10 Writer Insults

Writers are bedeviled by a combination of insecurity and arrogance.

While we think we’re more than capable and critical response to our own work has been overwhelmingly positive, one reviewer of our first book called it “excruciating” (and we’ve been called things far worse on this very site). One of us, after a jet-lagged radio appearance was said to have had “the personality of licorice” (Delicious? Toxic to the liver in high doses?).

Our hides have since toughened, however it’s not just book critics, trolls and FM radio pifflers putting writers on their corner stools unable to answer the bell – it’s their very own colleagues.

Often, a crab mentality mentality exists in writing, in which the crustacean closest to climbing out of the bucket – is dragged down by a less successful and soon to be delicious bouillabaisse of a colleague. Also, writers once fraternized more frequently, and when insecurities and hubris combine it doesn’t take much to stir the pot and @reply slams just don’t compare.

William Faulkner said of Ernest Hemingway, “He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.” (For a fun read, check out The Heming Way: How to Unleash the Booze-Inhaling, Animal-Slaughtering, War-Glorifying, Hairy-Chested, Retro-Sexual Legend Within, Just Like Papa!) but that remark’s positively benign compared with some of the invectives scribes have leveled at one another. Here, inspired by a list on Flavorwire we used our own book collections to see what we could come up with – writers who would not be on one another’s Christmas card lists for reasons other than being dead.   


10. Christopher Hitchens on Michael Moore:

“Europeans think Americans are fat, vulgar, greedy, stupid, ambitious and ignorant and so on. And they’ve taken as their own, as their representative American, someone who actually embodies all of those qualities.”

Honorable Mention: “[Gore] Vidal in his decline has fans like David Letterman’s, who laugh in all the wrong places lest they suspect themselves of not having a good time.”

9. Dale Peck on Rick Moody:

“Together [his] books amount not so much to an oeuvre as to a career, one whose success, though fascinating, is inexplicable to me. In fact, I have to confess that I consider myself unequal to the task of analyzing Moody’s writing. Its faults strike me as uniform and self-evident and none of them are complex enough for a sustained analysis. My gut feeling is that if you honestly do not believe that this is bad writing, then you are a part of the problem… [his books are] pretentious, muddled, derivative, bathetic.”


8. James Joyce on DH Lawrence:

“He’s a propagandist and a very bad writer”.


7. Stephen King on James Patterson:

“James Patterson is a terrible writer but he’s very very successful.”


6. Norman Mailer on Tom Wolfe:

“Journalistic hyperbole described as fiction…he can’t write … It’s like reading a bad newspaper or a bad piece in a magazine. It makes you wince.” He was quoted as saying that on any page of a Tom Wolfe book, he could “read a sentence that would make me gag.”


5. Will Self on Quentin Tarantino:

“Mr. Tarantino is a pasticheur and an artistic fraud. His use of pop music for his soundtracks—-”I find the personality of the piece through the music”—is what confirms the status of his films as extended-play pop videos…These are deft promotions of the current generation’s desire for unreflective entertainment, uncluttered by ethics or purpose. [He is] a derivative and second-order film-maker.”


4. Gore Vidal on Ayn Rand:

“This odd little woman is attempting to give a moral sanction to greed and self interest”


3. Hart Crane on Marianne Moore:

“A hysterical virgin”.


2. Truman Capote on Joyce Carol Oates:

“She’s the most loathsome creature in America.”

Honorable Mention: “The three most discouraging words in the English language are ‘Joyce Carol Oates.’”


1. Truman Capote on Robert Frost:

“He’s an evil, selfish bastard, an egomaniacal, double-crossing sadist.”

The Shark Guys are the authors of The Man Who Scared a Shark to Death and Other True Tales of Drunk Debauchery and Tastes Like Human: The Shark Guys’ Book of Bitingly Funny Lists. Please follow us on Twitter.