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The Fine Art of Literary Mayhem: A Lively Account of Famous Writers & Their Feuds
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The Fine Art of Literary Mayhem: A Lively Account of Famous Writers & Their Feuds

3.39 of 5 stars 3.39  ·  rating details  ·  23 ratings  ·  7 reviews
Paperback, 272 pages
Published May 1st 1983 by Lexikos
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Literary feuds can make for entertaining blood sport. I'm not sure anyone has topped Mary McCarthy's piquant dispatch of Lillian Hellman ("[E]very word she writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the'") in the past 30 years, though it hasn't stopped folks like Dale "The Impaler" Peck from trying (most famous line: "Rick Moody is the worst writer of his generation"). It's the quest for the most jugular-piercing quip that we enjoy. Unfortunately, the verbal eviscerating isn't always as clever as McC ...more
I really liked it because it reminded me not only of the pettiness and rivalry of certain literary types but also the geniality and generosity of others, and how, usually, it works out better just not to respond to mean-spirited verbal attack. I noticed in these historical and famous feuds that the negative clever comments may be fun to read but are often 1) off the mark and 2) more about the critic than the work/writer.

Of course, sometimes such comments are quite wonderful and on the mark, too
Hemingway, Dickens, Wells- These and many other famous authors have become immortalized as generation after generation pass along their works, most earning the title of 'modern classic'. What readers don't consider is that these writers had lives outside of the words on the pages, and just like the famous media stars of today, their lives were sometimes driven to create drama. Only, their feuds with each other tended to be a little more subtle than the paparazzi fighting to get the best pictures ...more
Very entertaining accounts of literary feuds that are only occasionally interfered with by the author's clumsy hand. My favorites were H.G. Wells vs. Henry James, the chapter on Hemingway and the chapter on Norman Mailer.
Full of interesting tidbits: Pope was only 4'6"; Turgenev had a very high-pitched voice and was forever haunted by a cowardly incident on a ship headed for Germany; Gin and Bitters, the parody of Maugham that publishers gleefully advertised as a "novel about a novelist who write
I usually enjoy these kind of books, quick read and entertaining. The highlight for me was Turgenev's chaotic relationship with Dostoevsky and Tolstoy and Mailer's feuds with.....everyone.

All in all, it could've used a few more feuds of note. I thought the Henry James and Sinclair Lewis chapters were disappointing and others were just boring.
Mary Drew
I liked this because I learned about authors I didn't know and more about authors that I do know. I wasn't all that interested in the actual feuds, but what they revealed about the personalities. Of course, there is always more than one side to the story....
Well written, entertaining, great resources, but towards the end it got a little tiresome and a bit like "quick, it's time to end"....
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