Edited by Gary Dexter and Francis Lincoln: London
ISBN 978-0-7112-2929-7

Click Here To Purchae Poisoned Pens: Literary Invective from Amis to Zola

When reviewing a book, it's best to quote from it liberally, thereby revealing either the author's strengths or her weaknesses.  But how is one
to choose from literary invective authored by Aristophanes, Parker, Schiller, and Waugh, with targets ranging from Aristotle (by Martin Luther)
to Rowling (by Harold Bloom)?  O.K., here's one(no three):

(Gore Vidal on Solzhenitsyn) "He is a bad novelist and a fool. The combination usually makes for great popularity in the US."

(Kingsley Amis on Vidal) ".he seems to me to suffer from American cleverness: the fear of being though stupid, or dull, or behind the times."

(Philip Larkin on Amis) "The only reason I hope I predecease him is that I'd find it next to impossible to say anything nice about him at the funeral service." [Larkin did]

Dexter's collection of diatribes begins with de Quincy's (early 18th century A.D.) critique of Homer (9th century B.C.), runs quickly but feelingly through the early Greeks, Cicero, Chaucer, Dante, Cervantes, and the major British authors of the first 17 centuries, followed by the Augustans, the Romantics, the Victorians on both sides of the Channel and both sides of the Atlantic, and onto the truly vicious infighting of the 20th Century.

One may object to the exclusion of  obvious targets like Amy Tan or the later Pynchon and the inclusion of favorite authors such as Faulkner, Rowling and Solzhenitsyn, the latter, "a bad man but a great wizard."  Dexter's cultural bias is evident: Great Canadian, contemporary French, and African authors truly deserving of ridicule are excluded.  The contents of Poisoned Pens are restricted to writers on writers-no critics capable only of criticism allowed.  I would encourage readers to supplement this collection with critic Dwight MacDonald's Against the American Grain.

If you are a writer-and who isn't these days with the ready availability of word processing software, spelling checker, and on-line thesaurus-Poisoned Pens is a must purchase along with Rotten Rejections: The Letters That Publishers Wish They'd Never Sent, The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage and Lukeman's The First Five Pages.

Click Here To Purchae Poisoned Pens: Literary Invective from Amis to Zola