Friday, August 07, 2009

famous writers can be crankypantses

JacketCopy recently posted this fun short article on 5 famous feuds between/among famous writers. Tolstoy challenged Turgenev to a duel; Hemingway trash-talked Fitzgerald, even though Fitzgerald discovered him; Melville stopped being friends with Hawthorne after the latter got more successful. Vargas Llosa punched Garcia Marquez in the face.

Any surprise? I feel like any profession that mixes up creativity with ego is going to end in silly rivalries.

You guys heard of any other such tasty literary gossip? All the LA Times's examples were male-male rivalries--anyone heard any stories about lady rivalries?

22 comments:

Lexi said...

Julie Burchill and Camille Paglia: http://homepage.ntlworld.com/jonsimmons/julie/paglia.htm - dear oh dear...

Rosemary said...

Hi Moonie,

Here's one I've always loved. Henry James was famously resentful of Edith Wharton because she was so commercially successful.

He looked down upon her work as less than literary, and dismissed her stories as "women's" fiction.

But mostly he hated the fact that she was able to buy a lavish home and live quite well through her writing, while he struggled financially.

James might be a revered part of the canon, but for me, Wharton is eminently more readable. Apparently 19th century readers felt the same.

Anonymous said...

We're kinda bland, compared to them, aren't we?

After PW slammed my first novel, I honestly considered getting into a brawl with the three people (fine, the three young women, and I'm a 200 pound man--but there were three of them!) at the PW booth at BEA over the review. A reputation as violently insane and little time in jail seemed a small price to pay.

But I didn't. And the book sank without a trace. Not sure what the moral is.

JES said...

The comments on that JacketCopy post list some good ones: Mary McCarthy vs. Lillian Hellman, Poe vs. Longfellow, Gore Vidal vs. Normal Mailer... Maybe it's something like Hollywood rivalries, except that actors and actresses must (almost by definition) behave civilly to one another. Writers, by contrast, just seem charming.

Jenny said...

This doesn't really qualify as a feud, but feels v. satisfying to me as I hate them both - one time at a party, Wallace Stevens punched Ernest Hemingway in the face and then Ernest Hemingway beat the crap out of him. Stevens had to be hospitalized. Hee hee hee.

Natasha Solomons said...

I think the feud between Samuel Richardson and Henry Fielding was pretty epic. Ok, between two men - but still. They were initially friends, then Fielding wrote a novel (yes, an entire novel) ridiculing Richardson's massive De Vinci esque hit, 'Pamela'. Fieldings' spoof was called 'Shamela'.

The two remained friends for a while as Richardson did not believe his friend could be so cruel. When he found out... friendship finished.

The next literary feud was more of an annihilation of a writer's reputation. Anna Barbauld (no you probably have not heard of her) was one of the most famous poets of the late eighteenth/ early nineteenth century in England. Young poets like Coleridge and William Wordsworth were amongst her fans, but in age they turned against her. They wrote articles lampooning her and with the critic John Croker Wilson who complained she was an old 'crone sallying forth with her knitting needles' when she dared criticise war. Between them, they finished off her reputation until the twenty-first century.

Even poets can be mean.

Andrea Cremer said...

You had me at crankypantses

Whirlochre said...

I wouldn't mind seeing Fay Weldon take on J.K. Rowling at darts.

Charles Gramlich said...

Fitzgerald 'discovered' Hemingway? How's that?

Teh Awe-Some Sauce said...

Not really a feud, but Janet Dailey ripped off like half of Nora Roberts' books, plagiarizing her for about seven years.

If that's not a reason to force feed someone your fist I don't know what is.

And nobody had better say anything about romance novels not being real books *shakes fist*.

PurpleClover said...

No, but I'd love to see Stephanie Meyer and Stephen King go at it. Wouldn't you?

Steph K. vs. Steph M.
Carrie vs. Edward
Telekenetics vs. Vampires


LMAO.

And no I haven't read/seen either one.

Kerry said...

were any of those writers you named not men? fascinating... especially considering there are so many women in publishing... ;-)

Ulysses said...

I've always enjoyed Woody Allen's "A Twenties Memory," in which he crosses boxing gloves with Hemmingway, annoys Picasso, and falls for Gertrude Stein, who breaks his nose.

Haste yee back ;-) said...

Lucy, and the football, versus Charlie Brown!

Haste yee back ;-)

WendyCinNYC said...

Flannery O'Connor and Carson McCullers didn't much like each other, if I'm remembering correctly. I think they said some petty things about each other's work, but no big catfight or anything.

Bill Peschel said...

While James may not have liked Wharton, she did him a good turn by funneling money to him through their mutual publisher.

Carson McCullers had a problem with falling in love with women who would have nothing to do with her, including Djuna Barnes (showed up at her door with champagne; DB wouldn't let her in), and at Yaddo, spending the day crying outside Katherine Ann Porter's door. When the dinner bell rang, Porter opened the door and stepped over McCullers without saying a word.

Diana said...

Join a writer's forum, there are always feuds and fighting going on amongst the members. Some days it feels like Junior High School with all the cliques and grudge holding. They're not famous writers, yet, but one day they will be and making headlines like these.

stacy said...

I read in a biography about Max Perkins (who wasn't a writer, but an editor) that Thomas Wolfe feuded with him constantly toward the end of Wolfe's life. I seem to remember Wolfe had several brain tumors when he died, and I've always wondered if that was the cause of his increasingly bizarre behavior (aggravated by drinking).

Fat Cat said...

Diana, that feuding you mention is the major reason I avoid writer's groups like the plague. I have a dear friend whom I consider to be a far superior writer to me, and yet she's never had a book published because she allows her "writer's" group, containing mostly people who've never been published, to tear her manuscripts and self-confidence apart, so she never submits.

I don't do writer's groups and I've had 9 books published, all but three by major publishers. I'm a solid mid-list author, which may not sound like much to brag about, but I'm proud of what I've accomplished. And of course, I aspire to writing my way up the list.

If I had submitted any of my manuscripts to a writer's group for comment first, I'm sure I never would have mailed them off. Seems to me the main function of most writer's groups (present online company excepted) is to make sure NO ONE in the group gets published, because that would upset the balance of power and create all sorts of problems with the group's perceptions of publishing reality.

dot said...

Not to pile on the Hemingway anecdotes, but Dorothy Parker once threw a typewriter at him as her ship was leaving the docks. He was standing below, and made some comment about how she had never returned the typewriter she borrowed from him. So she chucked it.

The Hemingway bio that Google Books came up with seems to think that Ms.Parker never heard about the terrible poem Hemingway wrote about her abortions, the same poem that he read out loud at a party and perhaps lost a friendship over. I don't believe that.

moonrat said...

dot--I've been reading about Hemingway recently, and although I haven't come across that particular anecdote, it totally wouldn't surprise me. He could be a little bit of a jerkface. There was another time he abandoned Martha Gellhorn--his wife!--on a very dangerous warship in order to STEAL a story she had been sent to Europe to write! Classy guy.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget Mark Twain's essay, "The literary offences of James Fenimore Cooper." I've seen two versions of this essay (or perhaps there are two separete ones) and they are hysterical. Must read. I can't imagine Cooper was pleased; I have never seen a writer's work so thoroughly trashed.