, Cooper has scored 114 offences against literary art out of a possible 115. It breaks the record.”

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.”


Posted by on June 21, 2011 in Of Writing


Tags: , ,

6 responses to “How appropriate; you fight like a cow

  1. George

    June 21, 2011 at 10:51

    Someone once said “Never pick a fight with the man who buys ink by the barrel.” He was talking about journalists, but I think a good writer, properly motivated, can show any journalist how deep the pen can really cut.

    • Ben White

      June 21, 2011 at 10:59

      Comedians are another group never to get into a insult match with, you’re just not going to walk away unscathed 🙂

  2. Tony Harley

    June 21, 2011 at 17:54

    Add to the list large men (or women) in the streets of narrow darkness.

  3. Mo

    June 24, 2011 at 01:03

    lol, I love Mark Twain’s comments on Jane Austen. That was gold!

  4. Mo

    June 24, 2011 at 01:18

    Also, I see you’re a fellow Monkey Island fan. Yet another thing we have in common!

    • Ben White

      June 24, 2011 at 12:03

      I credit Monkey Island for my love of pirates 🙂


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