Hunter S. Thompson
After careful thought, I’d like to amend what I said yesterday: I do hate Hunter S. Thompson, and I don’t think it’s my hate that’s irrational; rather, my attempts to try and talk myself out of the fact that I’m just not a fan of his work or his persona are what I find to be irrational.
Reflecting on what and when Thompson wrote, I can maybe muster a whiff of respect for his time with Hell’s Angels. I do think that Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 has its merits as a book that shows how strange and weird the American political system has been for decades, but other than that, I think the guy was a drug-addled jokester. I know more people who have tattoos of his book covers than people who have anything intelligent to say about his work. He routinely gets lumped in with the Mailers, Didions, Plimptons, and other New Journalism icons whose work I like way more, but I’ve had it with trying to talk myself into accepting Thompson as one of the greats. — Jason Diamond, Literary Editor
I have read very little by the novelist James Salter. Partly, it’s because my particular reading maze doesn’t lead to many books by American men; and then, as of April, because of this ostensibly positive profile in The New Yorker. In that profile, he is quoted as saying what I suppose go for profound things these days, like, “My general moral apparatus is perhaps too archaic for the present times, and I think part of it is West Point.” Or, on breaking off a friendship with the admittedly difficult-sounding Saul Bellow, “I don’t like being a wing man.”
All writerly musings sound a little pretentious lifted out of context. And I have no idea if as Slate claimed, Salter is a sexist. But I always find it off-putting when men respond positively to media attempts to anoint them Great White Males. It triggers the contrarian in me. — Michelle Dean, Editor-at-Large
If there’s one writer I’d happily never, ever hear about again, it’s Vladimir bloody Nabokov. I’m well aware that at least part of this is a sort of instinctive iconoclasm — there’s something in the Australian psyche that demands you question what we call “tall poppies,” and Nabokov is one of the tallest of the lot. But quite apart from all that, there’s the fact that I just don’t like his writing — despite his formidable reputation as a prose stylist, I’ve always found his work florid and self-satisfied, the work of a man who just knows that he is a Great Writer. And then, of course, there’s the fact that he was a miserable old windbag who hated just about everything. I have no doubt that Nabokov would have hated my prose; that’s fine, because the feeling is mutual. — Tom Hawking, Music Editor
I recognize that James Ellroy is an important writer within the modern pulp canon, and I thank heavens that he wrote L.A. Confidential, so that it could become one of my favorite movies. And then I tried to read the book. And man. Gotta tell you. It was tough. His prose? Impossible. Two-word sentences. Sometimes three. Bap bap bap. Stuck with it. Tried to tough it out. Great movie. Must be a great book? Wrong. No such luck. Trying to sound terse. Trying to sound tough. Trying to sound lean. Ultimately monotonous. And repetitive. And annoying. No thanks, James. Sorry, pal. Good plotting. Good characters. Unreadable prose. I’ll stick with the movie. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor
Throughout high school and most of college, I was an odd sort of baby literary snob: the kind who wouldn’t deign to read the supposedly straightforward novels of the Victorian era because I was too busy with modernism’s scorched-earth experimentalism. For the most part, I’ve gotten over it, falling in love with the Brontës and George Eliot and Wilkie Collins a good decade after I should have — and, in the process, discovering what a pretentious twerp I was for dismissing their complex masterworks as simple stories. But there’s one 19th-century Brit I still can’t make myself read: Charles Dickens. Oh, sure, I appreciate the archetypes he created, from Ebenezer Scrooge to Miss Havisham (although I probably should not reveal how many times I was assigned to read Great Expectations for an English class and couldn’t get past the first half). For whatever reason, though, I just can’t get wrapped up in his sprawling narratives. Many people can’t put down Dickens’ novels; most of the time, I can’t even pick them up. — Judy Berman, Editor-in-Chief