Bret Easton Ellis slams David Foster Wallace on Twitter
A decades-long literary feud rears its head again as Bret Easton Ellis uses a new bio of David Foster Wallace as an excuse for trash-talking.
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He is, after all, the guy who in 2010 suggested women are inherently ill-equipped for directing movies. The guy who just last month declared Matt Bomer unfit for playing the title role of Christian Grey in the film adaption of “50 Shades of Grey,” because he is gay. And the guy who, hours after J.D. Salinger died, tweeted, “Yeah! Thank God he’s finally dead. I’ve been waiting for this day for-****ing ever. Party tonight!”Skip to next paragraph
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But there’s more here than meets the eye. Ellis and Wallace are literary rivals that go way back, and Ellis’s hostile tweets are just the latest in a two-decades-old exchange of literary beef.
In 1988, Wallace criticized Ellis’s first published essay, calling Ellis and his category of novelists “Catatonics” for their “naïve pretension,” according to Slate. “Wallace’s argument, characteristically, defies easy summary,” Slate’s Forrest Wickman writes, “…but, in the context of literary critical essay,” is damning.
A few years later, Wallace laid into “American Psycho” in an interview with Larry McCaffery, saying it “panders shamelessly to the audience’s sadism for a while, but by the end it’s clear that the sadism’s real object is the reader itself…You can defend ‘Psycho’ as being a sort of performative digest of late-eighties social problems, but it’s no more than that.”
“Alternating between PR stunt, outright bullying, vigorous intellectual debate, and exercise in ego-bashing and boosting, literary feuds are nothing if not pure bibliophilic entertainment,” we once wrote in a post on Paulo Coelho’s attack on James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” calling the feuds “as old as literature itself.”
Perhaps, but we’re more inclined to heed the reasoning of The Guardian’s Barbara Ellen.
“It could be that they’re feeling a bit bored, their lives and careers aren’t as exciting as they once were,” she writes, “the coffee is cold, the croissant not delicious enough, and mischievous people are encouraging them, telling them that their bratty behavior and ill-thought-out rantings are 'a breath of fresh air!'”
“They mouth, off, in the process,” she continues, “making themselves look ridiculous and just a tad obsessed with their targets.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.