Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Writers on writers

Fyodor Dostoevsky statue in front of the State Library, Moscow, Russia

The higher-water mark, so to speak, of Socialist literature is W.H. Auden, a sort of gutless Kipling. -- George Orwell

It's true I did call him a pompous ass, which I thought pretty mild in the circumstances. 'Ignorant' and 'semi-literate' are dunces' caps he has skilfully fitted on his own head. I wouldn't dream of removing them. -- Salman Rushdie, of John Le Carre

My God, Edna, you look almost like a man. -- Noel Coward, to Edna Ferber

So do you. -- Edna Ferber, replying to Noel Coward

I once told Fordie that if he were placed naked and alone in a room without furniture, I would come back in an hour and find total confusion. -- Ezra Pound, of Ford Madox Ford

The trouble began with [E.M.] Forster. After him it was considered ungentlemanly to write more than five or six [novels]. -- Anthony Burgess

E.M. Forster never gets any further than warming the teapot. He's a rare fine hand at that. Feel this teapot. Is it not beautifully warm? Yes, but there ain't going to be no tea. -- Katherine Mansfield

Every word she writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the.' -- Mary McCarthy, of Lillian Hellman

Hugo was a madman who believed himself to be Victor Hugo. -- Jean Cocteau

The work of Henry James has always seemed divisible by a simple dynastic arrangement into three reigns: James I, James II, and the Old Pretender. -- Philip Guedalla

None of them [the Beat novelists] can write, not even Mr. Kerouac. What they do... isn't writing at all--it's typing. -- Truman Capote

His sayings are generally like women's letters: all the pith is in the postscript. -- William Hazlitt, of Charles Lamb

Here is a man who questioned life, but did not know in what name he questioned life. -- Andre Malraux, of T.E. Lawrence

Age before beauty. -- Clare Boothe Luce, waving Dorothy Parker through a doorway

Pearls before swine. -- Dorothy Parker answering Clare Boothe Luce

He is now what he wanted to be: the patron saint of bad journalism. -- Gore Vidal, of Norman Mailer

Just before they made S.J. Perelman, they broke the mould. -- Dorothy Parker

A village explainer, excellent if you were a village, but if you were not, not. -- Gertrude Stein, of Ezra Pound

The greatest mind ever to stay in prep school. -- Norman Mailer, of J.D. Salinger

Thurber is the greatest unlistener I know. -- Harold Ross, of James Thurber

One cannot really be a Catholic and grown-up. -- George Orwell, of Evelyn Waugh

He arranges flowers beautifully, but he does not grow them. -- Harold Clurman, of Thornton Wilder

English literature's performing flea. -- Sean O'Casey, of P.G. Wodehouse

Every phrase and gesture was studied. Now and again when she said something a little out of the ordinary she wrote it down herself in a notebook. It was like watching someone organizing her own immortality. -- Harold Laski, on sitting next to Virginia Woolf at lunch

Virginia Woolf, I enjoyed talking to her, but thought nothing of her writing. I considered her a 'beautiful little knitter.' -- Edith Sitwell

Of course, I'm always sad about Gore. Very sad that he has to breathe every day. -- Truman Capote, of Gore Vidal

I refuse to be famous for a book on [William] Wordsworth, although after all it was all Wordsworth was famous for. -- Cyril Connolly

9 comments:

annamanila said...

Gibbs, I have (or had) a book like this -- but this seems to be a different collection. Karamihan din put-downs. :( so our writing idols have feet of clay din ano?

Maryanne Moll said...

Hilarious! I'm sure our Philippine writers' version is just as juicy.

flue said...

I didn't know writers could be so mean to each other...

I like the Dorothy Parker's answer to Clare Boothe Luce. he he

thebee said...

This, I thoroughly enjoyed. I liked Dorothy Parker's quip the most. :D

flue said...

(sus! forgot to remove "the" before "Dorothy"):D

gibbs cadiz said...

ey ANNA, yep, but because they're writers, they couch their putdowns more deliciously, don't you think? :)

hi MARYANNE, so where can we find the pinoy version of these literary jousts? :)

FLUE, they are! the literary world loves nothing more than great tussles among its denizens. :)

hi THEBEE, pareho tayo! college pa lang i've been telling friends that story na, always to laughter. it's quite similar to this anecdote about churchill and lady astor, i think, also mortal enemies. they found themselves seated beside each other at a dinner, and at one point lady astor said, "if you were my husband i'd poison your coffee!" to which churchill replied, "and if you were my wife, madam, i'd drink it." :)

Maryanne Moll said...

sometimes they come up in workshops and in writers' tete-a-tetes, more so if people are inebriated. I'll email you a few that I can remember.

gibbs cadiz said...

thanks, MARYANNE!

annamanila said...

I don't think Pinoy writers are up to such as this. We still putdown but behind backs. (I hate to think that even among bloggers, this happens. Amusing but ... ah ewan.)

Hey, Gibbs, my site has a new look. Medyo may artistic design value na. Take a look?!

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