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The Biblio Files

The Biblio Files
Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.
January 01
We (Steve and Helen) irresponsibly gave up our promising careers in aviation and bookselling over ten years ago. Now books seem to have taken over our lives. We frequent libraries, bookstores, and thrift shops in search of interesting books. We buy/swap/sell, but mainly, we read. We both wear glasses and have been mistaken for librarians.


Editor’s Pick
MAY 27, 2009 12:43AM

Book Scandal Roundup

Rate: 14 Flag

  Film Noir Poster - Scandal Sheet


There's nothing more fun than a scandal, and the book world has been full of them lately. It's getting so that I can barely keep up with the book scandals, let alone the very entertaining British Ministers of Parliament expenses revelations. And actual news? Supreme Court nominations, Korean missile tests, civil wars? No, no time. I'll try to catch up between scandals.




The big book soap opera in the UK is over the Professor of Poetry seat at Oxford. Why this should be such a prize is beyond me, but that's literary Britain for you. To summarize, esteemed poets Derek Walcott and Ruth Padel were the top candidates for the job. Suddenly, someone sent anonymous emails to journalists reminding them of Walcott's history of being accused of sexual harassment. Walcott withdrew from the race and Padel was named to the seat.


 Then it emerged that some of the anonymous emails about Walcott came from Padel herself. Now she has resigned from the post and it remains empty while literary Britain, in the midst of the annual Hay-on-Wye Book Festival, merrily speculates on who will be the next Oxford Poetry Professor. Clive James, reviewer/novelist/literary critic/media celebrity/bon vivant/former Australian/poet , is furiously campaigning for the job. How unseemly.




Here in the States, the book scandals seem to be centered on the New York Times. In a gripping book excerpt in the N.Y. Times Magazine week before last. Edmund Andrews, a financial reporter for the Times, confessed to outrageously irresponsible financial behavior leading to the imminent foreclosure of his home. He is eight months in arrears on his mortgage and expects to be evicted any day. His book, Busted: Life Inside the Great Mortgage Meltdown, came out a few days ago.


But even as he professed to tell all, enterprising financial reporter Megan McArdle of The Atlantic Monthly, discovered, by looking up public records, that Andrews' wife has declared bankruptcy twice, which seems pertinent to the story, although Andrews never mentioned it. In an interview on PBS' NewsHour, he defended his decision to leave out his wife's finances. But those who think that a tell-all memoir should, you know, tell all, are unlikely to buy the book now.




In other, less scandalous scandals, Thomas Friedman has had to return a $75,000 speaking fee to the City of Oakland, because his employer, The New York Times, doesn't allow its employees to accept money from governments. And Maureen Dowd plagiarized a blogger. Where will it all end?




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It's really amazing how many people are getting caught with their literary pants down lately. It's kind of funny.

Good post.
It's amazing to me how writers think they'll be able to hide parts of their stories -- not different interpretations, but actual facts -- especially in a world where people seem rather inclined not to take the benefit of the doubt. That poetry business in England sounds like English Department politics gone horribly, horribly wrong. It's kind of shameful.
That's really too bad about Derek Walcott. In the long run, they may regret not fighting for him. That was the only one of these scandals that was actual news to me, but there was something about seeing them all lumped together like this.

And, I am now following you on Twitter!
It's really amazing how many people are getting caught with their literary pants down lately. It's kind of funny.
Oh, crap! It's pure coincidence that I've expressed my thoughts in exactly the same form as odetteroulette. I swear.
I must admit, I know nothing about poetry, so I have no opinion on the merits of the poets involved, but the very idea of a university poetry chair being the focus of a scandal is just irresistible. So unexpected.

odetteroulette, I want a pair of those literary pants. Do you think L.L. Bean carries them?

Stellaa, your posts and comments about Twitter convinced me to reconsider it. It requires an odd sort of discipline to cram everything into a sentence or two. And to try to make it worth reading.
As Laura Petrie would say, "Oh, Rob..."
Sorry. So many temptations, so little will power...
And people call me a whore me for self-publishing. Call me crazy, but how does a "financial" reporter keep his job in light of such revelations? What credibility can his reporting possibly have? Maybe Edwards can get a job at Treasury; I hear they're hiring people involved in the financial crisis.

Could this kind of shenanigans be one of the reasons newspapers are folding?
After reading Edmund Andrew’s book excerpt in the NY Times and of his wife’s spending habits, I was not surprised to read that she had suffered a bankruptcy prior to their marriage. I would also not be surprised if Andrews had discussed with his wife whether or not to mention her previous bankruptcy in the book and she had nixed it. Andrews mentions several times in his NY Time’s piece that they had many arguments about her spending habits and that they were a major source of contention in their relatively new marriage. If her spending habits were a source of discord in the marriage, one can understand how she might resist having a previous bankruptcy made widely public.
i can't believe anyone wanted to pay that blowhard Friedman that much money.
Yes, mikek, I can see Andrews trying to protect his wife's privacy here, but it turns out that she declared her second bankruptcy after she and Andrews were married. They appear to be on a path to number three.

Tom, after the Judith Miller debacle in the run up to the Iraq invasion, I can't take the NY Times seriously when it comes to news. You're absolutely right about this being why people aren't that concerned about the loss of newspapers. We've already learned not to rely on them.
@Dave Cullen -- Speaking fees have far less to do with whether someone is a blowhard or even an interesting speaker, than they have to do with influence peddling.

Don't know what the City of Oakland was looking to get out of its $75,000, but you can bet when Tom Daschle was paid big money to talk about healthcare, those who hired him didn't do so for his riveting delivery. They expected his "speaking fee" would result in another kind of "delivery".
Dave, good point about Friedman, he's his own biggest fan. At least Maureen Dowd is entertaining.
Very interesting! That must have been an interesting conversation between Thomas Friedman and his employer, about returning the fee.