15 Famous Authors I Wouldn't Want to Have a Beer With
I know a lot of authors, and some of them are among my favorite people in the world. Having food and/or beers with an author or a group of authors is something I go out of my way to do any chance I get. That's the main reason I go to conferences, readings, and even house events. Just last night, I got in my car, which has no AC, and braved the 100-degree Texas heat so I could go listen to, hang out with, and share a meal with authors Rob Hart, Jordan Harper, and Bill Loehfelm. That's how much I like hanging out with writers.
However, that doesn't apply to all of them. When I think about it, there are some I wouldn't like to hang out with. On the "Hell yeah!" list are folks like Hunter S. Thompson, Yuri Herrera, Sara Gran, Richard Laymon, Stephen King, Daniel Woodrell, Gillian Flynn, Langston Hughes, Scott McClanahan, Carlos Fuentes, Ta-Nehisi Coates, David Joy, Don Winslow, James Baldwin, Kurt Vonnegut, Chuck Palahniuk, Alissa Nutting, Junot Diaz, Roxane Gay, Edwidge Danticat...I could go on and on and on until you got tired and clicked out of here. In any case, you'll notice that the list I just gave you includes authors both living and dead. Well, the same goes for the list that follows. Let's get to it:
15. James Patterson
Okay, so I had to get this one out of the way first. Personally, I have nothing against Mr. Patterson. I even read a bunch of his novels in my early teens. He seems like a good guy and sometimes gives money to great causes, and I respect that. However, his unprecedented success has made him into something else, something that is not a writer. We all know no one can produce at that pace, and the fact that he pretends like he does bothers me. He's not struggling to pay rent like the rest of us, so why drop 25 books a year? Also, I've been very vocal about the need to stay humble, and this man has blurbed his own book. He blurbed himself. Let that sink in. You can't do that and go back to humble. Ever.
14. Virginia Woolf
Here's the thing about anti-semites: I don't like them. As you already know, and this is something that will show up repeatedly on this list, you can be a literary giant and also kind of a douche. We're all human, so that's understandable. However, certain types of douches fall into the "no beer with you" category. Sadly, anti-semites could fill a long list just like this one, so Virginia is just an example.
13. Bill O'Reilly
Haha. You really want me to explain this one? Come on, I'd probably end up shanking him at the first dumb, racist joke he made. When they call him an author, I cringe. When I see his books, I cringe. When they call him a journalist...you get the point.
12. Paulo Coelho
The best way to understand this one, as well as my hatred for singer Ricardo Arjona, would be for you to spend a decade with me in my youth, say between 14 and 24 years of age. Since we don't have enough space to boil down everything that I read and learned during that decade, I have to condense everything into the kind of comments that get people angry and seem random. Trust me, this is not random hate; this is years of stuff leading up to a feeling. In a nutshell, this is why I wouldn't share a beer with Coelho: his books are tripe.
11. Nicholas Sparks
This is my column, right? I refuse to even discuss this one.
10. Charles Bukowski
Interesting, isn't it? Sure, he was a huge influence on me early on. Sure, "Dinosauria, We" changed the way I looked at poetry forever. Sure, his books helped me get through some tough times. That being said, none of that means I'd love to hang out with him. He was angry most of the time. He was a sour man with a knack for violence, and he was a misogynist. Yeah, no beers for me with a man who wrote so much about drinking. Go figure.
9. E.L. James
Before you start with the whole "You hate her because she's successful!" bullshit, let me say this: I know female authors who write erotica, and they write good erotica. I wouldn't like to share a beer with James not because of her millions of dollars or what she writes, but because of how she writes. I understand success, but this one? This one is just too much for me. I'd probably start asking her what her favorite books are and that would end in misery and shame. For both of us.
8. David Foster Wallace
Poor Dave. This is a weird one because the people who love him have made me dislike him. I'd sit down and say "Sup, bro? Too many douche bags read your work and love it. Need help with using periods? Anyway, dense prose is not equal to smart prose. Just sayin'." I actually read Infinite Jest in manuscript form at the Harry Ranson Center a few years ago. Not a fan. I'm sure telling him that would go as well as telling his adoring fans. Same goes for "Well, I don't find those two-page sentences all that brilliant."
7. Ernest Hemingway
He was an alpha dude. I...grew up in the 80s, drowning in toxic masculinity and action heroes who kicked all the asses. After a few beers and some talk about fishing, he'd want to box or something. I don't back down. He was 6 feet tall and about 220. He was a student and practitioner of the sweet science for a long time. Not an easy man to take down. That being said, I've earned four broken teeth, a slightly deviated septum, and a nice scar on my eyebrow on the streets. And I have him by a few pounds. It'd be ugly. I don't like ugly. Take that macho crap elsewhere, Papa.
6. Jonathan Franzen
This guy almost adopted a kid because he felt out of touch with younger generations. Whenever folks talk about thick, boring books about white domesticity, I think about Franzen. Also, every Franzen interview I've read has at least three "fuck you" moments. If we're in a bar and Franzen is there, please ask me what's wrong with publishing so I can point at him and say "That guy. He can't even function if the book isn't 600 pages long." Franzen is the guy who lectures you about politics because you said "Good morning" to him.
5. Gustave Flaubert
Oh, the painful banalities and crushing nothingness of provincial life! Sorry, Madame Bovary sucks. Yeah, I know its place in literary history. Yup, I know what the man did and why he's someone you have to read. What? No, I'm not taking it back. You see, I was young and hanging out with professors who were already experts in literature, semiotics, discourse analysis, and many other subjects. They told me to read Madame Bovary. To read it carefully. I did. Screw them and that novel. Got a problem with that, Gustave? Yeah, realism is precisely what I like in my fiction...
4. Thomas Pynchon
First, no one would believe me. Second, I'd ask so many questions about Against the Day that he'd get angry pretty quickly. Third, I'd talk about The Simpsons way too much. Fourth, I like mysteries.
3. Umberto Eco
I left out a lot of writers I read in academia, but Eco was a man whose novels I enjoyed (and was baffled by) more than his academic work. Here's the thing: there's a level of pure intellect that I find slightly intimidating, and Eco had it. This man was absolutely brilliant. I love talking to gifted people, but there is a level of intelligence that starts affecting your ability to hold regular conversations, and he probably lived in that space.
2. Stephenie Meyer
In my dreams, Van Helsing and Blade come to kill every character in her books. Vampires don't sparkle. This woman took something cool and took a shit on it. I don't hang out with people who do that.
1. H.P. Lovecraft
Everything that I said about Bukowski applies to Lovecraft. My horror education included a lot of long nights reading Lovecraft's work. However, I'm an adult, so I can say "I like a lot of his stories, but the man was a racist ass." I can't stand bigots, and any racist comments would probably end with me in the hands of the cops. The most ridiculous thing in the world, I think, is the inability of human readers to correlate fandom and reality. They live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of bigotry, and it was not meant they should voyage far from that...
My lists are usually ten items long, but this time around I decided to go up to 15 because the preliminary list had about 30 names on it. There are many reasons why a plethora of famous writers are people you wouldn't want to have a beer with. I'm curious about yours. Sound off in the comments and tell us which authors you wouldn't want to hang out with and why.
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