~ Posted by Robert Butler, November 20th 2012

In You couldn't make it up, the spy novelist Jeremy Duns said his readers wouldn't let him get away with writing a story like the Petraeus affair because the storyline is "not just clichéd, but poorly written. Events that only occur as a result of characters' ineptitude frustrate readers". Maybe we were considering the wrong section of the bookshop for this particular page-turner. Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker has come up with a title that would move it to the front of the bookshop: "Fifty Shades of Khaki".

In How Tom Wolfe does it, our Notes on a Voice in the current issue, we say Wolfe's role models were "Balzac, Dickens, Thackeray and Zola, the masters of the big-city novel. Wolfe has written three, set in New York, Atlanta and now Miami". There's a long appreciative article in City Journal (hat-tip: Arts and Letters Daily) which argues for the importance of one American state in Wolfe's work (a state which is itself a state of mind). Michael Anton writes:

Without California, there would be no Wolfe as we know him...And without Wolfe, we would not understand California—or the California-ized modern world.

In Now there's a job interview, we argued that in normal circumstances ("normal" meaning, in this case, not giving calamitous radio interviews) the Director General of the BBC should not have resigned. "The job of the DG," we said, "is to sort out crises, not be overwhelmed by them." The job of the DG is also not to behave as if a crisis doesn't exist. A piece in the New York Times suggests the previous DG, Mark Thompson, knew more than he has previously said about the allegations surrounding Jimmy Savile. And if he didn't know about it, then his lawyers did. It's a damaging allegation as Thompson has just started his new job as chief executive of the New York Times Company. A New Yorker blogger writes:

For his sake, I hope that Mark Thompson...rented an apartment rather than buying one.

Robert Butler is online editor of Intelligent Life