14 Authors Behaving Badly

09/05/2013 04:00 pm ET | Updated Sep 06, 2013
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Writers are certainly not stereotyped as being the easiest people to work with, and it's no secret that many are outspoken about their political opinions. Combine this with the fact that many of them think they're the most important thing that has ever happened to humanity, and you get less-than-admirable behavior.

Don't even get us started on how fervently authors bash other authors (Flaubert on George Sand: “A great cow full of ink.” H. G. Wells on George Bernard Shaw: “An idiot child screaming in a hospital.”) Plus, many are overtly misogynistic (we're looking at you, Norman Mailer).

Don't get us wrong: some authors have been outspoken in majorly good ways (Mark Twain was an ardent abolitionist and pro women's suffrage). But some aren't the kinds of people we'd want to spend too much time with.

Here's the master list of authors behaving badly.

  • Jonathan Franzen
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  • While we love Franzen's work, he doesn't seem to be the friendliest guy in town. First, he insulted Oprah. Who insults Oprah?! When Oprah wanted to make "The Corrections" one of her book club picks, Franzen was insulted. He notes, “I think she was surprised that I wasn’t moaning with shock and pleasure." Um, why wouldn't you be? Oprah is about to make you rich. Jonathan Franzen thinks he's too good to have suburban housewives reading his books. To make matters worse, he wrote that horrible piece about Edith Wharton in the New Yorker that basically talked about how she hated other women because she was so ugly, so she only created tragic beautiful female characters. Yeah, Jonathan. We're sure that was the reason. Just totally undermine the first female author to win a Pulitzer for her fiction. Good job.
  • Bret Easton Ellis
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  • Oh, Bret Easton Ellis. Why were you ever given a Twitter account? First of all, he really loves bashing on David Foster Wallace (keep in mind that Wallace committed suicide fewer than five years ago). He's tweeted about DFW so many times we can't help but wonder if maybe he's just a little jealous? Moving on, he has also said that Matt Bomer shouldn't be Christian Grey in the "Fifty Shades" adaptation because he is openly gay. He has made numerous misogynistic comments, including our personal favorite: "Kathryn Bigelow would be considered a mildly interesting filmmaker if she was a man but since she's a very hot woman she's overrated."
  • VS Naipaul
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  • Oh, remember that time that VS Naipaul said that he doesn't consider any female writer his literary equal. Um, really? He says that women just have too much "sentimentality, the narrow view of the world." He also said, "I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not. I think [it is] unequal to me." We would love to test him on this because there's no way this bogus claim holds water. We know the guy is old, but not pre-suffrage old. We could go on with his abominable quotes but we wouldn't want to make you angrier than you already are.
  • Gore Vidal
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  • Gore Vidal was notorious. He complained about and hated pretty much everything. He hated Joyce Carol Oates; he hated every public figure; he hated journalists; he hated Henry Miller and Walt Whitman. He once told William F. Buckley, junior to "shut up" on TV, and then called him a Nazi.
  • Ayn Rand
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  • Are you below the age of 16? How about a libertarian, or U.S. Congressman Paul Ryan? No? Then you probably already agree with us that Ayn Rand is better left unread. Here are some of Rand's opinions: She thought European colonists had every right to take land from American Indians; She said that being gay was "immoral" and "disgusting," and she basically promotes being entirely selfish and self-interested as the key to happiness. She also simply informed her husband that she was going to have an affair with one of their mutual friends, and proceeded to do so. "What?" Ayn probably asked when being chastised for being generally terrible, "At least I was honest!"
  • Norman Mailer
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  • Wow. Where do we even begin? Well, in 1960, Mailer stabbed his second wife, Adele Morales Mailer, twice. He then told a friend who was trying to help her to "Get away from her. Let the bitch die.” Adele wasn't the only enemy he made. He head-butted Gore Vidal in The Dick Cavett Show greenroom. He freaked out when NYT critic Michiko Kakutani negatively reviewed his books, and called her a "one-woman kamikaze." Yikes.
  • Ernest Hemingway
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  • Ernest Hemingway may have been fun, charming, and remarkably talented, but he wasn't exactly a joy to deal with. In "A Moveable Feast," Hemingway relates what we would assume was a story told in confidence by F. Scott Fitzgerald about how he was a virgin before he met his wife and how she said he could never satisfy her because he had a small penis. Ouch. Poor Fitzgerald. It's no surprise, then, that Hemingway was also a notorious womanzier. He was married four times, cheating on most of them.
  • Martin Amis
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  • A few years ago, Martin Amis stated that only a brain injury would ever compel him to write a children's book because he "would never write about someone that forced me to write at a lower register than what I can write." Obviously, this angered a bunch of children's book authors, on top of just being a ridiculous statement. There are a countless number of deep, complex, amazing children's book characters. We're guessing Amis has never read "The Phantom Tollbooth" or anything by Roald Dahl.
  • James Franco
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  • James Franco likes to call himself a part of the literary community, but unfortunately for him, they don't really seem to want him (in fact, it might be a stretch to call him a "famous author" in the first place. He's more "famous" and, in addition, an "author"). The LA Times recently ran a post called Will James Franco Please Stop? However, Franco insists that his undertaking so many artistic projects and trying to look like a renaissance man does not, in fact, make him a jerk. He told E! "If anyone wants to say that my doing these things makes me a jerk, that's not about me—that's about people reacting to me." We see both sides of this coin. However, we think it'd be one thing if writing poetry and novels was just a hobby of Franco's and he wasn't pursuing getting them all published. That's just obnoxious.
  • James Joyce
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  • Two words: Finnegans Wake. Need we say more? Actually, yes. James Joyce was arrogant. We understand that he published several of what are considered literary masterpieces. But when poet William Butler Yeats asked Joyce if he'd be interested in having him look at some of Joyce's poetry, Joyce said, "I do so since you ask me, but I attach no more importance to your opinion than to anybody one meets on the street." Later in the conversation, Joyce said, "We have met too late. You are too old for me to have any effect on you." Yeah, Yeats won the Nobel Prize. But we guess Joyce was above prizes.
  • Orson Scott Card
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  • Orson Scott Card is a man who would be better off keeping his mouth shut and just stick to writing lovable sci-fi books. However, he has taken it upon himself to preach to the world about how being gay is wrong and why gay people shouldn't be allowed to get married. If that wasn't bad enough (and it is), he then wrote a blog post in which he compared President Obama to Hitler and that Obama was creating "urban gangs" to punish Obama's enemies.
  • L. Ron Hubbard
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  • You don't need to read Lawrence Wright's "Going Clear" to know what how unorthodox this man was (although it's a really great book, so we still recommend it). According to the book, he treated his children and both of his wives miserably. Oh, yeah, he also used his religious movement to get millions of dollars from vulnerable people. The lies didn't stop there. He essentially fabricated every single part of his past to his followers. We guess the science fiction writing rubbed off on him.
  • Charles Bukowski
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  • The portrayal of women in his writings, many of which are autobiographical, doesn't exactly pass the 21st-century smell test. He referred to one of his live-in girlfriends as "white-haired hippie," "shack-job" and "old snaggle-tooth." This is the mother of his child that he's talking about. Yikes.
  • JK Rowling
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  • Look, we hate to add her to this list. Her books are awesome. But we have to separate the person from his/her work, and after looking at the evidence, it's all there. In 2007, she and Warner Bros. filed a lawsuit against a small publishing house that was publishing a school librarian's encyclopedia of Harry Potter lexicon. But what makes her a jerk mostly is the way she reacted to the lawsuit. She said that she had stopped work on a new novel because the suit "decimated [her] creative work." (um, then maybe don't file a lawsuit? Lots of people who aren't the original authors write guides to famous fantasy worlds. It's not unheard of.) "I really don't want to cry," she stated during the trial. She called the encyclopedia "an act of betrayal." Wow, this sounds like a soap opera. Then, this year, when her pseudonym was exposed, she put out a statement about how betrayed she felt by the law firm who released the information, and she made a super big deal about it. Yeah, we realize the situation wasn't what she wanted. But guess what? She made a ton of money off it. When exposure means you're suddenly on the bestseller list and making you millions more dollars, it looks really ungrateful and horrible to complain about it (see Jonathan Franzen and Oprah).

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated that "Inside Scientology" was written by Lawrence Wright. It is actually by Janet Reitman. Wright's book is titled "Going Clear." Also, an earlier version of the post stated that Jonathan Franzen's initial problem with Oprah arose over "Freedom." It was actually "The Corrections."

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