The 50 best author vs. author put-downs of all time

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The 50 best author vs. author put-downs of all time

One man's Shakespeare is another man's trash fiction.

Consider this pithy commentary on the Great Bard's work:

With the single exception of Homer, there is no eminent writer, not even Sir Walter Scott, whom I can despise so entirely as I despise Shakespeare....

But, of course, there must be SOME writers we can all agree on as truly great, right? Like Jane Austen. Or not:

Every time I read 'Pride and Prejudice,' I want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shin-bone.

Robert Frost?

If it were thought that anything I wrote was influenced by Robert Frost, I would take that particular work of mine, shred it, and flush it down the toilet, hoping not to clog the pipes.

John Steinbeck, surely?

I can't read ten pages of Steinbeck without throwing up.

Oh, dear.

But don't think these pleasantries were penned in a frolicsome hour by dilettante book critics with an unslaked thirst for a bit of author-bashing.

The Shakespearean take-down was George Bernard Shaw, the Austen shin-bone basher was Mark Twain, the anti-Frost poet was James Dickey, and the quick!-bring-me-the-bucket-it's-Steinbeck was James Gould Cozzens.

Yes, hell hath no fury like one author gleefully savaging another author's work.

And, lucky for us, there's plenty to be had where that came from.

Cast your eye on these, the 50 most memorable author vs. author put-downs (in no particular order; though if you've got a favorite, by all means, comment on it, below).

Hemingway: writer of bells, balls, and bulls

1. Ernest Hemingway, according to Vladimir Nabokov (1972)

As to Hemingway, I read him for the first time in the early 'forties, something about bells, balls and bulls, and loathed it.

2. Miguel Cervantes' Don Quixote, according to Martin Amis (1986)

Reading Don Quixote can be compared to an indefinite visit from your most impossible senior relative, with all his pranks, dirty habits, unstoppable reminiscences, and terrible cronies. When the experience is over, and the old boy checks out at last (on page 846 -- the prose wedged tight, with no breaks for dialogue), you will shed tears all right; not tears of relief or regret but tears of pride. You made it, despite all that 'Don Quixote' could do.

3. John Keats, according to Lord Byron (1820)

Here are Johnny Keats's p@# a-bed poetry...There is such a trash of Keats and the like upon my tables, that I am ashamed to look at them.

4. Edgar Allan Poe, according to Henry James (1876)

An enthusiasm for Poe is the mark of a decidedly primitive stage of reflection.

5. John Updike, according to Gore Vidal (2008)

I can't stand him. Nobody will think to ask because I'm supposedly jealous; but I out-sell him. I'm more popular than he is, and I don't take him very seriously...oh, he comes on like the worker's son, like a modern-day D.H. Lawrence, but he's just another boring little middle-class boy hustling his way to the top if he can do it.

6. William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, according to Samuel Pepys (1662)

...we saw 'Midsummer Night's Dream,' which I had never seen before, nor shall ever again, for it is the most insipid ridiculous play that ever I saw in my life.

7. Edward Bulwer-Lytton, according to Nathaniel Hawthorne (1851)

Bulwer nauseates me; he is the very pimple of the age's humbug. There is no hope of the public, so long as he retains an admirer, a reader, or a publisher.

Charles Dickens writing something rotten, vulgar, and un-literary

8. Charles Dickens, according to Arnold Bennett (1898)

About a year ago, from idle curiosity, I picked up 'The Old Curiosity Shop', and of all the rotten vulgar un-literary writing...! Worse than George Eliot's. If a novelist can't write where is the beggar.

9. J.K. Rowling, according to Harold Bloom (2000)

How to read 'Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone'? Why, very quickly, to begin with, and perhaps also to make an end. Why read it? Presumably, if you cannot be persuaded to read anything better, Rowling will have to do.

10. Oscar Wilde, according to Noel Coward (1946)

Am reading more of Oscar Wilde. What a tiresome, affected sod.

11. Fyodor Dostoevsky, according to Vladimir Nabokov

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.

12. John Milton's Paradise Lost, according to Samuel Johnson

'Paradise Lost' is one of the books which the reader admires and lays down, and forgets to take up again. None ever wished it longer than it is.

13. Oliver Goldsmith's The Vicar of Wakefield, according to Mark Twain (1897)

Also, to be fair, there is another word of praise due to this ship's library: it contains no copy of 'The Vicar of Wakefield', that strange menagerie of complacent hypocrites and idiots, of theatrical cheap-john heroes and heroines, who are always showing off, of bad people who are not interesting, and good people who are fatiguing.

14. Ezra Pound, according to Conrad Aiken (1918)

For in point of style, or manner, or whatever, it is difficult to imagine anything much worse than the prose of Mr. Pound. It is ugliness and awkwardness incarnate. Did he always write so badly?

15. James Joyce's Ulysses, according to George Bernard Shaw (1921)

I have read several fragments of 'Ulysses' in its serial form. It is a revolting record of a disgusting phase of civilisation; but it is a truthful one; and I should like to put a cordon around Dublin; round up every male person in it between the ages of 15 and 30; force them to read it; and ask them whether on reflection they could see anything amusing in all that foul mouthed, foul minded derision and obscenity.

16. George Bernard Shaw, according to Roger Scruton (1990)

Concerning no subject would he be deterred by the minor accident of complete ignorance from penning a definitive opinion.

Goethe, author of the worst book Samuel Butler ever read

17. Jane Austen, according to Charlotte Bronte (1848)

Why do you like Miss Austen so very much? I am puzzled on that point. What induced you to say that you would rather have written 'Pride and Prejudice'...than any of the Waverly novels? I should hardly like to live with her ladies and gentlemen, in their elegant but confined houses.

18. Goethe, according to Samuel Butler (1874)

I have been reading a translation of Goethe's 'Wilhelm Meister.' Is it good? To me it seems perhaps the very worst book I ever read. No Englishman could have written such a book. I cannot remember a single good page or idea....Is it all a practical joke? If it really is Goethe's 'Wilhelm Meister' that I have been reading, I am glad I have never taken the trouble to learn German.

19. John Steinbeck, according to James Gould Cozzens (1957)

I can't read ten pages of Steinbeck without throwing up. I couldn't read the proletariat crap that came out in the '30s.

20. Herman Melville, according to D.H. Lawrence (1923)

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!

21. Jonathan Swift, according to Samuel Johnson (1791)

Swift has a higher reputation than he deserves...I doubt whether 'The Tale of a Tub' to be his; for he never owned it, and it is much above his usual manner.

22. Gertrude Stein, according to Wyndham Lewis (1927)

Gertrude Stein's prose-song is a cold black suet-pudding. We can represent it as a cold suet-roll of fabulously reptilian length. Cut it at any point, it is the same thing; the same heavy, sticky, opaque mass all through and all along.

23. Emile Zola, according to Anatole France (1911)

His work is evil, and he is one of those unhappy beings of whom one can say that it would be better had he never been born.

24. J.D.Salinger, according to Mary McCarthy (1962)

I don't like Salinger, not at all. That last thing isn't a novel anyway, whatever it is. I don't like it. Not at all. It suffers from this terrible sort of metropolitan sentimentality and it's so narcissistic. And to me, also, it seemed so false, so calculated. Combining the plain man with an absolutely megalomaniac egotism. I simply can't stand it.

25. Mark Twain, according to William Faulkner (1922)

A hack writer who would not have been considered fourth rate in Europe, who tricked out a few of the old proven sure fire literary skeletons with sufficient local color to intrigue the superficial and the lazy.

And now, on with the jollity.

26. Marcel Proust, according to Evelyn Waugh (1948)

I am reading Proust for the first time. Very poor stuff. I think he was mentally defective.

27. William Faulkner, according to Ernest Hemingway

Have you ever heard of anyone who drank while he worked? You're thinking of Faulkner. He does sometimes -- and I can tell right in the middle of a page when he's had his first one.

28. E.M. Forster's Howards End, according to Katherine Mansfield (1915)

Putting my weakest books to the wall last night I came across a copy of 'Howards End' and had a look into it. Not good enough. 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.

And I can never be perfectly certain whether Helen was got with child by Leonard Bast or by his fatal forgotten umbrella. All things considered, I think it must have been the umbrella.

29. Voltaire, according to Charles Baudelaire (1864)

I grow bored in France -- and the main reason is that everybody here resembles Voltaire...the king of nincompoops, the prince of the superficial, the anti-artist, the spokesman of janitresses, the Father Gigone of the editors of Siecle.

30. Charles Dickens, according to George Meredith

Not much of Dickens will live, because it has so little correspondence to life...If his novels are read at all in the future, people will wonder what we saw in them, save some possible element of fun meaningless to them.

31. Jane Austen, according to Mark Twain (1898)

I haven't any right to criticize books, and I don't do it except when I hate them. I often want to criticize Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can't conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Every time I read 'Pride and Prejudice,' I want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shin-bone.

32. Gustave Flaubert, according to George Moore (1888)

Flaubert bores me. What nonsense has been talked about him!

33. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, according to Gore Vidal (1980)

He is a bad novelist and a fool. The combination usually makes for great popularity in the US.

Solzhenitsyn: "a bad novelist and a fool'

34. Ernest Hemingway, according to Tom Wolfe

Take Hemingway. People always think that the reason he's easy to read is that he is concise. He isn't. I hate conciseness -- it's too difficult. The reason Hemingway is easy to read is that he repeats himself all the time, using 'and' for padding.

35. James Joyce's Ulysses, according to Virginia Woolf (1922)

I dislike 'Ulysses' more and more -- that is I think it more and more unimportant; and don't even trouble conscientiously to make out its meanings. Thank God, I need not write about it.

36. William Shakespeare, according to George Bernard Shaw (1896)

With the exception of Homer, there is no eminent writer, not even Sir Walter Scott, whom I can despise so entirely as I despise Shakespeare when I measure my mind against his. The intensity of my impatience with him occasionally reaches such a pitch, that it would positively be a relief to me to dig him up and throw stones at him, knowing as I do how incapable he and his worshippers are of understanding any less obvious form of indignity.

37. Charles Lamb, according to Thomas Carlyle

Charles Lamb I sincerely believe to be in some considerable degree insane. A more pitiful, rickety, gasping, staggering, stammering tomfool I do not know. He is witty by denying truisms and abjuring good manners. His speech wriggles hither and thither with an incessant painful fluctuation; not an opinion in it or a fact or even a phrase that you can thank him for....

38. Edith Sitwell, according to Dylan Thomas (1934)

Isn't she a poisonous thing of a woman, lying, concealing, flipping, plagiarising, misquoting, and being as clever a crooked literary publicist as ever.

39. James Jones, according to Ernest Hemingway (1951)

To me he is an enormously skillful f#*&-up and his book will do great damage to our country. Probably I should re-read it again to give you a truer answer. But I do not have to eat an entire bowl of scabs to know they are scabs...I hope he kills himself....

40. Sir Walter Scott, according to Mark Twain (1883)

Then comes Sir Walter Scott with his enchantments, and by his single might checks...progress, and even turns it back; sets the world in love with dreams and phantoms; with decayed and swinish forms of religion; with decayed and degraded systems of government; with the silliness and emptiness, sham grandeurs, sham gauds, and sham chivalries of a brainless and worthless long-vanished society. He did measureless harm; more real and lasting harm, perhaps, than any other individual that ever wrote.

41. Jane Austen, according to Ralph Waldo Emerson (1861)

I am at a loss to understand why people hold Miss Austen's novels at so high a rate, which seem to me vulgar in tone, sterile in artistic invention, imprisoned in their wretched conventions of English society, without genius, wit, or knowledge of the world.

42. Robert Frost, according to James Dickey (1981)

If it were thought that anything I wrote was influenced by Robert Frost, I would take that particular work of mine, shred it, and flush it down the toilet, hoping not to clog the pipes....a more sententious, holding-forth old bore, who expected every hero-worshipping adenoidal little twerp of a student-poet to hang on his every word I never saw.

43. Tom Wolfe, according to John Irving (1999)

He doesn't know how to write fiction, he can't create a character, he can't create a situation...You see people reading him on airplanes, the same people who are reading John Grisham, for Christ's sake....I'm using the argument against him that he can't write, that his sentences are bad, that it makes you wince. It's like reading a bad newspaper or a bad piece in a magazine....You know, if you were a good skater, could you watch someone just fall down all the time? Could you do that? I can't do that.
44. Bret Harte, according to Mark Twain (1878)

Harte is a liar, a thief, a swindler, a snob, a sot, a sponge, a coward, a Jeremy Diddler, he is brim full of treachery, and he conceals his Jewish birth as carefully as if he considered it a disgrace. How do I know? By the best of all evidence, personal observation.

45. Thomas Carlyle, according to Anthony Trollope (1850)

I have read -- nay, I have bought! -- Carlyle's 'Latter Day Pamphlets,' and look on my eight shillings as very much thrown away. To me it appears that the grain of sense is so smothered up in a sack of the sheerest trash, that the former is valueless....I look on him as a man who was always in danger of going mad in literature and who has now done so.

46. Henry James, according to Arnold Bennett

It took me years to ascertain that Henry James's work was giving me little pleasure....In each case I asked myself: 'What the dickens is this novel about, and where does it think it's going to?' Question unanswerable! I gave up. Today I have no recollection whatever of any characters or any events in either novel.

47. James Fenimore Cooper, according to Mark Twain (1895)

Cooper's art has some defects. In one place in 'Deerslayer,' and in the restricted space of two-thirds of a page, Cooper has scored 114 offences against literary art out of a possible 115. It breaks the record.

48. Gore Vidal, according to Martin Amis (1995)

Vidal gives the impression of believing that the entire heterosexual edifice -- registry offices, 'Romeo and Juliet,' the disposable diaper -- is just a sorry story of self-hypnosis and mass hysteria: a hoax, a racket, or sheer propaganda.

49. Elizabeth Barrett Browning, according to Edward Fitzgerald (1861)

She and her sex had better mind the kitchen and her children; and perhaps the poor; except in such things as little novels, they only devote themselves to what men do much better, leaving that which men do worse or not at all.

I did say at the start of this unending Marah that these snippets of snarkiness weren't necessarily in order. I have, however, saved my absolute favorite for the end:

50. Tom Wolfe's A Man in Full, according to Norman Mailer (1998)

The book has gas and runs out of gas, fills up again, goes dry. It is a 742-page work that reads as if it is fifteen hundred pages long....

At certain points, reading the work can even be said to resemble the act of making love to a three-hundred pound woman. Once she gets on top, it's over. Fall in love, or be asphyxiated. So you read and you grab and you even find delight in some of these mounds of material. Yet all the while you resist -- how you resist! -- letting three hundred pounds take you over.

Now, that's a non-clichéd review for you.

Most of these are embarrassing and reflect worse upon the shit-talker than the shit-talked. Calling Flaubert 'boring' or Melville 'clownish' reveals a literary taste so poor it is bound to permeate through their own writings. Nabokov is possibly the most overrated novelist of all time, yet he has the guts to criticize Dostoevsky...

HR Professional of Color

Gore Vidal to Norman Mailer, after Mailer objected to Vidal calling him "old jew" at a cocktail party and punched him in the face: "Words fail Norman Mailer once again."

This is my favorite anecdote of all time because everybody gets what they deserve. Mailer was a pompous and absurd manlet, and Vidal was a singularly unpleasant person, and almost certainly a pedophile . He was one of those 50s-60s literary homosexuals, including most of the beats, who - I suppose to their credit - made no effort to hide what gay "love" was in practice: transactional sex between sociopathic narcissists, although he at least tried to hide the pederasty part. This wasn't really remarked on much at the time, because everybody knew that's what homosexuality is; and it isn't known now, because soulless deviates like Ginsburg, Bowles, and even the reptilian Burroughs have been Disneyfied into "gay rights icons". That these guys were able to move so easily in high literary, and on many cases political, circles is not incidental.

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Nabokov's Recommendations
Vladimir Nabokov's opinions on various writers, culled from Strong Opinions .

  • Auden, W. H. Not familiar with his poetry, but his translations contain deplorable blunders.
  • Austen, Jane. Great.
  • Balzac, Honoré de. Mediocre. Fakes realism with easy platitudes.
  • Barbusse, Henri. Second-rate. A tense-looking but really very loose type of writing.
  • Barth, John.
    • "Lost in the Funhouse." A particular favorite. Lovely swift speckled imagery.
  • Beckett, Samuel. Author of lovely novellas and wretched plays.
    • Molloy. Favorite work by Beckett.
    • Malone Dies. A favorite work by Beckett.
    • The Unnamable. A favorite work by Beckett.
  • Bely, Andrei.
    • Petersburg. Third-greatest masterpiece of 20th century prose. A splendid fantasy.
  • Bergson, Henri. A favorite between the ages of 20 and 40, and thereafter.
  • Blok, Alexander. A favorite between the ages of 10 and 15, and thereafter. Passionately fond of his lyrics, but his long pieces are weak.
    • The Twelve. Dreadful. Self-consciously couched in a phony "primitive" tone, with a pink cardboard Jesus Christ glued on at the end.
  • Borges, Jorge Luis. A favorite. How freely one breathes in his marvelous labyrinths! Lucidity of thought, purity of poetry. A man of infinite talent.
  • Brecht, Bertolt. A nonentity, means absolutely nothing to me.
  • Brooke, Rupert. A favorite between the ages of 20 and 40, but no longer.
  • Browning, Robert. A favorite between the ages of 10 and 15, and thereafter.
  • Bryusov, Valery. Indifferent to his works.
  • Camus, Albert. Dislike him. Second-rate, ephemeral, puffed-up. A nonentity, means absolutely nothing to me. Awful.
  • Carroll, Lewis. Have always been fond of him. One would like to have filmed his picnics. The greatest children's story writer of all time.
  • Céline, Louis-Ferdinand. Second-rate. A tense-looking but really very loose type of writing.
  • Cervantes, Miguel de.
    • Don Quixote. A cruel and crude old book.
  • Cheever, John.
    • "The Country Husband." A particular favorite. Satisfying coherence.
  • Chekhov, Anton. A favorite between the ages of 10 and 15, and thereafter. Talent, but not genius. Love him dearly, but cannot rationalize that feeling.
  • Chernyshevsky, Nikolai. His fate is moving, but his works are risible.
  • Chesterton, G. K. A favorite between the ages of 8 and 14. Essentially a writer for very young people. Romantic in the large sense.
  • Conan Doyle, Arthur. A favorite between the ages of 8 and 14, but no longer. Essentially a writer for very young people. Romantic in the large sense.
  • Conrad, Joseph. A favorite between the ages of 8 and 14. Essentially a writer for very young people. Certainly inferior to Hemingway and Wells. Intolerable souvenir-shop style, romanticist clichés. Nothing I would care to have written myself. In mentality and emotion, hopelessly juvenile. Romantic in the large sense. Slightly bogus.
  • Dostoevsky, Fyodor. Dislike him. A cheap sensationalist, clumsy and vulgar. A prophet, a claptrap journalist and a slapdash comedian. Some of his scenes are extraordinarily amusing. Nobody takes his reactionary journalism seriously.
    • The Double. His best work, though an obvious and shameless imitation of Gogol's "Nose."
    • The Brothers Karamazov. Dislike it intensely.
    • Crime and Punishment. Dislike it intensely. Ghastly rigmarole.
  • Douglas, Norman. A favorite between the ages of 20 and 40, and thereafter.
  • Dreiser, Theodore. Dislike him. A formidable mediocrity.
  • Eliot, T. S. Not quite first-rate.
  • Emerson, Ralph Waldo. His poetry is delightful.
  • Faulkner, William. Dislike him. Writer of corncobby chronicles. To consider them masterpieces is an absurd delusion. A nonentity, means absolutely nothing to me.
  • Flaubert, Gustave. A favorite between the ages of 10 and 15, and thereafter. Read complete works between 14 and 15.
  • Forster, E. M. Only read one of his novels (possibly A Passage to India ?) and disliked it.
  • Freud, Sigmund. A figure of fun. Loathe him. Vile deceit. Freudian interpretation of dreams is charlatanic, and satanic, nonsense.
  • Galsworthy, John. A formidable mediocrity.
  • García Lorca, Federico. Second-rate, ephemeral, puffed-up.
  • Gogol, Nikolai. Nobody takes his mystical didacticism seriously. At his worst, as in his Ukrainian stuff, he is a worthless writer; at his best, he is incomparable and inimitable. Loathe his moralistic slant, am depressed and puzzled by his inability to describe young women, deplore his obsession with religion.
  • Gold, Herbert.
    • "Death in Miami Beach." A particular favorite.
  • Gorky, Maxim. A formidable mediocrity.
  • Hawthorne, Nathaniel. A splendid writer.
  • Hellens, Franz. Very important.
    • La femme partagee. Like it particularly.
  • Hemingway, Ernest. A writer of books for boys. Certainly better than Conrad. Has at least a voice of his own. Nothing I would care to have written myself. In mentality and emotion, hopelessly juvenile. Loathe his works about bells, balls, and bulls.
    • The Killers. Delightful, highly artistic. Admirable.
    • The Old Man and the Sea. Wonderful. The description of the iridescent fish and rhythmic urination is superb.
  • Housman, A. E. A favorite between the ages of 20 and 40, and thereafter.
  • Ilf and Petrov. Two wonderfully gifted writers. Absolutely first-rate fiction.
  • Ivanov, Georgy. A good poet but a scurrilous critic.
  • James, Henry. Dislike him rather intensely, but now and then his wording causes a kind of electric tingle. Certainly not a genius.
  • Joyce, James. Great. A favorite between the ages of 20 and 40, and thereafter. Let people compare me to Joyce by all means, but my English is patball to Joyce's champion game. A genius.
    • Ulysses. A divine work of art. Greatest masterpiece of 20th century prose. Towers above the rest of Joyce's writing. Noble originality, unique lucidity of thought and style. Molly's monologue is the weakest chapter in the book. Love it for its lucidity and precision.
    • A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Never liked it. A feeble and garrulous book.
    • Finnegans Wake. A formless and dull mass of phony folklore, a cold pudding of a book. Conventional and drab, redeemed from utter insipidity only by infrequent snatches of heavenly intonations. Detest it. A cancerous growth of fancy word-tissue hardly redeems the dreadful joviality of the folklore and the easy, too easy, allegory. Indifferent to it, as to all regional literature written in dialect. A tragic failure and a frightful bore.
  • Kafka, Franz.
    • The Metamorphosis. Second-greatest masterpiece of 20th century prose.
  • Kazantzakis, Nikos. Second-rate, ephemeral, puffed-up.
  • Keats, John. A favorite between the ages of 10 and 15, and thereafter.
  • Khodasevich, Vladislav. The greatest Russian poet of his time.
  • Kipling, Rudyard. A favorite between the ages of 8 and 14. Essentially a writer for very young people. Romantic in the large sense.
  • Lawrence, D. H. Second-rate, ephemeral, puffed-up. Mediocre. Fakes realism with easy platitudes. Execrable.
  • Lowell, Robert. Not a good translator. A greater offender than Auden.
  • Mandelshtam, Osip. A wonderful poet, the greatest in Soviet Russia. His poems are admirable specimens of the human mind at its deepest and highest. Not as good as Blok. His tragic fate makes his poetry seem greater than it actually is.
  • Mann, Thomas. Dislike him. Second-rate, ephemeral, puffed-up.
    • Death in Venice. Asinine. To consider it a masterpiece is an absurd delusion. Poshlost . Mediocre, but anyway plausible.
  • Maupassant, Guy de. Certainly not a genius.
  • Maugham, W. Somerset. Mediocre. Fakes realism with easy platitudes. Certainly not a genius.
  • Melville, Herman. Love him. One would like to have filmed him at breakfast, feeding a sardine to his cat.
  • Marx, Karl. Loathe him.
  • Milton, John. A genius.
  • Odoevsky, Vladimir. Indifferent to his works.
  • Yury Olesha. Some absolutely first-rate fiction.
  • Orczy, Baroness Emmuska.
    • The Scarlet Pimpernel. A favorite between the ages of 10 and 15, but no longer.
  • Pasternak, Boris. An excellent poet, but a poor novelist.
    • Doctor Zhivago. Detest it. Melodramatic and vilely written. To consider it a masterpiece is an absurd delusion. Pro-Bolshevist, historically false. A sorry thing, clumsy, trivial, melodramatic, with stock situations and trite coincidences.
  • Pirandello, Luigi. Never cared for him.
  • Plato. Not particularly fond of him.
  • Poe, Edgar Allan. A favorite between the ages of 10 and 15, but no longer. One would like to have filmed his wedding.
  • Pound, Ezra. Definitely second-rate. A total fake. A venerable fraud.
  • Proust, Marcel. A favorite between the ages of 20 and 40, and thereafter.
    • In Search of Lost Time. The first half is the fourth-greatest masterpiece of 20th-century prose.
  • Pushkin, Alexander. A favorite between the ages of 20 and 40, and thereafter. A genius.
    • Eugene Onegin. A great poem. Walter Arndt's translation is abominable.
  • Queneau, Raymond.
    • Exercises de style. A thrilling masterpiece, one of the greatest stories in French literature.
    • Zazie. Very fond of it.
  • Ransom, John Crowe.
    • Captain Carpenter. Admire this poem.
  • Rimbaud, Arthur. A favorite between the ages of 10 and 15, and thereafter.
  • Robbe-Grillet, Alain. Great. A favorite. How freely one breathes in his marvelous labyrinths! Lucidity of thought, purity of poetry. Magnificently poetical and original.
  • Rolland, Romain. A formidable mediocrity.
  • Salinger, J. D. By far one of the finest artists in recent years.
    • "A Perfect Day for Bananafish." A great story. A particular favorite.
  • Sartre, Jean-Paul. Even more awful than Camus.
    • Nausea. Second-rate. A tense-looking but really very loose type of writing.
  • Schwartz, Delmore.
    • "In Dreams Begin Responsibilities." A particular favorite.
  • Schweitzer, Albert. Detest him.
  • Shakespeare, William. Read complete works between 14 and 15. One would like to have filmed him in the role of the King's Ghost. His verbal poetic texture is the greatest the world has ever known, and immensely superior to the structure of his plays as plays. It is the metaphor that is the thing, not the play. A genius.
  • Sterne, Laurence. Love him.
  • Sue, Eugène. Melodramatic, second-rate.
  • Tagore, Rabindranath. A formidable mediocrity.
  • Tolstoy, Aleksey. A writer of some talent with two or three science fiction stories or novels which are memorable.
  • Tolstoy, Leo. A favorite between the ages of 10 and 15, and thereafter. Read complete works between 14 and 15. Nobody takes his utilitarian moralism seriously. A genius.
    • Anna Karenina. Incomparable prose artistry. The supreme masterpiece of 19th-century literature.
    • The Death of Ivan Ilyich. A close second to Anna Karenina.
    • Resurrection. Detest it.
    • The Kreutzer Sonata. Detest it.
    • War and Peace. A little too long. A rollicking historical novel written for the general reader, specifically for the young. Artistically unsatisfying. Cumbersome messages, didactic interludes, artificial coincidences. Uncritical of its historical sources.
  • Turgenev, Ivan. Talent, but not genius.
  • Tyutchev, Fyodor. A great lyrical poet.
  • Updike, John. By far one of the finest artists in recent years. Like so many of his stories that it is difficult to choose one.
    • "The Happiest I've Been." A particular favorite.
  • Verlaine, Paul. A favorite between the ages of 10 and 15, and thereafter.
  • Verne, Jules.
    • Around the World in Eighty Days. A favorite between the ages of 10 and 15, but no longer.
  • Wells, H. G. A favorite between the ages of 10 and 15, and thereafter. A great artist, my favorite writer when I was a boy. His sociological cogitations can be safely ignored, but his romances and fantasies are superb. A far greater artist than Conrad. A writer for whom I have the deepest admiration.
    • The Passionate Friends. Better than anything any of Wells' contemporaries would produce.
    • Ann Veronica. Better than anything any of Wells' contemporaries would produce.
    • The Time Machine. Better than anything any of Wells' contemporaries would produce. Especially good.
    • The Country of the Blind. Better than anything any of Wells' contemporaries would produce. Especially good.
    • The Invisible Man. Especially good.
    • The War of the Worlds. Especially good.
    • The First Men on the Moon. Especially good.
  • Wilbur, Richard.
    • "Complaint." A piece of great poetry.
  • Wilde, Oscar. Rank moralist and didacticist. A favorite between the ages of 8 and 14. Essentially a writer for very young people. Romantic in the large sense.
  • Wolfe, Thomas. Second-rate, ephemeral, puffed-up.
  • Zabolotsky, Nikolai. Enormously gifted.
  • Zamyatin, Yevgeny. Indifferent to his works.
  • Zoshchenko, Mikhail. Some absolutely first-rate fiction.
Niccolo and Donkey
I like this juxtaposition a lot. Brecht is the epitome of snobbily-received taste while Borges is rendered to the 'extremist' sidelines.

Я Сам


Nabokov's descriptions in that list are great. I love these two in particular and will use them: "a venerable fraud" and "a formidable mediocrity."


I've never read Nabokov, but I find him suspicious since the midwit progtards seem to have taken him up as a mascot since he wrote Lolita and they think he is "transgressive". Would anyone with more culture than I care to expound their opinion of his work?

Я Сам
As the Nabokov scholar of this territory, I'd like to expound for ya.

Do not take the "midwit progtards" appreciation of a good thing to mean that said good thing is in fact a bad thing. Nabokov is an unfathomably good thing, and is appreciated by many for his ability to spin a yarn like no other. I highly recommend all of his works, from his early poetry & plays, to his russian novels, to his english novels, to his literary criticisms & his translations; everything he touched turned to gold.

To the point: The thing about Lolita is that it's a great, great novel. Even though many read it and think it is a standard albeit "risque" romance novel, and thus, misunderstand the delusive and manipulative narrator (nevermind Vlad the trickster author behind the narrator etc), taking him at his word, despite his constant bragging about how great of a liar he is... This sort of reader becomes complicit in the very problem, as it occurs in life. Many are seduced by the whiles and charms of evil men and tyrants.

The "transgressive" angle is not quite unique for a Modernist novel of the 20th century. It was only a few years prior, really, that James Joyce's Ulysses was defended against charges of "pornography" and "obscenity" in US court (for its scenes at brothels, public masturbation, etc). Although, it might be fair to say that the novel was calculated to prick at the taboos and hypocrisies of american society (there are many references to the pedophilic nature of Hollywood, Shirley Temple, young girls reading about film celebrities in magazines, etc). But even this is missing the mark to a degree, as Vlad had already been working on a version of the general story during his years in the Russian emigre scene (it was titled "The Enchanter"; & even before this, the general plot is splayed out by a minor character in "The Gift" as an idea for a story the self-insert protagonist *should* write in the future). VN composed all of his works on index cards, & Lolita was nearly burned one night in Syracuse, in an outdoor stove, but Vlad's wife Vera stepped in to save it. VN initially planned to publish it anonymously, out of fear for his own safety (for years, and even to this day, people paint him as a pedophile).

Nabokov is considered a bit of an "amoralist" by the sorts of readers who only know him for Lolita, but this is to misunderstand him quite deeply. There is quite a bit of evidence that VN was privy to, if not victim of, his pedophilic catamitic uncle (& it is for this reason that he deplored homosexuality his whole life, which strained his relationship with his homosexual brother Sergei, who died in a Nazi concentration camp). Really though, VN was following in the footsteps of his father, who was a much beloved statesman/politician & Kadet (constitutional-democrat) & renowned criminologist (before taking a bullet meant for another man, sent by an emigre russian "fascist" who later became Hitler's head of Russian emigre affairs, thus leading to VN & family's move to Paris, and then to America...) VN did quite a fair share of research in writing Lolita, to be able to show the perverted mind of a self-justifying (& equally farcically *apologetic*) pedophile. He repeats this trick in Pale Fire, in which the character Kinbote is a paranoid psuedo-catholic who plays "ping pong" in his basement with many "nubile boys."

Perhaps this has been a digression, but:

TL;DR- Read Nabokov. Read him religiously, copiously, & passionately, libtards be damned.
That would explain a lot.
Ada, or Ardor is more or less a weird parallel universe novel about sibling-fuckers. Somehow it manages to be erotic without being obscene, more or less because it's Nabokov. I had supposed there was some complex Borges or Eco style symbolism to this, but for all I know it could be part of his family history. I always liked Nabokov as a man, as he was a White Russian, a great talent and immune to Hebrew tricks (his quote on Freud remains the best one line dismissal of Jewish nonsense in written English; "Let the credulous and the vulgar continue to believe that all mental woes can be cured by a daily application of old Greek myths to their private parts" ), but his novels started to wear on me by my late 20s. As novels, they are unmistakably great works of art, and I'm pretty sure that's all he was concerned with. But alas, as I decay into my elementary particles, postmodernist novels, even good ones, start looking more and more alike to me.