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Hung up on Julie and Toby

The 'Modern Review' has been shut down by its editor, Toby Young. Can't, says Julie Burchill, its founder. Media folk are taking sides in the mother of all postmodern battles. Phone-lines are hotting up. John Lyttle, a former contributor, fields the calls; Martin Rowson (also ex-MR) pour s oil on troubled waters
Everyone knew it had to happen. We were waiting for it to happen. Some sick souls - sick of Julie Burchill, sick of Toby Young, sick of the Modern Review, their bi-monthly cultural baby-cum-brat - were eager for it to happen. So when thenews hit that King Kong had finally divorced Godzilla and no one was getting custody of the offspring because Daddy had killed it, telephone wires hummed from literary Hampstead to media Soho to wannabe groovy Grub St, but in the bored, knowing way thought de rigueur among those who consider themselves connected.

"The vultures come home to roost," my friend laughs.

"Are you on a mobile? I can't hear you. Say that again."

"The vultures have come home to roost. Let the Modern Review close. It was vanity publishing with nothing to be vain about. Eighties cultural studies dragged up with jokes, pretending to be journalism. And it went on and on about how boring cultural studies were. Was that hypocrisy or stupidity? I couldn't tell. I could never tell what the Modern Review was about. Except Toby Jug's ambition. What did it stand for?"

"For Nineties confusion. It was contradictory because it was of the times. Julie wanted it to stand for something. Julie wanted it to be more political."

"Remember all that talk four years ago at the launch about it being as big as the New Statesman in its heyday? You knew where you stood with the Statesman. And they had, whatshisname, Graham Greene. Name me someone of equal stature on the Modern Review. Ha!"

"Julie," I say. My friend moans.

"But you're Julie's friend." The mobile link breaks up again. My friend's voice is a faraway whisper. "Hold on," I say. "At least La Burchill set up the Modern Review. She put her money where her mouth was."

"Not enough money for such a big mouth."

"It also gave young people chances the mainstream press didn't in subject matter and approach. And the mainstream press regularly picked up on features. It was influential."

"Come on. You know how it really operates. All those free copies of the Modern Review landing on the arts desk, the features desk, editor's desk. 'Oh, look, there's an idea I can take. Save me having to think of one or having to commission a writer. And the Modern Review is young and hip, isn't it. I want to be young and hip too.' That's not influence, that's laziness. And it's not being 'in touch' with youth. Most of those MR guys were in their thirties. They just wrote young. Toby Young, unfortunately. I subbed his copy once at the XXXXXXX. Enough said."

"The Modern Review was a job creation scheme - about networking, not popular culture."

"Have you told Julie that? Or Toby?"

"No. Have you?"

Silence. So we rehash the obvious. After all, there had been close to a year of verbals, with Burchill bitching about Young - usually at the Groucho Club -- complaining about all that American crap he was putting in her publication and how everyone hated him, and Young returning the compliment (he was the one who had to find contributors, get them to write for minimum payment, stabilise a circulation down from a peak of 30,000 to 10,000) with each party's camp wondering how much the other side knew or cared, because in theincestuous world of the capital's media, such wild words could mean everything or nothing.Especially with Julie, everyone's Feud Queen, but also, conversely, oddly, all forgiving; a woman who called Camille Paglia "a raving bull dyke", but whose shoulder pads are permanently soaked with the tears of friends in need.

"But Toby didn't need her any more," my friend theorises. "Maybe that was the problem."

"Julie says he was jealous of Charlotte."

"Charlotte Raven, Julie's new love, the babe who replaced husband Cosmo Landesman?"


"Does Julie know that Toby used to sleep with Charlotte?"

"There are Amazon tribes that know Toby slept with Charlotte. Hmm. What will happen to Toby Young? Where was he before the Modern Review?"

Pause. Crackle."God, I don't know. I do know he won't be able to recite his party mantra anymore: 'Hello. I'm Toby Young, editor of the Modern Review.' "

"All change for Toby."

"All change for Julie. I realise he shut the magazine down..."

"Burchill says he can't. She's 50 per cent owner..."

"Whatever. He closed it, and now Julie has no ties to her old life. Bye-bye Cosmo. Bye-bye Toby. Hello lesbianism..."

"She's been on speaking terms with lesbianism for a while."

"But now she's fluent."

Beep. Beep. "Call waiting. Got to go."