November 7, 2013
This cat was panned. (AFP PHOTO/VYACHESLAV OSELEDKOVYACHESLAV OSELEDKO/AFP/Getty Images)
This cat was panned. (AFP PHOTO/VYACHESLAV OSELEDKOVYACHESLAV OSELEDKO/AFP/Getty Images)

Buzzfeed Books, according to what its new editor told Poynter, will only be publishing positive reviews. It’s the Thumper Rule — if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Or, more succinctly put, “No haters.” As Atlantic Wire points out, this seems like a relatively new development, given Buzzfeed’s historical ratios of positive to negative listicles, but maybe they’re right. No more tearing through books! It’s too easy. There is a certain savage delight to burning a book in the metaphorical sense, but perhaps it is an old-media delight. This is what people used to do instead of having flame wars on Twitter. We are past it.

To pave the way for this new age of reviewing, here are 10 famously mean reviews updated to reflect the policy. In the writers’ defense, Mark Twain was an old media type and did not know better.

10. This is not a book to be tossed aside lightly. It should be hurled with great force. (Dorothy Parker)

9. It is no discredit to Walt Whitman that he wrote Leaves of Grass, only that he did not burn it afterwards. (Thomas Wentworth Higginson)

8. That’s not writing. That’s typing. wonderful! (Truman Capote, on Kerouac)

7. Every time I read ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ I want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shin-bone. thank her! (Mark Twain)

6. If it were thought that anything I wrote was influenced by Robert Frost, I would take that particular work of mine, shred it, and flush it down the toilet, hoping not to clog the pipes. and frame it, like in a really nice frame! (James Dickey)

5. I can’t stand him. Nobody will think to ask because I’m supposedly jealous; but I out-sell him. I’m more popular than he is, and I don’t take him very seriously…oh, he comes on like the worker’s son, like a modern-day D.H. Lawrence, but he’s just another boring little middle-class boy hustling his way to the top if he can do it. I really like the guy. (Gore Vidal on John Updike)

4. ‘Paradise Lost’ is one of the books which the reader admires and lays down, and forgets to take up again. None ever wished it longer than it is. (Samuel Johnson)

3. His work is evil, and he is one of those unhappy beings of whom one can say that it would be better had he never been born. nice! (Flaubert on Emile Zola)

2. I am reading Proust for the first time. Very poor stuff. I think he was mentally defective. PROUST RULES! (Evelyn Waugh)

1. Putting my weakest books to the wall last night I came across a copy of ‘Howards End’ and had a look into it. Not good enough. E.M. Forster never gets any further than warming the teapot. He’s a rare fine hand at that. Feel this teapot. Is it not beautifully warm? Yes, but there ain’t going to be no tea. Ain’t nothing like a warm teapot! (Katherine Mansfield)

Kidding, Buzzfeed. You do you.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.