Breaking news: Salman Rushdie can't spell hot. Or rather, he probably can, but on Twitter, in his messages to a nubile New York socialite, he spells it "hottt", as in "you look so gorgeous and hottt!".
The Booker Prize-winning novelist, 64, joined Twitter only in September but has taken to it so enthusiastically that in less than three months he has racked up 1,218 tweets and counting. Perhaps inevitably, he now finds himself the victim of a Twit-sting, at the hands of Devorah Rose, the twentysomething editor of a glossy Hamptons magazine, Social Life, who apparently dined out with Rushdie a few times.
He asked her out on Facebook, continued the flirtation on Twitter and then, after a change of heart, let her down gently with a textbook "it's not you, it's me" message. "I'm sorry to say that I don't feel able to pursue what we only just began," he typed. "I hope that we can remain friends."
Rose has now splashed the private messages to her 1,400 or so followers on Twitter. All rather embarrassing for Rushdie, but he's entitled to date who he likes. Far more embarrassing is that his tweets to Rose throb with the hormonal mis-spellings of a teenager. His Facebook messages are sprinkled with – the horror! – emoticons. He uses words like "badassery" in public.
To see a novelist mangling words and using smiley yellow cartoon faces to convey emotions is jarring, to say the least. Shouldn't our literary greats follow the surly Julian Barnes model and save their words for slim prize-winning volumes? Or, failing that, take a leaf out of Martin Amis's book and store up one's private spleen for occasional, explosive flurries in the media?
Maybe not. We might like the idea of intellectual writers watching over our precious English language in ivory towers but the mundane truth is that writing is a day job. When Rushdie and his ilk are not elegantly encased between two hard covers, they can make for rather a prosaic and dispiriting read; it's a case of never tweet your heroes. So now I've done to Rushdie what I did to Bret Easton Ellis when he tweeted that The Human Centipede 2 was a "likable and charming" film. It's the only thing, really, a true book-lover can do: reader, I unfollowed him.