From the Sharpened Tongue of Dorothy Parker


Dorothy Parker best quotes and critiquesDorothy Parker (August 22, 1893 – June 7, 1967) was a master of words and knew how to use them to make a point. As a critic, poet, and essayist, everything and everyone was fair game for her brilliant and ruthless prose.

She once observed, “The first thing I do in the morning is brush my teeth and sharpen my tongue.” Following are just a few products of that sharp tongue: Continue reading

Everyone is a Critic

poison pen, critics, reviews, harsh criticism

From the pens of critics who are not afraid to speak freely:

  • “This is not a novel to be tossed lightly aside. It should be thrown with great force.” — Dorothy Parker
  • “I am sitting in the smallest room in my house. I have your review in front of me. Soon it will be behind me.” — Max Reger
  • “There is probably no hell for authors in the next world – they suffer so much from critics and publishers in this one.” — Christian N. Bovée
  • Paradise Lost is one of the books which the reader admires and lays down, and forgets to take up again. Its perusal is a duty rather than a pleasure.” — Samuel Johnson
  • “A mere ulcer; a sore from head to foot; a poor devil so completely flayed that there is not a square inch of healthy flesh on his carcass; an overgrown pimple, sore to the touch.” — The Quarterly Review on William Hazlitt in 1817
  • “Of Dicken’s style it is impossible to speak in praise. It is jerky, ungrammatical and created by himself in defiance of rules … No young novelist should ever dare to imitate the style of Dickens.” — Anthony Trollope on Charles Dickens
  • “I have two recommenda­tions. First, don’t buy this book. Second, if you buy this book, don’t drop it on your foot.” — The New Yorker on Chesapeake by James Michener
  • “It may be that this autobiography is set down in sincerity, frankness and simple effort. It may be, too, that the Statue of Liberty is situated in Lake Ontario.” — Dorothy Parker on Service of the King by Aimee Semple McPherson
  • “Never have I read such tosh. As for the first two chapters, we will let them pass, but the third, the fourth the fifth the sixth – merely the scratchings of pimples on the body of the boot-boy at Claridges.” — Virginia Woolf on James Joyce’s Ulysses
  • “This is easily one of the worst books I’ve ever read. And bear in mind that I’ve read John Grisham.” — Susan Cohen on Stieg Larsson’s The Girls With That Dragon Tattoo
  • “How a human being could have attempted such a book as the present without committing suicide before he had finished a dozen chapters, is a mystery. It is a compound of vulgar depravity and unnatural horrors.” — The Examiner on Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte


“Bloom County” by Berkeley Breathed, syndicated by Washington Post Writers Group

But What About the Scenery?

John Ruskin (1819-1900)

Critic John Ruskin left no doubt of his opinion of Wagner’s opera “Die Meistersinger Von Nürnberg” —

“Of all the bête, clumsy, blundering, boggling, baboon-blooded stuff I ever saw on a human stage, that thing last night beat — as far as the acting and story went — and of all the affected, sapless, soulless, beginningless, endless, topless, bottomless, topsiturviest, tuneless and scrannelpipiest — tongs and boniest — doggerel of sounds I ever endured the deadliness of, that eternity of nothing was the deadliest, so far as the sound went. I never was so relieved, so far as I can remember in my life, by the stopping of any sound — not excepting railway whistles — as I was by the cessation of the cobbler’s bellowing.”

Fellow Authors Are the Hardest to Please

Mark Twain
Mark Twain

It would be an understatement to say that Mark Twain was not a fan of Jane Austen.

“She makes me detest all her people, without reserve. Is that her intention? It is not believable. Then is it her purpose to make the reader detest her people up to the middle of the book and like them in the rest of the chapters? That could be. That would be high art. It would be worth while, too. Some day I will examine the other end of her books and see.”

The great Missouri humorist described his reaction to Austen’s most famous work: “Every time I read Pride and Prejudice, I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.”


To Critique or Not to Critique?


Voltaire wrote of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “It is a vulgar and barbarous drama, which would not be tolerated by the vilest populace of France, or Italy…. One would imagine this piece to be the work of a drunken savage.”