The book

The author

  • David Shenk is the national bestselling author of five previous books, including The Forgetting ("remarkable" - Los Angeles Times), Data Smog ("indispensable" - New York Times), and The Immortal Game ("superb" - Wall Street Journal). He is a correspondent for, and has contributed to National Geographic, Slate, The New York Times, Gourmet, Harper's, The New Yorker, NPR, and PBS.

    More info here.

    Contact David.

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April 28, 2009


Angela Brown

What about the rivalry between Matisse and Picasso? Picasso was about ten years younger than Matisse and had some radically different ideas about art. He was also rather big-headed. However, they both recognized the other as an important and great artist. Matisse is even quoted as saying something to the effect that Picasso is the only person with any right to criticize his work. Matisse adopted some techniques used by the Cubists (mostly Juan Gris presumably because he was easier to get along with), while Picasso took to some of Matisse's soft, simple contours.
Making this rivalry even more juicy is their heated battle regarding how to draw and paint the female nude.

Kevin Maloney

I like the three-way rivalry between Edison, Tesla and Westinghouse to harness electricity.

In sports, I like the golf rivalry of Tiger, not neccesarilly vs Phil, but moreso, vs Jack Nicklaus. Though Jack is no longer actively playing, he continues to stoke the fires with his public commentary. As for Tiger's part, while he apparently loves to compete and win simply for the love of winning, he doesn't seem to get that push of competition from any present player, so much as the current greatest of all time, Jack. In each tournament that he enters, he is in essence competing more with a 'ghost' than he is with any of the also-rans on the course with him that day.

Over the past few years, professional hockey has seen the emergence of a great rivalry between it's two young marquee stars - Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals. The rivalry elevated this year to calling each other out in the sports media and is being played out as we speak as the two players are meeting for the first time in the playoffs.

In business, the story of Bill Gates of Microsoft vs Larry Ellison of Oracle made for a great rivalry that really drove each founder/company to greater acheivement.

David Shenk

Great comments. I did not know that about the Beatles and Beach Boys.

Nadav Manham

The Beatles and the Beach Boys more or less alternated albums during a period of the 1960s, each trying to respond to the other.

CJ Alexander

Hmm, didn't seem to like my Evert/Navratilova link. Trying again:

CJ Alexander

Tennis isn't my favorite sport, but IMO the lack of a team makes it well suited to pure individual rivalries. I'm just barely old enough to remember the final years of Borg vs McEnroe and Evert vs Navratilova (arguably the greatest rivalry in sports history). Then there was Sampras vs. Agassi and the Williams sisters. Now there's Nadal vs Federer, which just might be the best of them.

In addition, I've always been amused when reading about Hemingway and his life's philosophy of needing to "beat" other authors, predecessors as well as contemporaries (like his friend F. Scott Fitzgerald). Hemingway being Hemingway, these rivalries were often unilateral--but no less vitriolic for being so.

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