I love it when nerdy writers pull off their glasses, push up their ink-stained sleeves and start a really good fisticuffs. Of course most of these brawls don’t actually result in physical confrontation, although a notorious few have, but in lieu of fists, authors and their critics are very well-placed to bandy vitriolic but sometimes beautifully chosen insults.
Well-known recidivist offender, author Alice Hoffman, last month dragged authorial peevishness out of the dark-ages by tweeting her bile. She had taken particular exception to a mixed review of her latest title The story sisters: a novel. She called the reviewer Roberta Silman “a moron” and encouraged her fans to phone or email Silman to tell her what they thought of “snarky critics”. Later Hoffman issued a remarkably unapologetic apology and shut down her Twitter account, stroppy mare…
Hoffman has also been on the receiving end of “writer rage” after American Pulitzer prize winning writer Richard Ford and his wife got sniffy when Hoffman wrote “nasty things” about his novel Independence day; they peppered a copy of Hoffman’s then latest book with bullets and mailed it to her. An entirely reasonable and measured response there Mr and Mrs Ford (of course I’m lying but I wouldn’t want to incite the wrath of gun-toting novelists).
Back in 2004 Mr Ford became infamous for spitting on unsympathetic reviewer Colson Whitehead at a literary party. Whitehead advised other reviewers considering writing anything unfavourable about Ford’s work to invest in a “rain poncho”. Colson Whitehead is now a published novelist himself and no doubt primed and ready to fly into a towering, spitting, shooting rage at the first sign of a negative review.
Martin Amis has claimed that “Literary feuds went out of fashion with the Salman Rushdie fatwah” but still managed to get down and dirty calling Tibor Fischer “a creep and a wretch. Oh yeah: and a fat arse”. Fischer, predictably, had panned Amis’s novel Yellow dog describing it as “not-knowing-where-to-look bad”. Amis has previously feuded with former buddy Julian Barnes and more recently with Marxist historian Terry Eagleton.
The miracle is, I suppose that any of them even find a minute between trading insults to pen a prize-winner or bestseller.
All juicy literary feud information gratefully received…