Readers' Choice: 20 More Author-On-Author Insults


We hoped that when we listed our picks for the harshest author-on-author insults in history, you readers would have some of your own favorite barbs and witticisms to suggest. And goodness, you didn’t disappoint! Accordingly, and so as to continue the guilty pleasure of literary insult-mania, we’ve compiled a follow-up list of some of the best suggestions from the group. Note: many of you yearned for Harlan Ellison, but though he certainly has many deliciously to-the-point quotes to his name, we couldn’t seem to think of a choice example where he was directly insulting another author, so any Ellison fans out there with a direct quote, be sure to let us know. Click through for twenty more choice author-on-author insults, as beloved and nominated by our readers!

Mary McCarthy on Lillian Hellman (1979)

“Every word she writes is a lie, including and and the.” – Suggested by Ellis Amburn

H.G. Wells on Henry James

“A hippopotamus trying to pick up a pea.” – Suggested by Ellis Amburn

H.L. Mencken on Gertrude Stein

“It is the great achievement of Miss Stein that she has made English easier to write and harder to read.” – Suggested by Jess

William Gass on Jay McInerney

“The advantage to writing this slack is that the writer can’t hang himself with any length of it.” – Suggested by the McNally Jackson Bookmongers

Mark Twain on Jane Austen (1896)

“Jane Austen’s books, too, are absent from this library. Just that one omission alone would make a fairly good library out of a library that hadn’t a book in it.” – Suggested by Cole

Gore Vidal on Norman Mailer’s “The Prisoner of Sex”

“Like three days of menstrual flow.” – Suggested by IndyM

Tom Wolfe on John Irving, John Updike and Norman Mailer (2000)

“I think of the three of them now — because there are now three — as Larry, Curly and Moe… It must gall them a bit that everyone — even them — is talking about me.” – Suggested by IndyM

William Hazlitt on Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1816)

“All that he does or thinks is involuntary; even his perversity and self-will are so. They are nothing but a necessity of yielding to the slightest motive. Everlasting inconsequentiality marks all he does.” – Suggested by B

David Foster Wallace on Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho (1993)

“You can defend “Psycho” as being a sort of performative digest of late-eighties social problems, but it’s no more than that.” and “It panders shamelessly to the audience’s sadism for a while, but by the end it’s clear that the sadism’s real object is the reader herself.” – Suggested by Tom

Bret Easton Ellis on David Foster Wallace (2010)

“Is it too soon? It’s too soon right? Well I don’t rate him. The journalism is pedestrian, the stories scattered and full of that Midwestern faux-sentimentality, and Infinite Jest is unreadable.” – Suggested by Tom

Dorothy Parker on Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged (1962)

“This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.” – Suggested by Brenda Sharpe

V.S. Naipaul on Henry James

“You only have to look at that dreadful American man Henry James. The worst writer in the world actually.” – Suggested by Max Kumbe

Flannery O’Connor on Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird (1960)

“I think for a child’s book it does all right. It’s interesting that all the folks that are buying it don’t know they’re reading a child’s book. Somebody ought to say what it is.” – Suggested by Colette Bancroft

James Jones on Ernest Hemingway

“The problem with Papa was he always wanted to suck a cock. But when he found the one that fit, it had a double barrel.” – Suggested by Tom

Ernest Hemingway on James Jones

“To me he is an enormously skillful fuck-up and his book will do great damage to our country. Probably I should re-read it again to give you a truer answer. But I do not have to eat an entire bowl of scabs to know they are scabs; nor suck a boil to know it is a boil; nor swim through a river of snot to know it is snot. I hope he kills himself as soon as it does not damage his or your sales.” – Suggested by Tom

Stephen King on Stephenie Meyer (2009)

“Both Rowling and Meyer, they’re speaking directly to young people… The real difference is that Jo Rowling is a terrific writer and Stephenie Meyer can’t write worth a darn. She’s not very good.” – Suggested by Alan

Lawrence Durrell on Henry James

“If I were asked to choose between reading Henry James and having my head pressed between two stones, I’d choose the latter.” – Suggested by Victor Provenzano

Ben Jonson on William Shakespeare (1630)

“I remember the players have often mentioned it as an honor to Shakespeare, that in his writing, whatsoever he penned, he never blotted out a line. My answer hath been, ‘Would he had blotted a thousand,’ which they thought a malevolent speech.” – Suggested by Emtheluddite

Mark Twain on Henry James

“Once you’ve put one of his books down, you simply can’t pick it up again.” – Suggested by James

Dorothy Parker on A.A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner (in her column “Constant Reader”)

“Tonstant Weader frowed up.” – Suggested by TRH