27 July 2011

Insert insurance joke here

The Daily Telegraph in Britain has been ordered to pay author Sarah Thornton 65,000 pounds ($106,736.50 as of writing) after one of its critics, Lynn Barber, criticized her book SEVEN DAYS IN THE ART WORLD by saying its claim to have interviewed her for it was false. (Thornton had proof of the interview and, apparently, a correction didn't cut it.)

Granted, as I understand it libel laws in Britain are much tougher than here -- that is tougher on the person doing the libelling, more sympathetic to the libeled, see the Polanski suit in 2005 (and that the plaintiff chose to sue in the UK) -- but that's fairly chilling. At the very least Barber's editor will probably have reservations about hiring her again.

(Tangential note, if you recognize the name Lynn Barber, it's probably because of her memoir which was made into the 2009 movie of the same name, AN EDUCATION. It really has nothing to do with her work, but jumped out at me right away.)

The judge presiding wrote in his decision that Barber's review was "spiteful" -- but who decides that? I personally don't think I ever criticize a book without clear and lucid reasoning for doing so (ahem ahem) but surely a few authors whose works I did not like would disagree. Meanness is in the eye of the beholder, for the most part. (So's favor -- been accused of that too.) If you have an axe to grind, suddenly everything looks like a wood pile.

Thornton's real victory in this case is making me want to read her book, which I hadn't even heard of, but it must be juicy -- right?

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