Century-Old Smackdown

Mark Twain clearly knew his way around the literary bitchslap:

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.

~Mark Twain, on James Fenimore Cooper’s The Deerslayer


(And incidentally, his discussion of imprecision in language and Cooper’s prodigious lack of observational skills are pretty relevant to modern writers. Recommended reading.)