November 12, 2007

Mark Twain's "diss track"

While I'm on the subject of writers who didn't entirely hate the world, I was just reminded of probably the greatest slam-piece I've ever read, Mark Twain's destruction of James Fenimore Cooper. Here's his intro:

Cooper's art has some defects. In one place in "Deerslayer," and in the restricted space of two-thirds of a page, Cooper has scored 114 offenses against literary art out of a possible 115. It breaks the record. There are nineteen rules governing literary art in domain of romantic fiction -- some say twenty-two. In "Deerslayer," Cooper violated eighteen of them.
And in case you don't have time to read the whole thing, here's the equally slam-tastic ending:
A work of art? It has no invention; it has no order, system, sequence, or result; it has no lifelikeness, no thrill, no stir, no seeming of reality; its characters are confusedly drawn, and by their acts and words they prove that they are not the sort of people the author claims that they are; its humor is pathetic; its pathos is funny; its conversations are -- oh! indescribable; its love-scenes odious; its English a crime against the language. Counting these out, what is left is Art. I think we must all admit that.
In your face, Cooper.