I frequent a number of writers’ hangouts, and readers’ hangouts: after all, I am both. Sometimes the readers have harsh things to say about the books, but seldom harsh words about the authors themselves. The authors sometimes have crossed eyes about what the readers say, and only once in a while do they stick verbal knives into one another.
This is entirely civilized by the standards of an earlier time.
I was reading through this charming list of what writers of stature had to say about other writers of stature. Sometimes they waited until the object was safely dead to uncork the invective, but not always.
Mark Twain on Jane Austen (1898)
“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.”
Someone else had to put Twain down on behalf of Ms. Austin, who has been dug up and recast as a vampire lately, if un-conked by her own skeleton.
William Faulkner on Mark Twain (1922)
“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.”
Remind me not to piss off Faulkner.
Sometimes the love was mutual:
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?”
While I was vastly entertained by these remarks I can’t help but hope no one has anything of the like to say about me!