When I was in graduate school, a good friend of mine decided I needed a nemesis. She already had one – or many, depending on the day – but my particular nemesis would be chosen on aesthetic grounds. This would be a classmate whose work in some way hurt my own: their short stories and mine, for one reason or another, could not comfortably coexist in the literary world. It was a fun, even philosophical, conversation; I can’t confirm this, but I’m pretty sure it occurred at a bar. To this day, my nemesis has no idea of our fraught relationship.
Earlier this week, the Los Angeles Times wrote about famous literary feuds, such as the one between Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne. At the paper’s book blog Jacket Copy, you’re invited to add your own favorite feuds in the comments section.
At dinner last night, my husband Patrick and I discussed this with a friend. She pointed out that though literary feuds are fun to talk and read about, being in one must feel really terrible. I didn’t think so; I’m itching for a fight, maybe. We talked about ways I might get involved in one. First thing’s first, I would need to publish a book – otherwise, nobody will care. Next? “Just call Keith Gessen a douchebag,” Patrick suggested. I’ve never read the guy, but we agreed he’d probably be game for some literary mudslinging. I would definitely need an enthusiastic participant. My friend suggested Zadie Smith, but I’m not sure I want to get the English involved. Plus, I’ve heard Smith is tall, and as the little sister of two tall women, I understand their fighting capabilities – I’d get my ass kicked. The three of us finished dinner, still uncertain how to proceed.
Do you have any ideas? And if you could be in a literary feud with an author, dead or alive, who would it be?