Philip Hensher is in trouble with his employers at Exeter University for not being discreet enough in his portrayal of certain characters and events in his latest novel, King Of The Badgers. In these days of social networking, it seems you can't just bung in an interesting chap in Chapter Three that you happened to meet down the pub and hope to get away with it. We are all, not just image-conscious, but aware that our image has rights. This puts novelists in a tricky spot.
"I don't care what you say about me, as long as its art,'' Oliver St John Gogarty was supposed to have told James Joyce. As Gogarty appeared as Buck Mulligan in Ulysses we may assume that he got a pretty good deal. But what if Katie Price writes a tale about a hyperactive Greek ex-pop star set in a jungle, is that grounds for divorce or worse, remarriage?
n I notice that our weekly Top 10 best-sellers contains an Enid Blyton title. St Clare's. Ah, St Clare's. Was that the one with the twins in it? I read them all you know. Perhaps it's the backwash from Harry Potter that old fashioned stories about educational establishments with absurd, nay slightly pervy, night time rituals are now back in fashion.
From Mallory Towers to the Chalet School we have the girlish equivalent of that public school cry of 'play up and play the game'. Even St Trinian's has a kind of knowing innocence more in keeping with pantomime. It's a theme that has attracted writers of the calibre of Philip Larkin, but he had a, er, slightly different take on things.