Top 10 Best Literary Insults
#10 - GORE VIDAL ON TRUMAN CAPOTE
GORE VIDAL ON TRUMAN CAPOTE Image

"He's a full-fledged housewife from Kansas with all the prejudices."

#09 - TRUMAN CAPOTE ON JACK KEROUAC
TRUMAN CAPOTE ON JACK KEROUAC Image

"That's not writing, that's typing."

#08 - ERNEST HEMINGWAY VS. WILLIAM FAULKNER
ERNEST HEMINGWAY VS. WILLIAM FAULKNER Image

Faulkner: "[Hemingway] has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary."
Hemingway: "Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?"

#07 - EDMUND WILSON ON CARL SANDBURG
EDMUND WILSON ON CARL SANDBURG Image

"The cruelest thing that has happened to Lincoln since he was shot by Booth was to fall into the hands of Carl Sandburg."

#06 - RALPH WALDO EMERSON ON JANE AUSTEN
RALPH WALDO EMERSON ON JANE AUSTEN Image

"Miss Austen's novels . . . seem to me vulgar in tone, sterile in artistic invention, imprisoned in the wretched conventions of English society, without genius, wit, or knowledge of the world. Never was life so pinched and narrow. The one problem in the mind of the writer . . . is marriageableness."

#05 - VIRGINIA WOOLF ON ULYSSES
VIRGINIA WOOLF ON <em>ULYSSES</em> Image

"[Ulysses is] the work of a queasy undergraduate scratching his pimples."

#04 - D. H. LAWRENCE ON JAMES JOYCE
D. H. LAWRENCE ON JAMES JOYCE Image

"My God, what a clumsy olla putrida James Joyce is! Nothing but old fags and cabbage stumps of quotations from the Bible and the rest, stewed in the juice of deliberate, journalistic dirty-mindedness—what old and hard-worked staleness, masquerading as the all-new!"

#03 - ELIZABETH BISHOP ON THE CATCHER IN THE RYE
ELIZABETH BISHOP ON <em>THE CATCHER IN THE RYE</em> Image

"I HATED the Salinger story. It took me days to go through it, gingerly, a page at a time, and blushing with embarrassment for him every ridiculous sentence of the way. How can they let him do it?"

#02 - CHARLES DARWIN ON SHAKESPEARE
CHARLES DARWIN ON SHAKESPEARE Image

"I have tried lately to read Shakespeare, and found it so intolerably dull that it nauseated me."

#01 - GORE VIDAL VS. WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY
GORE VIDAL VS. WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY Image

Vidal: "As far as I am concerned, the only crypto Nazi I can think of is yourself."
Buckley: “Now listen, you queer, stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I’ll sock you in you goddamn face and you’ll stay plastered.”
—Democratic National Convention, 1968

User Comments - Add a Comment
KesheR - 2008-07-11 01:12:19
Writers are so violent! They should be in jail! By the way, what do you people think about Joyce?
dherkes - 2008-07-16 06:17:50
I think the "fag" that they were talking about was the old expression for a cigarette butt. I really like the Buckley - Vidal exchange. Kind of adds majesty to the whole setting eh?
Ben - 2008-12-10 21:39:51

I hate Joyce. His descriptions are cute but they are the kind of thing I would enjoy in a short poem, not a bloody "novel".

anarchy17 - 2008-12-16 20:45:14

needed some winston churchill in here

kimmiechan - 2008-12-17 23:45:10

Way to zing 'em Hemingway!~

Larry Hiam - 2009-01-10 10:56:34

Didn't Virginia Woolf bust Norman Mailer for not knowing how to spell "fuck"? (The Naked and the Dead) He spelled it "fug" or they wouldn't publish it back then.

iris - 2009-02-13 18:10:09

"Henry James was one of the nicest old ladies I ever met." - William Faulkner

St. Elmo - 2009-02-15 07:22:08

Gore Vidal on Alesandr Solzhenitsn: "He is a bad novelist and a fool. The combination usually makes for great popularity in the U.S."

swedishdwarf - 2009-02-18 00:52:28

Larry Hiam: that was Dorothy Parker. "So, are you the one who can't spell 'fuck'?"

psh - 2009-04-13 11:43:18

elizabeth bishop doesn't know good literature from a hole in the ground.

Justin L - 2009-04-22 14:13:29

The Vidal/Buckley exchange is not a literary one; it is verbal. If they were discussing literature, it would probably be okay, but I believe they are discussing Vietnam. While it is an excellent exchange of insults, it does not belong on a top 10 list of literary insults, let alone at #1. Perhaps if the title of the list were "Top 10 Insults of Authors by Other Authors," it would be okay.

WWFD? - 2009-06-16 17:05:15

Although it's not necessarily regarding literature, one of my favorite insults coming from a literary figure is one from the great F. Scott Fitzgerald. While drinking at a Hollywood bar, Joan Crawford approached him to inquire about a movie he was writing for her. As she turned to leave, she said back to him "Write well, Mr. Fitzgerald, write well!" Fitzgerald turned to a fellow bar patron and dryly quipped "Bitch."

Arnett - 2009-10-10 18:57:41

WWFD?: What Crawford said was, "Write hard, Mr. Fitzgerald." Proving again she was not only arrogant but an ignoramus.

Fug - 2010-04-09 00:32:25

The use of "fug" as opposed to fuck was intentional on the part of mailer.

Larry Hiam - 2010-05-20 18:27:04

Ya. I could picture the face, but not the name and somehow came up with someone ah, rather uncontemporary to the early pub. history of NAKED and the DEAD. Lillian Hellman also popped into my weary factoid-soaked head. Thanks for the correction. I know Mailer's use was intentional, but as a compromise. No doubt SOME publisher would have went for it at a greatly reduced contract. I'm sure Ms. Sayer knew or presumed these facts; she was being snarky.

McD - 2010-09-05 11:41:30

Woolf couldn't read past the Sirens chapter.

Jesus - 2010-10-29 14:17:30

Lol@ Darwin

Anonymous - 2011-04-14 18:41:21

To: Larry Hiam - 2009-01-10 10:56:34 Who asked: <> The answer: No. Ginny didn't. She died in 1941. "The Naked And The Dead" was published in 1948.

Shell - 2011-07-22 15:38:12
Either Mark Twain called some of Poe’s work a “puerile abortion” or Poe said that about Twain. Can’t remember my Master’s Level course content well. Also Twain on Poe: “To me his prose is unreadable--like Jane Austin's [sic]. No there is a difference. I could read his prose on salary, but not Jane's. Jane is entirely impossible. It seems a great pity that they allowed her to die a natural death.” - Letter to William Dean Howells, 18 January 1909
TheElectricCity - 2011-12-14 20:39:28
I love Emerson. Dead on with his comments about Jane Austen.
Jon - 2012-01-01 15:58:50
How about some Christopher Hitchens? After Jerry Falwell died Hitchens stated "if you gave Falwell an enema, he could be buried in a matchbox" The following has more of Hitchens comments on Falwell: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIviufQ4APo
Mutt - 2012-08-10 10:48:08

Gore Vidal called Solzhenitsyn a fool? The man was a prophet and a better writer than that scum Vidal. R.I.P. Vidal, not that you deserve to you evil worthless jackal.

Shantam - 2012-11-23 18:31:14

Winston Churchill's classic response to Lady Astor's attempt to insult him. Lady Nancy Astor: Winston, if I were your wife, I’d poison your tea. Churchill: Nancy, if I were your husband, I’d drink it