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Quotes from the “Angry Writer”

JK Evanczuk / Thursday, April 29, 2010 Comments Off

Last week Vol 1. Brooklyn touched upon the concept of the “angry writer” with the inclusion of the infamous J.D. Salinger photo (at left), to which the good folks at deckfight responded:

that picture is awesome, b/c authors no longer get angry. everyone is looking coy & smart in their jacket photos. not since hunter thompson looked angry, yelling & shooting stuff. mailer looked angry sometimes, yelling & swinging his fists. maybe william vollman is now ticked off.

The photo at left was taken by two, in Salinger’s words, “shitty literary kids,” who essentially ambushed him for the sake of the photograph. “The wonder is that I have any kind of face at all left, grim or otherwise,” he said. “Piss on ’em all.”

There’s definitely a certain appeal about the “angry” writer. I don’t think I’m the only one intrigued with this idea; the Examiner recently put out a much talked about list of the best “author vs author put-downs of all time.” Maybe the “angry writer” appeals to us because in an oblique way the idea reminds me of some of the literary greats–yes, Salinger, and also Hemingway and Vonnegut and Twain, among others–writers who generally didn’t give a damn about what people thought of them and weren’t preoccupied with their sales ranking in The New York Times Book Review. If only we could be so free.

Times have changed, I guess, and like deckfight said, no one really gets angry anymore. But I still get a kick whenever authors “let loose” and refuse to censor themselves. Accordingly, I’ve put together a few of my favorite “angry writer” quotes. Hope you enjoy:

Maurice Sendak

Re: parents concerned with Where the Wild Things Are being “too scary”:

“I would tell them to go to hell,” Sendak said. And if children can’t handle the story, they should “go home,” he added. “Or wet your pants. Do whatever you like.”

Gore Vidal

Some selections from a New York Times interview with Deborah Soloman:

Were you chaste during those years? Chased by whom?

If we look at the situation apart from you — It’s my interview, so we’ve got to stay with me.

Do you read a lot of contemporary fiction these days? Like everyone else, no, I don’t.

Your new collection includes an essay in which you note, “Calvino does what very few writers can do: he describes imaginary worlds with the most extraordinary precision and beauty.” What about American novelists? Can’t think of one.

What do you think is your own best novel? I don’t answer questions like that. Ever. And you ought not to ask them.

Well, it was a great pleasure talking to you. I doubt that.

Mark Twain

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.

From a 1905 letter to a patent medicine salesman:

The person who wrote the advertisements is without doubt the most ignorant person now alive on the planet; also without doubt he is an idiot, an idiot of the 33rd degree, and scion of an ancestral procession of idiots stretching back to the Missing Link.

John Irving

In an interview for Big Think:

If I were twenty-seven and trying to publish my first novel today, I might be tempted to shoot myself.

Alain de Botton

In response to a negative review:

I will hate you till the day I die and wish you nothing but ill will in every career move you make.

Nicolas Sparks

OH NO HE DID NOT:

Cormac McCarthy? Horrible…This is probably the most pulpy, overwrought, melodramatic cowboy vs. Indians story ever written.

Martin Amis

Not pertaining to literature, but I felt compelled to include Amis on this list because half the time I honestly can’t believe what comes out of this man’s mouth:

There’ll be a population of demented very old people, like an invasion of terrible immigrants, stinking out the restaurants and cafes and shops. I can imagine a sort of civil war between the old and the young in 10 or 15 years’ time.

Ernest Hemingway

Re: James Jones:

To me he is an enormously skillful fuck-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….

Feel free to add your own “angry writer” quotes to this list.

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More: Books
  • jenwg

    so are women writers ever angry?
    just curious.

  • http://www.litdrift.com JK

    I wasn’t trying to cover every gender, race, nationality, and creed on this list–just trying to pick my favorites, which coincidentally happen to be from men. But yes, lady writers have been known to get angry.

    See Candace Sams and Alice Hoffman: http://www.litdrift.com/2009/12/29/do-not-threaten-to-report-your-negative-reviewers-to-the-fbi-or-on-dealing-with-criticism/

  • http://bookshopstop.com/?p=1259 Online Book Store and News – In the News: The Undead Novel, Chinglish

    [...] Angry writers strike back. [...]

  • http://www.planetpeschel.com Bill Peschel

    I still like the music composers Max Reger response to the author of a critical review: “I am in the smallest room of the house. I have your review in front of me. Soon it will be behind me.”

  • http://www.selectism.com/news/2010/05/07/selectism-around-the-web-269/ Selectism | Around the Web | Selectism.com

    [...] them and weren’t preoccupied with their sales ranking in The New York Times Book Review.” (lit drift) swfobject.embedSWF("http://www.vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf", "vvq-39934-vimeo-1", "540", "405", "9", [...]

  • http://selectism.fashionsblogs.com/selectism-around-the-web-20/ Selectism | Around the Web | selectism

    [...] 4) Quotes from the “Angry Writer” “Maybe the “angry writer” appeals to us because in an oblique way the idea reminds me of some of the literary greats–yes, Salinger, and also Hemingway and Vonnegut and Twain, among others–writers who generally didn’t give a damn about what people thought of them and weren’t preoccupied with their sales ranking in The New York Times Book Review.” (lit drift) [...]

  • Gripemaster

    Are women writers ever angry? I guess you haven’t read many interviews with women writers. Without naming names, I know of at least one who was at least as nasty as Gore Vidal to the reviewer. And I know another who treated the workshop members at a major writer’s conference as a group of annoying chimpanzee’s sent to torment her.

    I’m willing to believe male writers may, on average, have bigger egos or hotter tempers. But female writers are definitely not immune to writer rage.

  • http://wvumfa.wordpress.com/2010/05/07/writers-just-dont-get-angry-like-they-used-to/ Writers just don’t get angry like they used to… « Wvumfa's Blog

    [...] just don’t get angry like they used to… Comments like this are heard all the time in Colson Hall. No, not really. We like each other here at the WVU [...]

  • Nikki

    No Truman Capote?

  • http://www.patriciagoodwin.com Patricia Goodwin

    I haven’t read a sentence in a long time.

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  • http://booksaregood.wordpress.com/2010/05/10/angry-authors/ Angry Authors « Books Are Good

    [...] In General, authors on May 10, 2010 at 12:12 pm A good running list of some of the malicious and angry things said by various authors.  When you sit down and consider it, really nore of it should be much of a surprise.  Most of the [...]

  • Anonymous

    I especially enjoy the Sparks comment. Sparks, who most other writers rightly quickly dismiss as commercial and worthless, comments on the Lord McCarthy?! Unacceptable. Just unacceptable.

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