Frances Lincoln £7.99
Poisoned Pens: Literary Invective from Amis to Zola, ed Gary Dexter
Sunday 12 September 2010
From Aristophanes, who attacked Euripedes in his play The Frogs (Euripedes was safely dead by that point), to the critic Harold Bloom, who recently consigned Harry Potter to the "vast concourse of works that cram the dustbins of the ages", Gary Dexter's book compiles pithy put-downs and waspish jibes from writers.
It can be a rather ugly spectacle – literary pugilism from men you suspect wouldn't have been much cop in a real fight – but it is always compelling: Kingsley Amis writes of Dylan Thomas that he'd like to "walk on his face" and "punch his privy parts" in return for the "gonorrheic rubbish" of his poetry; Noël Coward calls Oscar Wilde a "tiresome, affected sod".
There is, Dexter insists, a serious point to all this. Writers ensconced in the canon are too often considered immune from criticism, and his book allows us the thrill of seeing sacred cows challenged. Shakespeare is dismissed by Ben Jonson, Voltaire and Tolstoy; Joyce's Ulysses is deemed "unimportant" by Woolf and a "joyless orgy" by EM Forster. Amis fils, meanwhile, likens the experience of reading Cervantes to a visit from a doddering old relative who outstays his welcome. There's something refreshing in hearing Don Quixote described as "insufferably dull", even if you're inclined to disagree.
educationTo mark International Women's Day, Sarah Brown on how charities have brought proper joined-up thinking to the delivery of education
Arts & Ents blogs
Jared Leto: Best Supporting Actor Oscar sparks backlash from transgender community
In Kony's shadow: Shocking photographs reveal brutality of Lord's Resistance Army
Captain Phillips actor Barkhad Abdi struggles despite Oscar nomination
Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill set for new film penned by Captain Phillips screenwriter Billy Ray
First clip of Outkast's Andre 3000 in Jimi Hendrix biopic All Is By My Side emerges
Apple's Tim Cook: Business isn’t just about making profit
Thousands of young people forced to go without food after benefits wrongly stopped under 'draconian' new sanctions regime
Ukraine crisis: New navy chief 'defects' and surrenders Crimean HQ as Putin claims ultranationalists forced intervention
Ukraine crisis: Russia dismisses '3am ultimatum' as 'total nonsense'
Britain's top vet sparks controversy with call for ban on slashing animals' throats in 'ritual' slaughters for halal and kosher meat products
If you're horrified by a flame-roasted dog, you should be shocked at a hog roast
- 1 The future of sex: The first female condoms were derided, mistrusted and shunned - but will their modern counterparts catch on?
- 2 South African rhino finally put down after roaming Kruger park for days with horn hacked off and bullet in brain
- 3 Sir Patrick Stewart patches into David Cameron and Barack Obama's Ukraine talks with packet of wet wipes
- 4 Study suggests that 'gaydars' are real - at least for women
- 5 Man stabbed with Legend of Zelda Master Sword in serious condition