Alice Jones: Surely no literary giant should use an emoticon?

IMHO: Rushdie stung in Twitter expose of badassery - and bad spelling

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Newsflash! 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!" Elsewhere on the social networking site, he calls fellow writer Gary Shteyngart "dawg" and boasts about their – deep breath, now, boys and girls – "badassery".

The Booker Prize-winning novelist only joined the social networking site in September but he has taken to has taken to it so enthusiastically that in less than three months he has racked up 1,218 tweets and counting. Inevitably, he now finds himself the victim of a Twit-sting, at the hands of Devorah Rose, twenty-something editor of the Hamptons glossy Social Life who 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 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, a veteran of reality television shows like Real Housewives of New York, and no stranger to over-sharing, sniffed a story and splashed the private messages to her 1,400 or so followers on Twitter. All rather embarrassing for Rushdie but at the age of 64, he's entitled to date who he likes. Far more embarrassing is his social netiquette. His tweets to Rose throb with the hormonal misspellings of a teenage boy. His Facebook messages are sprinkled with – the horror! – emoticons. He uses words like "badassery".

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 aloof Julian Barnes model and save their words for slim prize-winning volumes? Or, failing that, take after Martin Amis and store up one's personal spleen for occasional, explosive flurries in the media? Maybe not. We might like the idea of intellectual novelists locked away in their ivory towers, watching over our precious English language 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. So now I've done what I did when Bret Easton Ellis tweeted that The Human Centipede 2 was "likeable and charming" - the only thing, really, a true book lover can do. Reader, I unfollowed him.

* I've been staring at it for a good 20 minutes – on and off – and I'm still not quite sure what I'm looking at. There's no 3D image of a dolphin, emerging Magic Eye-style from the sea of letters and numbers, and there's definitely no sign of Wally in his red-and-white stripy jumper. The unintelligible grid has been posted at www.canyoucrackit.co.uk by GCHQ as part of a recruitment drive: those who manage to break the code find themselves redirected to the intelligence agency's website and encouraged to apply for a job. It's not quite the whispered word from the Russian tutor in the college cloisters but spies have always favoured the arcane job application. Bletchley Park famously fished its "boffins" via a Daily Telegraph crossword competition and GCHQ have previously hidden messages in computer games to lure technology whizzkids. There is an easier way. You could just log on to www.gchq-careers.co.uk, but as George Smiley or Jack Bauer probably once said, form-filling is for losers.

* Where better to escape the clutches of George "Grinch" Osborne than the plush red seats of theatreland? Last week, both Matilda and One Man, Two Guvnors opened in the West End to an unseemly scrap for tickets. They join Jerusalem, back in London after a triumphant run in New York, which features the must-see performance of the decade from Mark Rylance. In April, One Man, Two Guvnors will also transfer to Broadway, confirming theatre as one of the UK's most valuable exports.

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