Writers Hate Writers


In 1971 Norman Mailer head-butted Gore Vidal just before a recording of the Dick Cavett Show (both were invited guests), because Vidal gave a bad review to “The Prisoner of Love” published earlier in the year. The on-screen exchange is a classic of television invective.

Vidal smartly forgave Mailer in a not so many words:

“Yet of all my contemporaries I retain the greatest affection for Norman as a force and as an artist. He is a man whose faults, though many, add to rather than subtract from the sum of his natural achievements.”

Martin Amis once described Mailer as “this pampered super-brat.”

Mark Twain hated Jane Austen:

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

But then again, Mark Twain held many greats in little regard, including the Great Bard:

“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…”

William Faulkner, on the other hand, had this to say about Twain:

“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.

Ernest Hemingway, according to Vladimir Nabokov: 

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

Jan Diehm created a curious and entertaining interactive infographic for The Huffington Post, showing which ones of the famous writers had to gird their loins against the barbs and arrows of which other famous writers.

Most of the remarks are gloriously witty, truly worthy of the great talents that put hand to paper. 

Follow the link WAY HARSH. Famous Authors Who Hated Each Other’s Writing (Infographic) to a full screen interactive version.






The longest word I ever pronounced in earnest, although not without difficulty but in one breath, looked approximately like this (I added dashes for clarity): sextum-secus-rhetro-sternum-cleido-mostur-dem-gruber, and sounded funny in heavily Russian-accented Latin. Supposedly, this is the name of some small bone in human body. Or maybe not, and it was a joke.

Our professor of anatomy swore to us that his university professor of anatomy, who studied in Vienna and debated over the cup of coffee with Sigmund Freud, used to hold a tiny bone in front of his students’ faces, and then toss it into the air. Before he could catch it, the student had to give a full Latin name of the blasted bone. The Freud’s friend professor was hard of hearing and, taking a full advantage of it, his students mumbled something that sounded appropriately Latin, like monster-dentum-inter-dem-sphincter-et-vertebra-prominens and got away with it.

Latin and Russian languages aren’t known for their love of extra-long words. English has more, but Americans developed virtual Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia – the fear of long words, and shorten rather than elongate their words.

ShakespeareShakespeare usually does not use any other words over 17 letters in length. Except once, in Love’s Labor’s Lost (Costard; Act V, Scene I):

O, they have lived long on the alms-basket of words.
I marvel thy master hath not eaten thee for a word;
for thou art not so long by the head as
honorificabilitudinitatibus: thou art easier
swallowed than a flap-dragon.

The word honorificabilitudinitatibus first appeared in English in 1599, and Bailey’s Dictionary listed it as the longest word in English.

But then, there is German with its love of stringing’em words up. Skip this if you are a native German speaker – there is nothing new or amusing here for you, guys.

German term for compound words is Bandwurmwörter, which is itself a compound word, meaning “tapeworm words”.

Mark Twain had lots of fun with it in The Awful German Language, calling long words “… grand mountain ranges …stretching across the printed page, it adorns and ennobles that literary landscape — but at the same time it is a great distress to the new student, for it blocks up his way; he cannot crawl under it, or climb over it, or tunnel through it…” 

Mark Twain

Mark Twain

Some of Mark Twain’s favorites:

Generalstaatsverordnetenversammlungen — seems to be “General-statesrepresentativesmeetings,” M. Twain surmises.

Kinderbewahrungsanstalten — Child-care institution?

Unabhängigkeitserklärungen — Declarations of independence.

Waffenstillstandsunterhandlungen — Armistice negotiations.

Mark Twain didn’t live to see (or try to pronounce) the champion of them all, German compound words: Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz, a 63-letter monster, which means “the law concerning the delegation of duties for the supervision of cattle marking and the labeling of beef”. It was introduced in 1999 during the BSE (Bovine spongiform encephalopathy) crisis in Europe. To ease the usage, it was given the abbreviation RkReÜAÜG – which was itself unpronounceable.

The longest authentic word in German usage at the time, it was dethroned after 8 years by Grundstücksverkehrsgenehmigungszuständigkeitsübertragungsverordnung – “regulation governing the delegation of authority pertaining to land conveyance permissions”, the word that was itself ditched in 2007.

Now the celebrated as the longest word in the German tongue word Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz is gone. The reason? It’s no longer necessary because the EU halted BSE-testing.

Kraftfahrzeughaftpflichtversicherung – “motor vehicle indemnity insurance” is the king, after all being said.

Taumatawhakatangjjihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu is the longest-named place in the world, given to a New Zealand hill by the Maoris. (They must be smoking something really good there, in New Zeland, says I).

And, to the collection,  Llan­fair­pwll­gwyn­gyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llanty­silio­gogo­goch is a town in North Wales. The name roughly translates as: St. Mary’s Church in the hollow of the white hazel near to the rapid whirlpool of Llantysilio of the red cave. It is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records.Capture1

A DNA molecule could have a name of over 1,000,000,000 letters if it was written out in full.

SMILES is the longest word because there is a MILE between the first and last letters! This one is 2 miles long!

SMILES is the longest word because there is a MILE between the first and last letters! This one is 2 miles long!