The 7 Best Literary Feuds In History

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The 7 Best Literary Feuds In History

The 7 Best Literary Feuds In History

norman mailer tom wolfe

Just because two authors are great doesn’t mean they get along. For as long as there was writing and prestige, there were prestigious writers who could not stand each other. Whether it was jealousy, aesthetic or petty grudges, authors are people too and that makes them oh, so flawed.

1. Norman Mailer vs. Tom Wolfe

In 1989 Norman Mailer said of the eccentrically dressed author, “In my mind, there is something silly about a man who wears a white suit all the time, especially in New York.” Wolfe’s response was simply, “The lead dog is the one they always try to bite in the ass.” To which Mailer replied, “It doesn’t mean you’re the top dog just because your ass is bleeding.” The feud went on for decades after.

2. Ernest Hemingway vs. F. Scott Fitzgerald


Though Fitzgerald was an early mentor of Hemingway his protege was not so appreciative. Hemingway was known to bad mouth Fitzgerald, undermine any help that was given to him and generally mock him. He referred to Fitzgerald as, “A coward, a lap dog to the rich and a henpecked husband in thrall to a manipulative woman.” Fitzgerald did not take so kind to the betrayal and the two barely spoke again. In fact, Hemingway continued to talk to smack about Fitzgerald even after his death. In his last years Fitzgerald remarked, “Ernest would always give a helping hand to a man on a ledge a little higher up.”

3. Jennifer Egan vs. Jennifer Weiner

jennifer egan jennifer weiner

When Pulitzer prize winning author Jennifer Egan was interviewed by Julie Steinberg in the Wall Street Journal she was a little to candid about the bestselling author Jennifer Weiner,“There was that scandal with the Harvard student who was found to have plagiarized. But she had plagiarized very derivative, banal stuff. This is your big first move? These are your models?” Jennier Weiner tweeted in response, “Agh. Did Egan really have to pause, mid-victory lap, to call Kinsella, McCafferty ‘derivative and banal?’” Jennifer Egan eventually apologized.

4. Stephen King vs. James Patterson

stephen king james patterson

Stephen King said of Patterson, “He was a terrible writer but he was very successful.” Patterson took the kill ’em with kindness approach saying, “Oh, and Stephen King.  I read his stuff. I like breaking his balls by saying positive things about him.”

5. Bret Easton Ellis vs. David Foster Wallace

dfw bee

The feud began in a 1988 where Wallace wrote of Ellis’ writing, “The attitude betrayed is similar to that of lightweight neo-classicals who felt that to be non-vulgar was not just a requirement but an assurance of value, or of insecure scholars who confuse obscurity with profundity. And it’s just about as annoying.”

In 2012 Ellis went on a twitter rant about the late the author, “David Foster Wallace carried around a literary pretentiousness that made me embarrassed to have any kind of ties to the publishing scene…DFW is the best example of a contemporary male writer lusting for a kind of awful greatness that he simply wasn’t able to achieve. A fraud.” Harsh. Needless to say, even after Wallace had commit suicide, Ellis was not over it.

6. John Keats vs. Lord Byron

byron keats

The timeless tale of a snob (Byron) and a working class man (Keats) who just didn’t dig each other’s aesthetic. 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.”

When Keats died in 1821, in a letter to John Murray, Byron took the opportunity to take a few jabs at him, “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. – I know by experience that a savage review is Hemlock to a sucking author – and the one on me – (which produced the English Bards &c.) knocked me down – but I got up again. – Instead of bursting a blood-vessel – I drank three bottles of claret – and began an answer – finding that there was nothing in the Article for which I could lawfully knock Jeffrey on the head in an honourable way.” Byron penned many a poem mocking Keats.

7. Gertrude Stein vs. Ezra Pound

ezra pound gertrude stein

When Ezra Pound visited Gertrude Stein’s parisian salon, he got a little too rowdy,“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. ” In response Pound made fun of Stein’s writing style and it bordered on anti-semitism, “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.”

Related topics ernest hemingway, ezra pound, F Scott Fitzgerald, gertrude stein, james patterson, jennifer egan, jennifer weiner, john keats, lord byron, norman mailer, Stephen King, tom wolfe
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