Why Writers Attack Writers

Nothing matches, or comes from, a catfight among the people of letters

The small but insignificant world of media chitchat was fluttered last week by Renata Adler's new memoir that takes a brilliant flamethrower to the New Yorker magazine. Adler is a scrupulous, usefully unsettling critic, not to be yoked with casual hit men. She eviscerates so elegantly that her corpses remain standing. But her book and its overheated reception invoke the whole delightful genre of vengeful, venomous, and ultimately purposeless, literary assaults.

Recently John Irving attacked Tom Wolfe as being unreadable. Wolfe responded by attacking Irving as being washed up as a novelist, along with Norman Mailer and John Updike, who had...

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