Two days ago, in the New York Times Sunday Magazine, author and Professional Nasty Person Gore Vidal was asked:
How did you feel when you heard that [William F.] Buckley died this year?
I thought hell is bound to be a livelier place, as he joins forever those whom he served in life, applauding their prejudices and fanning their hatred.
Forty years ago, Buckley and Vidal nearly came to blows when debating the First Amendment -- there's a joke in that, I'm sure -- on live network television. Gore called Buckley a "crypto-Nazi" and Buckley replied: "Now listen, you queer. Stop calling me a crypto-Nazi, or I'll punch you in the goddamn face and you'll stay plastered."
You can watch the extraordinary film clip at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nYymnxoQnf8
The feud never ended, not even with Buckley's death. Writers have long sharpened their steak knives on the flanks of other writers. Herewith a few examples, beginning with the classic shot at Lillian Hellman by Mary McCarthy:
"Every word she writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the.'
"He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary." William Faulkner regarding Ernest Hemingway
"Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?"
Ernest Hemingway on William Faulkner
Faulkner was particularly nasty. He called Mark Twain a "hack writer" and said that Henry James "was one of the nicest old ladies I ever met."
Virginia Woolf described James Joyce's "Ulysses" as "the work of a queasy undergraduate squeezing his pimples." [Ah, so now I understand that confounding book!]
"The cruelest thing that has happened to Lincoln since he was shot by Booth has been to fall into the hands of Carl Sandburg." Edmund Wilson
"Edmund Wilson's careful and pedestrian and sometimes rather clever book reviews misguide one into thinking there is something in his head besides mucilage." Raymond Chandler
Finally, perhaps the most well known literary put-down of our time: Truman Capote's description of Jack Kerouac's work: "That's not writing; that's typewriting."
That's all the typewriting for today, folks. Feel free to take a shot at any writer (or anyone else), if you so desire.