With the job of an author being such a difficult one, one that is heaped in praise one moment and then torn to shreds the next, you would have thought that authors would be a cohesive bunch, a group that would look out for one another and most of the time that may very well be true. Occasionally though, it goes wrong and the last person you ever want to be on the wrong side of, is someone who is paid to use words.
Sometimes these faux pas can descend into full scale wars and that is when things become interesting as in these five fantastic author feuds.
Here are some of the better known examples of when authors have decided that a fellow writer needs to be put in their place with this Five Fantastic Author Feuds blog.
Gore Vidal v Norman Mailer
Although not certain, it is believed that the feud between Vidal and Mailer stemmed from Vidal’s comments about an incident whereby Mailer had stabbed his current wife. The feud simmered quietly for years until it erupted in spectacular style on The Dick Cavett Show where they traded insults and it is claimed that Mailer headbutted Vidal back stage.
Eventually Janet Flanner, another guest of that night’s show became so irritated with the sniping that she proclaimed “I’m becoming very, very bored,” and was catapulted into the public eye with everyone proclaiming her to be the hero of the night’s shenanigans.
Stephen King v James Patterson
Stephen King is alleged to have begun this feud when saying “I don’t like him, I don’t respect his books because every one is the same.” Patterson defended himself saying “Recently Stephen King commented that he doesn’t have any respect for me. Doesn’t make too much sense–I’m a good dad, a nice husband–my only crime is I’ve sold millions of books. As far as 1408 goes, what can I say, I liked it–the first third is especially fine. I’m a John Cusack fan and, in terms of the books anyway, a Stephen King fan, too.”
Was he genuine in his reply? Perhaps but there is a little extra added piquancy to his niceties when you read another of his quotes said in response to King’s dismissive attitude. He told the Wall Street Journal, “I like breaking his balls by saying positive things about him.” Very clever indeed.
Hemingway v Fitzgerald
How do you repay your mentor? The person who coached you through your early days as a writer and who honed your skills? Why you spend the rest of your life bad mouthing them and being generally horrible about every single thing they have ever done. This was the situation between Hemingway and his mentor F Scott Fitzgerald. Despite Fitzgerald’s generosity Hemingway was less than respectful, referring to him as “A coward, a lap dog to the rich and a henpecked husband in thrall to a manipulative woman.” Fitzgerald responded to the betrayal by refusing to speak to Hemingway for two years and the two barely spoke for the rest of Fitzgerald’s life. Fitzgerald’s death didn’t soften Hemingway’s opinion and he would continue to disparage the author at every opportunity even after he had died.
Keats v Byron
The class divide writ large in the hatred these two had for one another; Byron was born into wealth and grew up in a privileged household whereas Keats was a working class boy.
In 1819 Keats said to his brother of Byron, “You speak of Lord Byron and me. There is this great difference between us. He describes what he sees—I describe what I imagine—Mine is the hardest task.” presumably referring to Byron’s luxurious lifestyle that Keats would only ever catch glimpses of through windows.
As for Byron, he penned many a poem which mocked Keats and upon hearing of Keats’ death he wrote to John Murray “Is it true – what Shelley writes me that poor John Keats died at Rome of the Quarterly Review? I am very sorry for it – though I think he took the wrong line as a poet – and was spoilt by Cockneyfying and Suburbing – and versifying Tooke’s Pantheon and Lempriere’s Dictionary”.
How dare anyone from the suburbs write poetry.
Gertrude Stein v Ezra Pound
Ezra Pound was notorious during his lifetime, a vehement anti Semite he was arrested for treason and spent time in prison so it is probably no surprise that he and Jewish author Gertrude Stein had their run ins. Gertrude for her part would claim that Ezra was an expensive guest at her Parisian Salon saying “All he has to do is come in and sit down for half an hour. When he leaves, the chair’s broken, the lamp’s broken. Ez is fine, but I can’t afford to have him in the house. ”
Ezra in true Ezra style would go on to make fun of Gertrude’s writing style at every opportunity, even quoted as saying “Gertie Stein is supposed to haff a stdyle pecause she writes yittish wit englisch wordts. This is not the way to did it but it shows how effektif it iss yess.”.. Ouch.
So let that be a warning, never get into a battle of words with anyone who makes their living from them.