November 22, 2004

The Little Book of Venom:
A Collection of Historical Insults
Compiled by Jennifer Higgie

Odium – Now that Hate is officially enshrined as a moral value of our great nation, this slender volume offers many timely pointers on the true expression of utter disgust. Here’s D.H. Lawrence to Katherine Mansfield: “I loathe you. You revolt me stewing in your consumption … the Italians were quite right to have nothing to do with you. You are a loathsome reptile – I hope you die.” Ah, yes: the old Lawrence charm! Touching as ever. Of course, Mansfield was not about to be outdone. “E.M. Forster,” she wrote, “never gets any further than warming the teapot. He’s a rare fine hand at that. Feel this teapot. Is it not beautifully warm? Yes, but there ain’t going to be no tea.” How elevating! Indeed, as we celebrate our renewed hatefulness, let us turn to and learn from the viperous assaults of the past. Oscar Wilde on Alexander Pope: “There are two ways of disliking poetry; one way is to dislike it, the other is to read Pope.” F. Scott Fitzgerald on Gertrude Stein: “What an old covered wagon she is.” And William Faulkner on Henry James: “One of the nicest old ladies I ever met.”


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