Not me. Mark Twain. He wasn’t in to Jane Austen, it would seem. And he was plenty pithy about it, as opposed to the 19 Rules of Literary Art his disgust with James Fenimore Cooper forced him to manufacture. I’m with him on ole Fenimore Cooper, though I myself am an Austen fan. Seems to me that if you are going to be anti-Jane, you best be able to do it as snarkily as Mr. Clemens did.
Want more? Alright:
Oscar Wilde, according to Noel Coward (1946):
Am reading more of Oscar Wilde. What a tiresome, affected sod.
God yes. I’ve never understood Wilde-worship that goes beyond his unbearably clever one-liners.
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.
I’ve been defeated by Paradise Lost a couple of times. One of these days.
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.
A lot of Steinbeck is, unfortunately, proletariat crap.
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.
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.
Take that, Bill!
Gustave Flaubert, according to George Moore (1888):
Flaubert bores me. What nonsense has been talked about him!
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.
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.
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.
And finally, Mr. Clemens gets his comeuppance:
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.
Thanks to the “Book Examiner” Michelle Kerns for getting these together. There are 50 all told.