You Offend Me, Sir! Top 10 Insults from One Writer to Another

Anyone who thinks authors would not stoop to trash-talking a fellow writer has another thing coming. Authors have egos that bruise like overripe peaches and will lash out at the slightest provocation. Provocations include boredom, low sales (you are convinced that it only takes the right person to acknowledge your brilliance), high sales (convinced that you are the superior author and that other guy is secretly sponsored by the “Garden Weasel”), hangovers, sobriety, and a lack of cheese choices when hungry. (Note: the last bit may be applicable only to me.)

Fortunately, since writers…follow me closely here…write things down, we get to revel in their snarkiness. Don’t pretend you don’t want to look.

10.  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.

9.  Virginia Woolf on James Joyce

I dislike ‘Ulysses‘ more and more — that is I think it more and more unimportant; and don’t even trouble conscientiously to make out its meanings. Thank God, I need not write about it.

8. Ernest Hemingway on James Jones

To me he is an enormously skillful f#*&-up and his book ( ‘From Here to Eternity‘) 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…I hope he kills himself…

7.  James Dickey on Robert Frost

If it were thought that anything I wrote was influenced by Robert Frost, I would take that particular work of mine, shred it, and flush it down the toilet, hoping not to clog the pipes….a more sententious, holding-forth old bore, who expected every hero-worshipping adenoidal little twerp of a student-poet to hang on his every word I never saw.

6.  John Irving on Tom Wolfe

He doesn’t know how to write fiction (‘The Right Stuff‘), 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.

5. George Bernard Shaw on William Shakespeare

With the exception of Homer, there is no eminent writer, not even Sir Walter Scott, whom I can despise so entirely as I despise Shakespeare when I measure my mind against his. The intensity of my impatience with him occasionally reaches such a pitch, that it would positively be a relief to me to dig him up and throw stones at him, knowing as I do how incapable he and his worshippers are of understanding any less obvious form of indignity.


4.  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.

And I can never be perfectly certain whether Helen was got with child by Leonard Bast or by his fatal forgotten umbrella. All things considered, I think it must have been the umbrella.


Nobody can be more clownish, more clumsy and sententiously in bad taste, than Herman Melville, even in a great book like ‘Moby Dick‘….One wearies of the grand serieux. There’s something false about it. And that’s Melville. Oh dear, when the solemn ass brays! brays! brays!
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.

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.