Sunday, 3 July 2016


In light of this week's craziness I've heard and read many angry insults mostly directed at politicians. But, there have been some funny ones too. Authors using wit to express their frustration, utilising the tools of their trade to attack and ridicule. It's an old game.

Here are a few digs by authors at other authors:

Stephen King referred to Stephenie Myer's Twilight as 'tweenager porn'.

Even our own J K has been at the receiving end. Harold Bloom said, 'How to read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone? Why very quickly, to begin with, and perhaps also to make an end. Why read it? Presumably, if you cannot be persuaded to read anything better, Rowling will have to do.'

But, some of the best insults come from authors of the past:
Truman Capote's famous put down of Jack Kerouac? 'That's not writing, that's typing.'

Samuel Johnson even accuses Jonathan Swift of plagiarism. In 1791 he said, '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.'

William Faulkner, in his 1922 comment about Mark Twain manages to insult the author and all of his readers. '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 colour to intrigue the superficial and the lazy.'

Twain himself was very fond of the snarky remark and no fan of 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.'

And, although I'm a Hemingway fan, one of my favourite author put downs: Vladimir Nabokov in 1972 - 'As to Hemingway, I read him for the first time in the early 'forties, something about bells, balls and bulls, and I loathed it.'

In troubled times it's good to find the art of the author 'put-down' is alive and kicking out.


Sue Bursztynski said...

Although Stephen King liked Harry Potter, he said of the author's writing, "She never met an adverb she didn't like." It's true, too! Go and read any selected chapter of any of the books and you'll find a whole lot of adverbs. But he said it affectionately and I'm speaking as a fan.

Sue Purkiss said...

Perhaps it's time to start a fightback in favour of adverbs! Have to admit, I've some sympathy with Nabokov as regards Hemingway!

Nick Green said...

Yes, what the hell is wrong with adverbs anyway? Are they over here stealing our jobs or something?

Nick Green said...

Yes, what the hell is wrong with adverbs anyway? Are they over here stealing our jobs or something?