The writer is a passionate animal; two writers in the same space, physical or virtual, will lock horns pleasingly often. I say “pleasingly” because—let’s face it—watching articulate types go at it is always fun. Sometimes these feuds raise real questions; more often they’re vaguely embarrassing to all parties involved. Once in a while reputations are truly damaged. And almost always, they are ill-advised. The first rule of being reviewed is never to respond to your reviewer, and the first rule of reviewing is not to ever let it get personal. Fortunately for the rest of us, both sides ignore this advice all the time.
Some writers, however, understand the need to proactively let off a little insult-worthy steam. Hence the recent Twitter YoNovel exchange between Adam Mansbach, author of the beloved children’s classic Go the Fuck to Sleep, and Mat Johnson, author of the Edgar Allan Poe tour de force Pym. YoNovel as in Yo Mama, but tweaked accordingly, as the standard insults don’t necessarily translate insultingly enough—you can’t really get much mileage out of “Yo Novel wears army boots” or “Yo Novel is so big, when it sits around the house it really sits around the house” anymore. Instead, Mansbach and Johnson have come up with some very specific disses, like: “Your book so needy, this shit’s dedicated to ‘the members of the Pulitzer committee,’” and “The closest you came to a starred review was Alan Cheuse beaning you with a shuriken.”
Happily, it’s becoming a hashtag thing, and I encourage writers of all stripes to dive in and vent a little. The reputation you save could be your own.
(Image is “The Feuds of the Dudes” by Frederick Burr Opper, in Puck from May, 1880, courtesy of Library of Congress.)