Complete fiction - but very familiar
Novel of literary London comes out after lawyers have their say, writes Suzi Feay
Sunday 01 December 1996
Written in the style of the grand Victorian novel, the original version of Craig's novel concerned the struggles of two women: Mary, a poor, self- taught Irish girl, and Amelia, the glamorous daughter of a newspaper tycoon. Both fall in love with Paul Pinsent, a ruthless but stylish literary journalist. But Craig's former boyfriend, the Sunday Telegraph critic David Sexton, put paid to plans to publish the tale when he warned that he might sue, claiming the Machiavellian book reviewer Pinsent was a thinly disguised attack on him.
It has taken months of legal negotiations, the withdrawal of the book by its original publishers, Penguin, a substantial rewriting of the fine detail of the novel and an auction race between other rival houses to get A Vicious Circle into the bookshops. In the revised version out goes Paul Pinsent - and in moves Mark Crawley. Craig has been forced to change not only the main male character's name but also his appearance, origin, job, the location of his flat, his kitchen's contents, the publications he freelances for and one incident of oafish behaviour. Even his fridge and Baby Belling have changed - from a second- hand one to a "a gyp-room fridge and a slo-cooker".
When the news broke that Sexton had written to Penguin, threatening to sue over resemblances he detected, Craig airily commented: "About the only similarity is that they both have a second-hand fridge and wear Italian clothing."
Mary Quinn, a cast-off girlfriend who takes her revenge, has also had her hair colour changed from red to brown. "I think he thought that she was too identified with me," says Craig.
She insists no one person was the model for "Mark Crawley". "It was never my intention to libel this man, and I don't think I did. It's ridiculous to say because my character comes from such-a-place, went to Cambridge and to London to be a journalist it must be that person." The latest version of A Vicious Circle contains a stern disclaimer: "Any resemblance of the satirical archetypes in A Vicious Circle to real-life people and events is ... not only wholly unintended but entirely wrong."
Wholly unintended? The walk-on parts so gleefully portayed are a feast for the journalists and critics who set forth on the trail of the real- life counterparts of literary London.
There's Merlin Swagg, novelist and presenter of an influential TV arts show ("he only has established authors on Snap, Crackle, Pop! and he's much too soft to give them a hard time"). There's dodgy press baron Max de Monde of MDM newspapers, a loathsome fat bully who uses face flannels as toilet paper and flies around in his company helicopter. And there's Ben Gorgle, "portly Canadian editor of Grunt ... bearded, balding, bespectacled ..." The very alliteration seems to point us inexorably towards Bill Buford, the former editor of the literary magazine Granta.
Some people were flattered to find themselves in the novel. A couple of good-natured journalists (John Walsh and Christopher Silvester) happily proffered themselves as candidates for the role of Ivo Sponge, literary editor, lecher and wit. Craig, whose latest version makes Mark Crawley a political pundit while Sponge becomes a literary critic who wants a top Westminster job, claims Sexton has behaved decently. The real villain for her is Penguin, which, she says, dumped her novel without giving her a chance to rewrite.
- 4 Women think Irish men are the sexiest, survey finds
- 5 Florida couple forced to register as sex offenders for having sex on public beach
Italian police 'reveal' what Jesus looked like as a young boy
Who should I vote for in the general election? Take The Independent's interactive quiz to find out which party is the right choice for you
Florida couple forced to register as sex offenders for having sex on public beach
Mysterious 'X-Files' sounds heard miles above the Earth
US gameshow gives woman in wheelchair incredibly awkward prize
In defence of liberal democracy
General Election 2015: Post-election 'shambles' looms as 70 per cent of voters say SNP 'should not be able to veto UK government policies'
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
General election live: SNP suspends two members for disrupting Labour rally
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils
£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...
£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...
£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...
£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...