This month I read a couple of books about very different aspects of the writing business. Both deal in very different kinds of snobbery and both are highly entertaining.
The first was “The Booker and the Best: Discrimination in the Book World” by Nicholas Clee.
Nick is one of those connected individuals of the book world who gets asked to judge book prizes. He is also an author and believes that by classifying some literature as being “better” than others we are doing the publishing industry a great disservice. It is a short book – both provocative and funny, and available at the moment only as a Kindle Single.
The second book was “The Vanity Fair Diaries” by Tina Brown, which covers her time re-launching the magazine between 1983 and 1992. Here we find an altogether more glitzy level of snobbery; somewhere between F.R. Leavis and “The Devil Wears Prada”, (I am exaggerating for effect, obviously).
What is most fascinating about this book is that we now know the outcome of some of the events which she catalogues in her daily diary entries. Many of the super-wealthy folk who she hangs out with, (and who were so aptly skewered at the time by the likes of Tom Wolfe and Dominick Dunne), have since crashed and burned.
She talks about socialite Donald Trump publishing “The Art of the Deal” – and we know what that led to. Upon reading it for possible extracts she writes that it “has a crassness I like”.
She also mentions the million dollar advance that super-agent, Swifty Lazar, extracted from
Hutchinson for an unwritten novel by Joan
Collins. Miss Collins later ended up in court suing her publishers for
rejecting the eventual manuscript, dabbing a tear from her eye for the
cameras. She won the case because her contract had required her to hand in a “finished
manuscript” not an “acceptable one”. If only we all had agents like Mr Lazar.
Best of all she ends an encounter with the young Boris Johnson with the words _ “But Boris Johnson is an epic shit. I hope he ends badly”. We are all still waiting to see how that one turns out.