Monday, March 3, 2014

Infamous quotes of famous writers

Let's continue a bit about author ethics and support.
Lynn Shepherd's books are still being stoned on Amazon. I don't understand what Amazon is waiting for. Those reviews violate their policies. Once a friend of mine left a review for my book (a tip to newbie authors: nicely ask your friends NOT to review your books; they have the best intentions, but their reviews have the opposite effect), and luckily it was taken down by Amazon the very next day. Any writer knows that Amazon frowns upon reviews which abuse their system, e.g. reviews from friends and family.
The bullying that is happening on Amazon now is also a violation of their policy. So, Amazon, wake up and act!!!

Yesterday I dug up an old article from the Examiner about famous authors and their harsh, sometimes even offensive opinions about each other. I couldn't believe some of my beloved writers could be so mean towards other authors, but then, who am I to judge them? Right? Right???

You can read the full article here: Examiner.

And I'll copy-paste a couple of statements from literary giants like Twain, Nabokov, and  Shaw.

Soooo, here we go (pay attention to #9)

1. Ernest Hemingway, according to Vladimir Nabokov (1972)
As to Hemingway, I read him for the first time in the early 'forties, something about bells, balls and bulls, and loathed it.

2. Miguel Cervantes' Don Quixote, according to Martin Amis (1986)
Reading Don Quixote can be compared to an indefinite visit from your most impossible senior relative, with all his pranks, dirty habits, unstoppable reminiscences, and terrible cronies. When the experience is over, and the old boy checks out at last (on page 846 -- the prose wedged tight, with no breaks for dialogue), you will shed tears all right; not tears of relief or regret but tears of pride. You made it, despite all that 'Don Quixote' could do.

3. John Keats, according to Lord Byron (1820)
Here are Johnny Keats's p@# a-bed poetry...There is such a trash of Keats and the like upon my tables, that I am ashamed to look at them.

4. Edgar Allan Poe, according to Henry James (1876)
An enthusiasm for Poe is the mark of a decidedly primitive stage of reflection.

6. William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, according to Samuel Pepys (1662)
...we saw 'Midsummer Night's Dream,' which I had never seen before, nor shall ever again, for it is the most insipid ridiculous play that ever I saw in my life.

8. Charles Dickens, according to Arnold Bennett (1898)
About a year ago, from idle curiosity, I picked up 'The Old Curiosity Shop', and of all the rotten vulgar un-literary writing...! Worse than George Eliot's. If a novelist can't write where is the beggar.

9. J.K. Rowling, according to Harold Bloom (2000)
How to read 'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone'? Why, very quickly, to begin with, and perhaps also to make an end. Why read it? Presumably, if you cannot be persuaded to read anything better, Rowling will have to do.

10. Oscar Wilde, according to Noel Coward (1946)
Am reading more of Oscar Wilde. What a tiresome, affected sod.

11. Fyodor Dostoevsky, according to Vladimir Nabokov
Dostoevky's lack of taste, his monotonous dealings with persons suffering with pre-Freudian complexes, the way he has of wallowing in the tragic misadventures of human dignity -- all this is difficult to admire.

13. Oliver Goldsmith's The Vicar of Wakefield, according to Mark Twain (1897)
Also, to be fair, there is another word of praise due to this ship's library: it contains no copy of 'The Vicar of Wakefield', that strange menagerie of complacent hypocrites and idiots, of theatrical cheap-john heroes and heroines, who are always showing off, of bad people who are not interesting, and good people who are fatiguing.

15. James Joyce's Ulysses, according to George Bernard Shaw (1921)
I have read several fragments of 'Ulysses' in its serial form. It is a revolting record of a disgusting phase of civilisation; but it is a truthful one; and I should like to put a cordon around Dublin; round up every male person in it between the ages of 15 and 30; force them to read it; and ask them whether on reflection they could see anything amusing in all that foul mouthed, foul minded derision and obscenity.

17. Jane Austen, according to Charlotte Bronte (1848)
Why do you like Miss Austen so very much? I am puzzled on that point. What induced you to say that you would rather have written 'Pride and Prejudice'...than any of the Waverly novels? I should hardly like to live with her ladies and gentlemen, in their elegant but confined houses.

20. Herman Melville, according to D.H. Lawrence (1923)
Nobody can be more clownish, more clumsy and sententiously in bad taste, than Herman Melville, even in a great book like 'Moby Dick'....One wearies of the grand serieux. There's something false about it. And that's Melville. Oh dear, when the solemn ass brays! brays! brays!

22. Gertrude Stein, according to Wyndham Lewis (1927)
Gertrude Stein's prose-song is a cold black suet-pudding. We can represent it as a cold suet-roll of fabulously reptilian length. Cut it at any point, it is the same thing; the same heavy, sticky, opaque mass all through and all along. 

23. Emile Zola, according to Anatole France (1911)
His work is evil, and he is one of those unhappy beings of whom one can say that it would be better had he never been born. 

24. J.D. Salinger, according to Mary McCarthy (1962)
I don't like Salinger, not at all. That last thing isn't a novel anyway, whatever it is. I don't like it. Not at all. It suffers from this terrible sort of metropolitan sentimentality and it's so narcissistic. And to me, also, it seemed so false, so calculated. Combining the plain man with an absolutely megalomaniac egotism. I simply can't stand it. 

25. Mark Twain, according to William Faulkner (1922)
A hack writer who would not have been considered fourth rate in Europe, who tricked out a few of the old proven sure fire literary skeletons with sufficient local color to intrigue the superficial and the lazy.

27William Faulkner, according to Ernest Hemingway
Have you ever heard of anyone who drank while he worked? You’re thinking of Faulkner. He does sometimes — and I can tell right in the middle of a page when he’s had his first one.

30. Charles Dickens, according to George Meredith
Not much of Dickens will live, because it has so little correspondence to life…If his novels are read at all in the future, people will wonder what we saw in them, save some possible element of fun meaningless to them.

31. Jane Austen, according to Mark Twain (1898)
I haven’t any right to criticize books, and I don’t do it except when I hate them. I often want to criticize Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can’t conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Every time I read ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ I want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shin-bone.

34. Ernest Hemingway, according to Tom Wolfe
Take Hemingway. People always think that the reason he’s easy to read is that he is concise. He isn’t. I hate conciseness — it’s too difficult. The reason Hemingway is easy to read is that he repeats himself all the time, using ‘and’ for padding.

35James Joyce’s Ulysses, according to Virginia Woolf (1922)
I dislike ‘Ulysses’ more and more — that is I think it more and more unimportant; and don’t even trouble conscientiously to make out its meanings. Thank God, I need not write about it.

36William Shakespeare, according to George Bernard Shaw (1896)
With the exception of Homer, there is no eminent writer, not even Sir Walter Scott, whom I can despise so entirely as I despise Shakespeare when I measure my mind against his. The intensity of my impatience with him occasionally reaches such a pitch, that it would positively be a relief to me to dig him up and throw stones at him, knowing as I do how incapable he and his worshipers are of understanding any less obvious form of indignity.

39. James Jones, according to Ernest Hemingway (1951)
To me he is an enormously skillful f#*&-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…I hope he kills himself….

40. Sir Walter Scott, according to Mark Twain (1883)
Then comes Sir Walter Scott with his enchantments, and by his single might checks…progress, and even turns it back; sets the world in love with dreams and phantoms; with decayed and swinish forms of religion; with decayed and degraded systems of government; with the silliness and emptiness, sham grandeurs, sham gauds, and sham chivalries of a brainless and worthless long-vanished society. He did measureless harm; more real and lasting harm, perhaps, than any other individual that ever wrote.

41. Jane Austen, according to Ralph Waldo Emerson (1861)
I am at a loss to understand why people hold Miss Austen’s novels at so high a rate, which seem to me vulgar in tone, sterile in artistic invention, imprisoned in their wretched conventions of English society, without genius, wit, or knowledge of the world.

44. Bret Harte, according to Mark Twain (1878)
Harte is a liar, a thief, a swindler, a snob, a sot, a sponge, a coward, a Jeremy Diddler, he is brim full of treachery, and he conceals his Jewish birth as carefully as if he considered it a disgrace. How do I know? By the best of all evidence, personal observation.

46. Henry James, according to Arnold Bennett
It took me years to ascertain that Henry James’s work was giving me little pleasure….In each case I asked myself: ‘What the dickens is this novel about, and where does it think it’s going to?’ Question unanswerable! I gave up. Today I have no recollection whatever of any characters or any events in either novel.

47. James Fenimore Cooper, according to Mark Twain (1895)
Cooper’s art has some defects. In one place in ‘Deerslayer,’ and in the restricted space of two-thirds of a page, Cooper has scored 114 offences against literary art out of a possible 115. It breaks the record.

49Elizabeth Barrett Browning, according to Edward Fitzgerald (1861)
She and her sex had better mind the kitchen and her children; and perhaps the poor; except in such things as little novels, they only devote themselves to what men do much better, leaving that which men do worse or not at all.

50. Tom Wolfe’s A Man in Full, according to Norman Mailer (1998)
The book has gas and runs out of gas, fills up again, goes dry. It is a 742-page work that reads as if it is fifteen hundred pages long….
At certain points, reading the work can even be said to resemble the act of making love to a three-hundred pound woman. Once she gets on top, it’s over. Fall in love, or be asphyxiated. So you read and you grab and you even find delight in some of these mounds of material. Yet all the while you resist — how you resist! — letting three hundred pounds take you over.

Some of those statements are insulting, harsh, and sexist. Some are a bit weird (if Twain didn't like Austen, why did he read her books more than once? o.O). But I don't see Shakespeare's fans attacking Shaw's books. Orson Scott Card once called Rowling an evil witch, and a pretentious, puffed-up coward. His books have not been stoned by Rowling fans (thank God).

Those 1-star reviews pelting Shepherd's books are no longer perceived as a means of punishing the author for her unpopular opinion, but are a reflection of human pettiness and conceit. The system is abused just for the sake of abuse, not to obtain justice, but to take incomprehensible delight in degrading another human being.
But can people really be so cruel?

p.s. a beautiful tune to listen to while we reconsider our views and actions.

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