The 10 Best Author-to-Author Insults

05/10/2013 11:45 AM |

A punch to the face is always more welcome than a cruel comment.

  • A punch to the face is always more welcome than a cruel comment.

Words hurt. No one knows this more than a writer. The power that a malicious comment can have is exponentially stronger than any punch to the face. Cruel words worm their way into your psyche, establish themselves deep inside, and remain hidden, lying in wait should you ever doubt yourself again, then striking at your confidence over and over until you are utterly defeated. The potential for damage that words contain is immeasurable. But the damage of a fist is finite. Bruises heal. Split lips mend. Maybe this is why so many writers have been been notoriously pugilistic, even if only when drunk. After all, writers, more than anyone know that a punch can land but not linger, whereas words last forever. Or maybe writers the reason writers are so prone to fisticuffs is just the alcohol. Anyway. None of that is to say that writers don’t insult each other through words. They do. Obviously they do. And when they do? The insults are of such a singular and cutting nature that it would be a shame not to honor the perverse cruelty of the author-to-author insult. Here are ten of my favorites.


One Comment

  • I’m probably displaying a lot of naivete here, since I’ve read nothing of either Faulkner or Hemingway (slightly ashamed) but when I read the insults, I couldn’t help feeling like it was the kind of exchange between two very different people who like each other, but have a sort of competitive nature going on. Like they’d be laughing at each other and enjoying the witty repartee.

    I did read a couple of things by Ayn Rand, though. An ex-girlfriend from Florida introduced me to her. I’d never heard of her before that – as far as I know, she’s largely unknown in Scotland. And with good reason. I despised every single page of “Atlas shrugged”.

    Norman Mailer’s comment felt like someone describing a guilty pleasure. Like admitting that you enjoy listening to “Da-da-da” by Trio. (Incidentally… I like listening to “Da-da-da” by Trio. I mean, I resisted that electronic, weird piece of bubble-gum music. Christ, I resisted. But in the end, it was like having sex with a fat chick and eventually it rolled over and overpowered me with its surreal dark humour.)