“Drinking With, And Punching Out, Famous Writers,” by Bill Kitcher

Jan 18th, 2023 | By | Category: Fake Nonfiction, Prose

So I met Ernest Hemingway. He was kind of drunk and obnoxious, and I didn’t want to engage, but he got belligerent when I mentioned “Revolutionary Road” by Richard Yates, and had he read it, and how good it was, and how it was better than anything Ernie wrote. That pissed him off so he tried to start a fight. He was so drunk he took a couple of swings at me that weren’t even close to my head, so I just backed off. It got boring after a while so I popped him in the schnozz, and he went down and passed out, not because of my punch, but because he was way too drunk. That’s the last time I saw Ernie. (Incidentally, as a Canadian, I’m the second one to have knocked him down. Morley Callaghan did it in the 1930s. And Morley wasn’t even a big guy. Put this down to: are Canadians polite? Well, just watch a hockey game.)

When I met John Dos Passos, it was toward the end of his life. I asked him how his politics could have changed so drastically from his early years to now. I don’t remember his drunken answer because he just mumbled. As John was old, I didn’t punch him as hard as I would have done his younger self, which I probably wouldn’t have done anyway because I would have agreed with his younger self.

I asked Shakespeare how his name was really spelled, and he wasn’t sure, being a poor speller. I asked him if he really wrote everything he was supposed to have written. Was it possible, I asked, he could write so many comedies and tragedies? Did he actually have any ghost writers? He took a swing at me which I avoided. I didn’t punch back. Hitting a novelist is one thing; hitting a playwright/poet is another. I asked him to autograph my book of his sonnets, but when I told him I didn’t understand a single one, he refused.

Plato seemed like a nice fella, and I told him I thought his Socratic dialogues were intelligent and pithy and clever, possibly because he just wrote down what Socrates said, but that his “Republic” was unnecessarily confusing and pseudo-intellectual. That had no effect because he didn’t speak English, and my ancient Greek is rudimentary at best. We had a few drinks together, and he tried to kiss me. I didn’t punch him, just pushed him off his barstool.

One night, I enjoyed having a couple of drinks with Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who was a riot. I asked him how he was able to write something as wonderful as “One Hundred Years Of Solitude”, and he said he didn’t remember. Respecting the man and his work, I gave him just a slight poke in the shoulder.

The Bronte sisters were lushes, all of them. No fisticuffs. We had a few drinks and played strip bridge. I can’t say anymore because, if I did, Branwell said he’d knock the snot out of me.

I wanted to punch Tennessee Williams because he was occasionally pretentious, but I didn’t because he was generally a nice man who just happened to fall into the good fortune of the public thinking his ridiculous melodramas were good theater. Good for him, and good for any writer who makes any money from writing. Check the best-seller lists, full of people you want to slap but have to admire for conning the public.

My lunch with Stephen King was very enjoyable, and I didn’t punch him until he made fun of my shirt.

Gogol was a funny guy. Chekhov wasn’t. Dostoevsky was an interesting bipolar schizophrenic. I mean, explain to me how “Crime And Punishment” (brilliant) and “The Brothers Karamazov” (painfully terrible) were written by the same person. I didn’t punch any of them.

Marlowe was very funny after a few tankards of mead, obviously too funny because later he was assassinated (not by me), but we had a good evening together. Kit was the only person who punched anyone, someone who kept bothering him for his autograph and/or his undergarments.

I was wasted the entire weekend I spent with Terry Southern, who was as well, so I have no views about him, nor do I remember any punches being thrown.

Dorothy Parker drank me under the table, which was where I think we had sex. There was no fight; she made me laugh too much.

My plan now is to find terrible writers, and maybe not punch or slap them, but at least tell them what I think, and that the number of people who hate them is significant. Maybe not as significant as the millions who buy their books, but still significant.

I recognize this is all subjective. My favorite playwright is Harold Pinter. Not only is this man a genius but, when I met him, and he was drunk, and he picked a fight with me about the relative merits of English County Cricket, I was able to deflect his fist, and then pull it together by explaining to him how theatre audiences can be made to feel uncomfortable. He looked at me with great condescension because he obviously already knew that. I looked back at him, and we maintained staring at each other until his second wife, Lady Antonia Fraser, punched me in the head. Some lady.


Bill Kitcher tries to drink and fight less than he used to. His writing has appeared in journals in Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Czechia, England, Guernsey, Holland, India, Ireland, Nigeria, Singapore, South Africa, and the U.S., including Defenestration! His novel, “Farewell And Goodbye, My Maltese Sleep”, will be published in 2023 by Close To The Bone Publishing.

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