If you’ve ever heard a writer say, “watch out, or you’ll end up in my novel,” you know that authors can be pretty sassy. This is further evidenced from sassy quotes from letters by authors of the past, to hilarious and poignant tweets from modern-day writers.
The thing is, if a person’s job is to observe people and life and then weave that into a story, that person will be very observant. And that person might also be really hilarious. After all, if you’re always watching the antics of everyone around you, you’re bound to chuckle at them from time to time. As Jane Austen says in Pride and Prejudice, “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?”
Because of this tendency to laugh at people in their turn, authors often make the best pranksters. You might be thinking, “Of course they don’t. Authors are quiet and introverted! They would never prank someone, they’re too serious for that sort of thing!”
…If you’re thinking that, you are quite incorrect. Whether they’re known for serious literature or satire or YA, many authors have a knack for nabbing the last laugh. Here are some of their greatest hits:
1. When William Goldman Made Up S. Morgenstern
William Goldman presents The Princess Bride as an abridgment of an older version by S. Morgenstern. The only thing is, S. Morgenstern doesn't actually exist — The Princess Bride is purely Goldman's tale, and the frame story exists as part of the story. So if you've ever searched for "The Princess Bride unabridged," you fell for it.
2. When Tolkien Said No Good Fantasy Would Have A Lamp-Post In It... So C.S. Lewis Wrote One Into The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe
There's a popular urban legend that says C.S. Lewis put a lamp-post in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe because Tolkien claimed no escapist fantasy would have one in it. This probably stems from a quote from Tolkien's On Fairy Stories, in which he says, "for a trifling instance: not to mention (indeed not to parade) electric street-lamps of massproduced pattern in your tale is Escape (in that sense)." Of course, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is one of the best-known fantasy stories today, so it seems Lewis got the last laugh.
3. When Theodor Geisel's Dad Wanted Him To Become A Doctor... So Geisel Became Dr. Seuss
Theodor Geisel's father wanted him to pursue a medical career, but instead, Geisel became a writer. A pretty well-known children's writer, actually. He wrote under the pen name Dr. Seuss, so in a way, his father's dreams came true: his son became one of the most famous "Drs" who ever lived.
4. When A Ton Of Female Authors Used Male Pseudonyms
Historically and frustratingly, it hasn't been easy for female authors to get their work to be taken seriously — so many simply adopted male pseudonyms and kept on writing anyway. The Brontë sisters, Louisa May Alcott, Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin, and Mary Ann Evans all wrote under male pseudonyms, and even Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling adopted the "J.K." in order to appeal to young male readers. Since she didn't have a middle name, she chose "Kathleen" as a tribute to her grandmother.
5. When Jonathan Swift Pranked John Partridge (On April Fool's Day)
Satirist Jonathan Swift used the pseudonym "Isaac Bickerstaff" to "predict" astrologer John Partridge's death. Swift wasn't a fan of Partridge's work, so he published the satirical prediction on April 1st. People were so caught up in the hoax that they actually mourned Partridge's death by crying outside his window — so loudly, in fact, that the very alive Partridge couldn't get any sleep.
6. When Hemingway Clapped Back At Faulkner
If Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner lived today, they'd probably be renown for their potential Twitter feuds. Just kidding, Twitter would be way too ~mainstream~ for these two. But Hemingway gets points for his most Twitter-worthy comeback: when Faulkner said that Hemingway "has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary," Hemingway retorted, "Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?"
7. When Authors Proved They Could Be Sassy... Even In Book Dedications
There are a ton of amazingly sassy book dedications out there, proving that you should never piss off an author — they might write you into a story some day. Four of my favorites:
- "For Colin Firth: You're a really great guy, but I'm married, so I think we should just be friends." – Austenland by Shannon Hale
- "To my wife Marganit and my children Ella Rose and Daniel Adam without whom this book would have been completed two years earlier." —An Introduction To Algebraic Topology by Joseph J. Rotman
- "To my wonderful readers: sorry about that last cliff-hanger. Well, no, not really. HAHAHAHA. But seriously, I love you guys." —The House of Hades by Rick Riordan
- "Dedicated to the strongest person I know: me" —Psychos: A White Girl Problems Book by Babe Walker
Images: Jonathan Swift, by Charles Jervas (National Portrait Gallery) (1), Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston (1), 20th Century Fox (1), Buena Vista Pictures (1)