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?