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Saturday, April 02, 2005



I love anonymity.

Welcome therefore, Bainbridge Beat who

" ... figures I might as well chime in. The thing is, I'd rather observe than be observed. So I prefer to remain anonymous.

I'd rather not let anyone's knowledge of who is doing this color their opinions of its content. I hope this doesn't go against blogger etiquette! It will still be a fascinating journey."

Actually, I find that most folks don't give a fig who's behind most scribblings. If we agree, the writer tends to be a good sort with sound ideas and a graceful style; if not, the post is probably suspect and we need waste little more time in *that* direction. The people to care or fear often boil down to 1) Employer 2) Colleagues 3) Loved ones.

It's a bit like checking the index of pals' autobiographies. The rest of us just get on with reading the colorless prose in our usual colorless manner. Hurry on the day when what opinions we have are indeed tinged by knowing who wrote the stuff. I'm OK because I know absolutely no one and am constantly slighting or insulting pillars of the community as I barge my way round Safeway or carp loudly about the slow pace or lack of lane control as non-commuters shuffle off the ferry .

The important thing is that when the disguise comes off we simper and gush say the right things:

  • Amused surprise, but not *too* surprised that we'd be implying a blandness and anonymity to the actual writing. Delicate line to walk but the main thing is to get the moment of revelation right
  • Golly gosh how funny but of course, should have guessed, etc
  • That familiar rapier wit
  • Perceptive wide-ranging blog, encyclopedic learning worn lightly, blah blah
  • maskThere is of course a disadvantage in staying incognito for *too* long: BB had better come clean before 30 April or he'll be missing Julie Leung's All-Bainbridge Kickoff Meet. Well, he can come, but he'll look a bit bloody stupid huddling by the quiche in a carnival mask.

    I suppose he could pose as being there "on behalf of a friend" but even then we'd soon rumble him.

    I've decided he's a him: all that stuff about letting "knowledge of who is doing this color their opinions of its content" is too clunky for a woman.

    Er, having said that, I'm now not so sure - there's a delicacy to some of the phrasings that - in this country, at least - one hesitates to apply to a manly hand: 'charming', 'delightful', 'such obvious enthusiasm'; those arty references, that sharp eye for horticultural stuff ... hmmm.

    Anyway, we know he's been to Paris and we'll nab him when he bites delicately into an hors d'oeuvres and asks "Is it just me, or are these cucumber sandwiches absolutely divine?" or "I don't know about you, but I need another biscotti to wash down the grappa."

    By now Mrs Leung is totally freaking

    "No no no! I never said nuffink about nosh! Biscotti? Grappa? Quiche?? Te-e-d! He-e-lp!"

    She's right, it's all my invention. If necessary I'll stay up all night preparing wafer-slim Claridges-type cucumber sarnies and brown bread and lemon curd. Ho ho.

    But back to tracing M'sieur Untel Anonyme: it's usually just a phrase that gives them away. For instance, my father was the only pedant I knew ever to insist we get the phrase right about not being able to eat our cake and have it too. Years later when the Unabomber included it in his manifesto, I called Dad in his jungle hidey-hole at the pinnacle of the Hong Kong Civil Service, exposing him and claiming my reward. As we both agreed, Kaczynski *must* have been as big a bore about it as Dad was, so how come the family didn't twig the instant as they read the manifesto?.

    So on with my new sport of tracing the 'Beat', whose command of the language and many graceful phrases intrigue me. Hmmm ...

  • Paris, eh?
  • Wanders around snapping all and sundry
  • Patron of the arts
  • Green-ish fingers, or at least an aesthetic eye for flora
  • Knows his apostrophes - gosh, that narrows the field down to about 57 worthies ... state wide, I'm talking
  • Close reader of the Review, especially - and contributor to, I'll bet - Doug Crist's excellent Letters page.
  • Uses words like 'touts' ; kicks off sentences with the likes of , "Added Craig and Celia ...".
  • As I could see, not one damn'd typo in the whole blog.
  • Hot damn - a wily one here ...

    The only times I've gone anonymous were during my years in London publishing when I edited a chatty book trade column on forthcoming titles and whatever dirt I could dish on those I envied or who had refused my advances. I felt that my job as publicity director for a prominent UK publisher would be compromised if my fellow publicists knew it was *me* rubbishing them and/or their publications - not to mention my *own* authors, about whom I was perfectly capable of writing a few home truths while at the same time promoting the hell out of the books.

    God that was fun: hearing my fellow publicists boast about intimate lunches with the elusive "L:ycidas", hanging my head in shame at my utter failure to secure even a phone call; confess woeful ignorance over half the gossip that even appeared in the column.

    Being at the heart of the book trade, I was up with all the gossip and now and then was able to slip something in untraceable to me but indication that someone pretty clued up was on the case.

    My very favorite - and God help me if he reads it here - was an in-house dig at my own managing director in a review of a novel by an ex-naval commander that we were all very keen on.

    The naval man wrote superbly about action at sea and there was no need to slow the pace with sissy or embarrassing sex stuff - except our hearty CEO disagreed and tried to bully the author into adding some raunchy bits, which he absolutely refused.

    So sure was the Boss that he was right and that sales would rocket, that he sat down and *himself* penned a gratuitous sex scene.

    When the book was published, I took particular pleasure as "Lycidas" in reviewing it in glowing terms *except* for warning readers off pages 221 - 224 where appeared such extraordinarily feeble and tasteless writing that I could hardly believe it was from the same pen. "Indeed," I went on, "if Commander Hislop is under pressure by his publishers to "spice" his writing up with land lubberly dalliance, I suggest his agent remove him at the earliest contractual escape. From my busy socializing among the great and the good, I know of at least three editors who are slavering to add Robert Hislop to their list (and I dare say with double the promotion budget that the scrooge-like Holmes brings to this fine author)".

    You can imagine with what satisfaction the editor produced the review at the next board meeting, including a scowl in my direction for being so measly with the advertising.

    Let the sleuthing begin.

    Gotcha! I'm signing you up for the wafer-slim Claridges-type cucumber sarnies and brown bread and lemon curd. Really.
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