Meet your public

Guardian journalist Tim Dowling writes a novel, being syndicated in the Guardian, about a newspaper journalists who discovers and becomes obsessed with an online community dedicated to tearing apart the work of said reporter. What a great idea: writer’s ego meets his public – and so timely and true today. Some snippets from the third excerpt of ‘he Giles Wareing Haters’ Club’:

I delayed my visit to the Giles Wareing Haters’ Club until midday, in order to give its members a chance to digest the morning papers. By the time I got there, it was gone. The thread was simply missing from the list. I searched the talkboard for Wareing. There were five results, all from a brand new thread:

Started by moretoastplease at 10.12 AM on 29.10.04 Today our favourite very bad writer Giles Wareing interviews the celebrated very bad writer “Chair” Fitzpaine. Can anyone think of a more profligate way to waste newsprint?

Grotius – 10.21 AM on 29.10.04 (1 of 19) Dearie me. Hard to decide who comes off worse, but I’d say Wareing edges it by a very brown nose.

Salome66 – 10.31 AM on 29.10.04 (2 of 19) Oh my God! I haven’t even looked at the paper yet! . . . .

FritsZernike – 10.42 AM on 29.10.04 (5 of 19) A new GW Haters clubhouse! What happened to the old one?

Grotius – 10.43 AM on 29.10.04 (6 of 19) Deleted last night. Watch your libels please, people

Salome66 – 10.49 AM on 29.10.04 (7 of 19) It’s more horrific than anything I could have imagined. Might one dare to describe it as “insanely bad”? . . . .

Salome66 – 11.31 AM on 29.10.04 (17 of 19) If one reads between the lines (it’s less painful than reading the actual prose, I find), one can detect in Wareing a certain snivelling envy. He clearly both worships and despises Fitzpaine for his undeserved success, but he doesn’t dare begrudge him it, because he knows undeserved success is the only kind he could ever hope to aspire to. Apologies for the dangling preposition.

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I had reached the bottom of the page. My throat was dry, my heart thudded as if I had run a mile. I could dismiss all of this as casual, recreational cruelty, the electronic equivalent of drawing a moustache on a bus-shelter movie poster; all of it, that is, except the last post. I realized that Salome66 not only hated me, but had my measure. Everything she’d written was right. . . . .

There were now twenty-two posts in total.

PavlovsKitty – 11.47 AM on 29.10.04 (18 of 22) A Cher Fitzpaine apologist! I didn’t know there was such a thing! Apart from Fitzpaine himself, of course

Lordhawhaw – 11.54 AM on 29.10.04 (19 of 22) Or perhaps they’re lovers

Salome66 – 12.03 PM on 29.10.04 (20 of 22) Too cosy for words, isn’t it? But I imagine it’s just a case of one terrible writer coming to the rescue of another out of instinct, being unwilling to criticise someone whose manifest inadequacies so closely mirror his own. Unless the idiot Wareing has a book coming out soon and they’ve made some sort of deal.

Lordhawhaw – 12.09 PM on 29.10.04 (21 of 22) I still think they are b*mming each other.

moretoastplease – 12.17 PM on 29.10.04 (22 of 22) Unless the idiot Wareing has a book coming out soon … Heaven forefend!

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My hands were shaking. I itched all over. Sweat was gathering in the runnels of my ears. It was clear to me that I had to stop reading this stuff. I could see it turning into a peculiar form of self-harm. I was already obsessed. Me, who avoided all confrontations that might involve criticism, who knew better than to listen at locked doors, who knew all the barked places on his thin veneer of self-regard. I took a few deep breaths, and tried to look at things realistically. The ability of Salome66 to peer directly into my soul was probably, most likely, coincidence: two lucky punches landed in a row. She didn’t, couldn’t really know me. I was just feeling vulnerable because my birthday was approaching, and because there was an article by me in today’s newspaper which I knew was not exactly my best work. Salome66 was in all likelihood a sad, lonely woman with too much time on her hands, perhaps even a failed writer who drew comfort from attacking someone who had what she didn’t. I should feel sorry for her. I should think more generously of her. I should, at the very least, ignore her. . . . .

Salome66 – 12.34 PM on 29.10.04 (24 of 24) How utterly perfect! His “book” is nothing more than a distillery-sponsored pamphlet – no doubt the product of some boozy four-day junket in Dublin – designed to be sold in “heritage site” gift shops. I imagine he’s extremely proud of it nonetheless, but wonders from time to time if he should continue to rest on his laurels! You’ve made my day, Grotius!

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I believe this was the point when I first entertained the idea of finding Salome66 and killing her.

Great fun.