Oooh, Snap! Famous Writers Who Can Really Throw Some Shade
While I stand 100% behind niceness, I concede there are times when a fair and honest appraisal is needed. Who better to dole out these critiques than those who write and (obstensibly) think for a living? But while writers' lapidary prose is usually used to enrich and entertain, there's no getting around the fact that sometimes the pen is not only mightier than the sword, it's even more bruising, and hilarious, than a swift kick to the nuts!
Here are just a few shining examples -- please share your own!
“This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.” Dorothy Parker on Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged
“Every word she writes is a lie, including and and the.” – Mary McCarthy on Lillian Hellman
“I invariably miss most of the lines in the last act of an Ibsen play; I always have my fingers in my ears, waiting for the loud report that means that the heroine has just Passed On.”
Dorothy Parker on Henrik Ibsen
“That’s not writing, that’s typing.” Truman Capote on Jack Kerouac
“Tonstant Weader frowed up.” Dorothy Parker in her “Constant Reader” column on Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner
“From the moment I picked up your book until I laid it down I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend reading it.” Groucho Marx to S J. Perelman
While I've never heard of either the good Reverened or Mr. Brougham, I gotta hand it to him, now whenever I read something long and "vigorous" a donkey's penis will spring to mind.
“It is long, yet vigorous, like the penis of a jackass.” Reverend Sydney Smith on the writings of Henry Peter Brougham
And another vaguely penis-related zinger:
“A huge pendulum attached to a small clock.” Ivan Panin, Russian critic, on Samuel Taylor Coleridge
“Waldo is one of those people who would be enormously improved by death.” Saki (H. H. Munro) on Ralph Waldo Emerson
Turns out lots of writers can't stand Henry James. (For me, a simple "Meh" suffices.)
“Once you’ve put one of his books down, you simply can’t pick it up again.”
Mark Twain on Henry James
I really love this one, the whole "dead kitten, eggshell, piece of string" thing:
"[A book by Henry James] is like a church lit but without a congregation to distract you, with every light and line focused on the high altar. And on the altar, very reverently placed, intensely there, is a dead kitten, an eggshell, a bit of string." H. G. Wells on Henry James
"Henry James has a mind - a sensibility -so fine that no mere idea could ever penetrate it."
T. S. Eliot on Henry James
“One of the nicest old ladies I ever met.” William Faulkner on Henry James
"The death of a member of the lower classes could be trusted to give him a good chuckle."
W. Somerset Maugham on Henry James
And DJ H.G. yet again:
“A hippopotamus trying to pick up a pea.” H.G. Wells on Henry James
"Papa's" opinion is scathing, then James Jones' post-death retort puts him in his place:
“To me he is an enormously skillful fuck-up and his book will do great damage to our country. Probably I should re-read it again to give you a truer answer. But I do not have to eat an entire bowl of scabs to know they are scabs; nor suck a boil to know it is a boil; nor swim through a river of snot to know it is snot. I hope he kills himself as soon as it does not damage his or your sales.” Ernest Hemingway on James Jones
“The problem with Papa was he always wanted to suck a cock. But when he found the one that fit, it had a double barrel.” James Jones on Ernest Hemingway
How do I hate diss him, let me count the ways. Jeez, simmer down W.H. Raoowrr!:
“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.”
W. H. Auden on Robert Browning
Though I don't think Jane Austen deserves any harerade at all, I love Mark Twain and his shinbone line is kinda amusant:
“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
“Jane Austen’s books, too, are absent from this library. Just that one omission alone would make a fairly good library out of a library that hadn’t a book in it.”
Here are some plain ole "Oh, snap!" bon bitchy mots:
“The advantage to writing this slack is that the writer can’t hang himself with any length of it.” William Gass on Jay McInerney
“There are two ways of disliking poetry; one way is to dislike it, the other is to read Pope.” Oscar Wilde on Alexander Pope
“One could always baffle Conrad by saying 'humour'.” H. G. Wells on Joseph Conrad
“Conrad spent a day finding the mot juste: then killed it.” Ford Madox Ford on Joseph Conrad
“To me Pound remains the exquisite showman minus the show.” Ben Hecht on Ezra Pound
“An unmanly sort of man whose love-life seems to have been largely confined to crying in laps and playing mouse.” W. H. Auden on Edgar Allan Poe
“A fungus of pendulous shape.” Alice James on George Eliot
“He walked as if he had fouled his small clothes and looks as if he smelt it.”
Christopher Smart on Thomas Gray
And these writers need to seriously chill. Take a literary giants' timeout, y'all:
“I loathe you. You revolt me stewing in your consumption... the Italians were quite right to have nothing to do with you. You are a loathsome reptile - I hope you die.”
D. H. Lawrence to Katherine Mansfield
“A reptile marking his path wherever he goes and breathing a mildew at everything fresh and fragrant; a midnight ghoul preying on rottenness and repulsive filth. A creature hated by his nearest intimates and bearing his consciousness thereof upon his distorted features and upon his despicable soul.” Walt Whitman on James Gordon Bennett, editor of the New York Herald
And I included this because, I mean, Xtaindom. Can't even.
“One of the seven humbugs of Xtiandom.” William Morris on Ralph Waldo Emerson
I included this because pie-fingering sounds really dirty, but I'm not sure why.
“A cliche-ridden humbug and pie-fingering hack.” Dylan Thomas on Richard Church
And in the cruel yet whimsical category:
“A man carved from a turnip looking out from astonished eyes.” W. B. Yeats on George Moore
“....bent on groping for horror by night, and blinking like a stupid old owl when the warm sunlight of the best of life dances into his wrinkled eyes.”
The Gentlewoman magazine on Henrik Ibsen
I agree with Vlad; he's all balls and bulls -- and bull -- as far as I'm concerned:
“As to Hemingway, I read him for the first time in the early ‘forties, something about bells, balls and bulls, and loathed it.” Vladimir Nabokov on Ernest Hemingway
I included this one just because I know exactly what she means!
“His very frankness is a falsity. In fact, it seems falser than his insincerity.” Katherine Mansfield on her husband John Middleton Murry
And this? I just like saying "strewen with virgins". So sue me.
“The first man to have cut a swathe through the theatre and left it strewn with virgins.”
Frank Harris, English author and journalist, on George Bernard Shaw
I collected dozens more, but I had to stop somewhere, so why not on Shaw. Anyway, please let me know your all-time fave author disses!