Tanya Thomas' blog reminds me of a few not-so-intellectual feuds among literary giants.

Gore Vidal's fights with Norman Mailer were legendary. They fought in private and in public.

Mailer head-butted Vidal just before the two men appeared on the Dick Cavett Show in 1971 after Vidal had given Mailer’s Prisoner of Sex a terrible review.

"You’re a liar and a hypocrite," Mailer told Vidal when the programme began.

Six years later, Mailer knocked Vidal to the floor at a party in New York. "Once again words fail Norman Mailer," Vidal said, before he got up.

"He was very kind when I was in a lot of trouble," Mailer said of Vidal a decade later as the two headed towards reconciliation. "Gore is a most avuncular fellow. Then we broke. If I ever see him again I will smash him. Still, he and I are in some way bound together, like a bad marriage."

William Buckley, the founding editor of the National Review , had a famous confrontation with Vidal at the Democratic Convention in 1968.

"As far as I’m concerned, the only pro or crypto-Nazi I can think of is yourself," Vidal told Buckley on live TV.

Buckley, seething, replied: "Now, listen, you queer. Stop calling me a crypto-fascist or I’ll sock you in your goddam face and you’ll stay plastered."

The host intervened: "Gentlemen, gentlemen, let’s not call names."

Buckley carried on: "Let the author of Myra Breckinridge go back to his pornography and stop making allusions to Nazism."

Nevertheless Vidal and Buckley turned up together the next day for convention debates.

Salman Rushdie sparred with fellow author John le Carré through a series of letters in The Guardian in November 1997. Rushdie was incensed that le Carré had joined forces with his assailants following the publication of The Satanic Verses . In the blistering back-and-forth, Rushdie at one point calls le Carré "a pompous ass."

Christopher Hitchens intervened in the feud on Rushdie's behalf and wrote to The Guardian . His missive began: "John le Carré's conduct in your pages is like ... that of a man who, having relieved himself in his own hat, makes haste to clamp the brimming chapeau on his head."

Three decades ago, an editorial in The Hindustan Times targeting its former editor and columnist Khushwant Singh stirred a hornets' nest in Indian media circles. In an interview to a magazine, Khushwant Singh had said his deputies at the HT were inefficient.

One of them, N.C. Menon, was the editor of the HT when the interview appeared. He responded with a brilliantly constructed, trenchant editorial that began: "With his vision clouded by confinement inside a burnt-out bulb, the godless sardar of Malice fame is at it again..."

social-fb COMMENT NOW