Thursday, June 23, 2011

Dissing other writers

The very discriminating author looking soulful in 1920
Vladimir Nabokov takes the blini for being quoted on 3 of flavorwire's 30 most devastating literary putdowns.
“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.”
“I cannot abide Conrad’s souvenir shop style and bottled ships and shell necklaces of romanticist cliches.”
“As to Hemingway, I read him for the first time in the early ‘forties, something about bells, balls and bulls, and loathed it.”

Here's D.H. Lawrence on Herman Melville: “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!”
Does this mean we're off the hook for reading Moby Dick?  I guess it depends on our estimation of Lawrence as critic. I remember trying to read it in high school (unbelievably, it was required) and getting totally bogged down in the technicalities of whaling. Perhaps I was just waiting for the PBS treatment of the subject, which I actually enjoyed.

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“You are tearing me apart! You say one thing, he says another, and everybody changes back again.” When I posted the photo of James Dean with Natalie Wood on the set of Rebel Without a Cause the other day, I neglected to mention that we have special DVD editions of both that film and East of Eden, as well as a documentary called Sense Memories. The sets both have a second disc with beaucoup extras. Natalie Wood, who was only 16, had affairs with both director Nicholas Ray and Dennis Hopper. Must have been quite the charged atmosphere! At right is another backstage moment with the two stars  during filming.
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If you're a sucker for Egyptology, as I am, get a copy of The Splendor that Was Egypt before it's too late; they're running out fast! Goodbye for now; or in hieroglyphics,



  1. I'd never seen any of these!! You really track down some gems... I love this kinda stuff! Below is one of the more well-known literary feuds:
    “None of these people have anything interesting to say and none of them can write, not even Mr. Kerouac….It isn’t writing at all-it’s typing,” Capote commented. Ouch!

  2. What great quotes! I couldn't get through Moby Dick either. Get through it? I couldn't get much past "Call me Ishmael".

  3. & we haven't even gotten into Mary McCarthy/Lilian Hellman! ... another day!

  4. On the subject of indigestible writing: Formerly a dauntless reader, I met my Waterloo when I was required to read "Some Do Not" by Ford Madox Ford. After 50 pages, I ceased entirely to care-- not only about Tietjens (the hero), but also about every other English literary character ever created. I lapsed into an analphabetic shock, which required repeated doses of Bach's Double Concerto to dispel.
    By the way, what an interesting blog you have started here! Of course I'll be back.

  5. Did anyone ever read all of "Moby Dick?" Just curious.