Bookish brawlers

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…

6 thoughts on “Bookish brawlers

  1. Robyn 17 July 2009 / 4:57 pm

    I very much enjoy the spectacle of really talented people being just as petty and mean-spirited as the rest of us. Who can forget the saga of Martin Amis’ teeth? My fave feud is between two sisters who happen to be authors so it’s a bit more on the banal family side of things but Margaret Drabble and A.S.Byatt managed to combine the mundane and the creative when they indulged in some unseemly bickering over who should have mentioned a family tea-set in a novel. One of my fondest dreams is that one of them will write a memoir settling every score (and sharing why they need to be settled) but I don’t think it’s going to appen.

  2. zackids 17 July 2009 / 5:04 pm

    You should read Dean Koontz new book. The main character is an author who gets a scathing review from a critic then the critic comes after him and his family with the intent of killing them! Hopefully it’s not that bad in real life.

  3. MartinAmis 18 July 2009 / 11:27 am

    Watch your back Joycie!

  4. Mo-mo 18 July 2009 / 7:06 pm

    I agree with Robyn that it is nice to know that such otherwise “lofty” individuals are just as prone to reacting badly to criticism as any of us.

    But now I’m imagining Richard Ford resolving his “literary beef” with a driveby spitting.

  5. mj 21 July 2009 / 9:53 am

    A response from _the_ Martin Amis … I would watch your back indeed Joycie !!

  6. BookieMonster 22 July 2009 / 10:32 am

    Don’t forget Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Mario Vargas Llosa who had a brawl in a Mexican cinema in 1976!

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