Fighting words: Six classic literary feuds


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Although F. Scott Fitzgerald helped Ernest Hemingway get ‘The Sun Also Rises’ published, Hemingway later had no problems criticizing his friend. ‘I always knew he couldn’t think -- he never could,’ Hemingway wrote in 1936, criticizing an article Fitzgerald had written. ‘He had a marvelous talent and the thing is to use it -- not whine in public.’ The relationship between the two giants of American literature is explored in ‘Fitzgerald and Hemingway: Work and Days,’ reviewed in today’s paper.

Fitzgerald and Hemingway were not the only writers to have a public falling-out. Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne might have been the first high-profile American writers to have a friendship publicly sour. Melville dedicated ‘Moby-Dick’ to Hawthorne, but two years later ceased corresponding with the more successful writer, perhaps because Hawthorne had failed to secure Melville a government job.


Meanwhile, several thousand miles away, three giants -- Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky and Ivan Turgenev -- carried on their dispute in public. They called one another names, satirized one another in print, and in 1861, Dostoevsky challenged Turgenev to a duel. It never happened, but they did stop speaking for almost 20 years.

More feuds were written up in today’s paper:

Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine met in 1871 and became lovers; within a year or so, the relationship grew fraught. In 1873, they reunited in Brussels, but it took only two days before Verlaine bought a gun and got drunk and shot Rimbaud in the wrist. Verlaine was charged with attempted murder and sentenced to a two-year prison term.

Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg: Even in the early days of their relationship, there was an undertone of suspicion on Kerouac’s part; in a 1952 letter, he wrote that Ginsberg should ‘leave me alone . . . & dont ever darken me again.’ But in the 1960s, after Kerouac rejected the counterculture that he and Ginsberg had helped create, things turned truly virulent, with the ‘On the Road’ writer veering into anti-Semitism to denigrate his onetime friend.

And though it’s been said they’ve made up, in 1976 Mario Vargas Llosa (right) punched Gabriel Garcia Marquez (left) in the face after a film screening, for reasons neither has acknowledged; the two didn’t speak for 30 years.

What’s your favorite literary feud?

-- Carolyn Kellogg