Thursday, August 31, 2006

Best Literary Stunt, Ever!

Oh, what an absolutely exquisite gag. I mean, no reality TV producer in his right mind could have come up with something as deliciously vengeful as this. You might have read about it in the NY Times today. The short version: A.N. Wilson, esteemed and insanely prolific British literary author, publishes a biography of John Betjeman, the late poet laureate who was as well-known and as beloved in England as Paul McCartney and the Queen Mother. In his book, Wilson publishes a "love letter" from Betjeman to a friend named Honor Tracy as exhibit A of an apparent love affair between the two.

The letter, which was ostensibly written by a friend of Tracy's named "Eve de Harben," was a fake, and now it seems as if it was written by Bevis Hiller, the author of a massive three-volume biography of Betjeman that Wilson slammed in The Spectator in 2002. Hiller's gushing letter, which begins, "I loved yesterday. All day, I've thought of nothing else..." and so on, is actually a nasty anagram. The first letter of each sentence spells out A.N. WILSON IS A SHIT. Wilson printed this letter in his own book!

Hiller, who apparently spent 25 years of his life working on his Betjeman bio, apparently can't let go of a bad review. The two have been bitch-slapping each other in the British press for the last couple of years, but I can't imagine that Hiller isn't gleefully rubbing his hands together, murmuring "game, set and match, old chap," or something like that, over and over. He has clearly prevailed in this dust-up.

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