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Reflections of a working writer and reader

 

 

Envy

Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian Online discusses George Steiner’s My Unwritten Books, and along the way turns up this extraordinary confession:

It really is a brilliant article: angry, personal, affecting, terrifically written. It deserves to be anthologised. I actually dug it out today from a pile of old magazines. It is in the Summer 1991 edition of Esquire. The author is Grub Smith, and he recounts how envious he was at realising that his friend Andrew Roberts has hit the big time with his biography of Lord Halifax: “It is a curious, cold unwelcome feeling that creeps up on you when you first realise one of your friends is going to be a success. There you are, all equal, all cracking gags and swapping gossip, when one of you makes it. He starts cancelling dinner invitations because he’s meeting ‘his publisher’ or he doesn’t return your calls because he’s busy working on ‘some new project I can’t tell you about’. Phrases like ‘signing session’ and ‘American royalties’ start dropping into his conversation. It’s hard to react, I tell you.”

Without sparing himself, Smith describes the agony of attending the huge and glittering launch party for his friend’s book, agony he tries to convert into righteous contempt for the stuffy Tories everywhere in evidence. He gets very drunk and behaves badly at the grand dinner that follows the launch: “I walked down to the chair of a balding young Tory and licked the top of his head, saying ‘yum, yum, what a big ice-cream!'”

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