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Belle du Jour, Brooke Magnanti, Paul Carr & The Sunday Times

November 15, 2009

Given it’s a Sunday afternoon and I’ve managed to twist the arm of my Significant Other to prepare one of Clarissa Dickson Wright’s beef stews, I’m not especially surprised I’m feeling relaxed. There’s the newest episode of Doctor Who to watch this evening, a backlog of Cranford to watch on Blu-Ray and the rest of The Sunday Times to read.

According to the cover of the newspaper, £2 represents great value for money considering all the sections available to me. Whereas the Observer has recently announced swingeing cuts to its Sunday newspaper, it seems Rupert Murdoch and his bunch have been keen to underline how some parts of the Sunday newspaper industry are not apparently in danger. That’s good then. As we’re approaching the winter, I’m going to need a supply of suitable material to put on the roaring fire we like to have at the weekends. Yes, we’re that middle class.

I only buy the Sunday Times this morning because I’m at the garage getting some dishwasher powder. And it’s only the Sunday Times because there are no more Guardians left. (I was momentarily tempted to purchase the News of The World to read about Jedward apparently watching pornography in the X-Factor house but think better of it when I imagine my work colleagues laughing uncontrollably at me when I inevitably reveal the truth the following morning at work).

But why by a Sunday newspaper when for the past five months or so I’ve steered well clear of purchasing newspapers at all after my tyrannical subscription to the Guardian came to an end?

I bought the paper because of Paul Carr. Paul was tweeting as he worked on his Techcrunch column. Then he tweeted when it was available, the blog being in response to the Sunday Times interview about Belle du Jour research scientist writer Brooke Magnanti. I haven’t read the Belle du Jour blog. I know only a small amount about it. I know only a small amount about Paul Carr, but my interest is piqued. I buy the newspaper. Monkey see, monkey do. I’m predictable like that. I’m exactly the kind of non-thinking newspaper-purchasing member of the public Rupert Murdoch must look out for on a lazy, sunny Sunday morning.

There’s not a great deal to India Knight’s interview, it has to be said. Blogging since 2003, the Belle du Jour (formerly) anonymous author Dr Brooke Magnanti now feels the need to “come out”. The phrase alone is enough to see my hackles rise. Please for the love of God don’t commandeer that phrase us gayers have owned since the beginning of time. You’re not coming out at all. You’re merely telling us your full name and your association with a blog.

She’s telling us in part because she has a mouthy ex-boyfriend who threatens the very fabric of time and space and also (we’re led to believe) the Archibishop of Canterbury’s recent comments which led Magnanti to think it was time to explain she wasn’t glamourising prostitution.

Some people fall into prostitution because they’re in with a bad crowd, others follow that path for purely pragmatic reasons. Her explanation as to what she was thinking before she went into her 14 month stretch of hookerdom seem eminently sensible. I’m not especially shocked. I’m not especially concerned about women up and down the country. It’s just someone I don’t know telling me her name, telling me what she did prior to 2003 and what she does now. So what?

She’s done incredibly well out of it as far as I can see. She had an education and in part successfully realised career in science as well as demonstrating a pragmatic solution to resolving some financial difficulties which she in turn translated into another, almost certainly more lucrative income for the future. In that respect she was acting like any journalist would – sell the story in as many different forms as you possibly can. Wring the rag dry.

And now, by revealing her name she has merely established herself on the market as the talented writer she obviously is. It’s time for the next stage of her career, something which was unlikely to happen if she attempted to remain anonymous.

Sure, you might as Paul Carr’s argues, question whether or not the Times were employing underhand tactics merely to raise sales of a weekend title. If that was the case, it worked (in part because Paul Carr alerted me to it late last night). But it’s down to Magnanti’s audience to judge her.

And as far as I can see, the only way I can judge is by trying to fight against the instinctive bitterness and resentment I have for irritatingly talented lady. Like the prefects at school who secured their questionably responsible role for being adept on the sports field as well as in music and academia, Magnanti has demonstrated she’s a good writer both in entertainment and science. I hate that.

As a blogger who took her experiences as a prostitute and translated them into a money earner for ITV, she epitomises the dream we all have in the back of our minds. Thus whether Magnanti was outed or not by a newspaper looking to ride on her coat tails is neither here nor there. If she continues her writing career (as surely she must) then she’ll weedle her way into our hearts as a geek who did salaciousness and humour and earnt money from it. Good on her.

It’s still easier to be jealous of her though.

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