Keep Calm and Carry On… Writing

From Michelle Kerns of, in two parts, a compilation of

The 50 Best Author v Author Put-Downs of all Time

Particular favourites are no. 24

Mary McCarthy on J. D. Salinger

I don’t like Salinger, not at all. That last thing isn’t a novel anyway, whatever it is. I don’t like it. Not at all. It suffers from this terrible sort of metropolitan sentimentality and it’s so narcissistic. And to me, also, it seemed so false, so calculated. Combining the plain man with an absolutely megalomaniac egotism. I simply can’t stand it.

and nos. 43 and 47  [in part two]

 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 Ch****’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.

It makes me wonder why anyone would want to lay their hearts open to ridicule and criticism – why write?

 ” Who would these fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life?”

A good literary spat is always entertaining, but I like to think that behind the vitriol is great passion – for writing, for ideas, for art. As Per Petterson said

“literature should open wounds instead of healing them” [August 2011]