Honest criticism is hard to take, especially from a relative, a spouse, a friend, or even a stranger. What if the criticism comes from another writer? Writers like the rest of us are fascinated by other writers. They know how tough the trick of their trade is, and yet they are quick to condemn and dismiss fellow writers.
When Stephen King said:
“Both Rowling and Meyer, they’re speaking directly to young people. … The real difference is that Jo Rowling is a terrific writer and Stephenie Meyer can’t write worth a darn. She’s not very good.”
Some people, among them freelance writers, thought him too harsh on Meyers and argued that she can write.
Literature is full of such anecdotes.
Rebecca West of Evelyn Waugh: “a disgusting common little man.”
Thomas Carlyle of Charles Lamb: “A more pitiful, rickety, gasping, staggering, stammering tomfool I do not know.”
Thomas Carlyle of Goethe: “the greatest genius who has lived for a century, and the greatest ass who has lived for three.”
Henry James of Carlyle: “the same old sausage, fizzing and sputtering in his own grease.”
Lord Byron of Robert Southey: “a dirty, lying rascal.”
Robert Southey of Percy Bysshe Shelley: “a liar and a cheat” who “paid no regard to truth, nor to any kind of moral obligation.”
Emerson of Swinburne: “leper and a mere sodomite.”
Dorothy Parker of Maugham: “That old lady is a crashing bore.”
James Russell Lowell’s of Pope: “careless thinking carefully versified.”
Cyril Connoly of George Orwell: “He would not blow his nose without moralizing on the state of the handkerchief industry.”
Mary Russell Mitford wrote:
“Mama says she was then the prettiest, silliest, most affected, husband-hunting butterfly she ever remembers: and a friend of mine, who visits her now, says that she has stiffened into the most perpendicular, precise, taciturn piece of “single blessedness” that ever existed, and that till Pride and Prejudice showed what a precious gem was hidden in that unbending case, she was no more regarded in society than a poker or fire-screen, or any other thin upright piece of wood or iron that fills its corner in peace and quietness. The case is very different now: she is still a poker- but a poker of whom everyone is afraid.”
I am sure you guessed who Mary was talking about. Stay tuned for more (stories) tomorrow.