While Mailer is still pugnacious, it’s hard to imagine a novelist, even a heavyweight champion, writing such a masterpiece of bring-it-on bravado in today’s literary scene, where more punches are pulled than landed. When Dale Peck lambasted virtually every writer he reviewed in the pages of The New Republic a few years ago, he became the object of intense, almost anthropological scrutiny, as if harsh criticism were a pathology rather than a sign of a healthy literary culture.
At their best, literary feuds show something at stake beyond personal vanity. At their worst, feuders can become like so many gorillas, pounding on their chests and marking their territory in the literary jungle. (Literary feuding generally seems to be a men’s sport — with the notable exception of Mary McCarthy and Lillian Hellman, whose longstanding feud ended only with Hellman’s death; interviewed on “The Dick Cavett Show” in the late ’70s, McCarthy said of Hellman that “every word she says is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the.’ ”)
I've decided the problem with literary feuds here in Canada is that most often at least one of the parties involved doesn't realise they're fighting.