The one I feel sorry for is Mr Flett. Eric, his name seems to be. You know the story, do you? Kathryn Flett is a feature writer on the Observer. A few years ago her husband of just 17 months abruptly told her he was leaving. Well, that's men for you. But within weeks Eric must have wished he had married someone safer, a knife thrower or a karate black belt. Because Flett didn't do the decent thing and get on with her life. She wrote about the break-up in the newspaper and then it - and its repercussions - became the subject of her weekly column.
This created something of a stir, as it disposed of yet another columnist's taboo. What is a columnist going to do next? I was going to say that the next thing will be for a serial killer to be given his weekly column in a quality newspaper, and then I remembered that the Unabomber was only caught in the end because he got a long article published in the New York Times about his philosophy.
The next thing I heard was that Flett had been given a substantial advance to write a book on the subject. Poor Eric. Presumably it will then be filmed with someone like Gwyneth Paltrow, who can sob prettily, playing Kathryn, and somebody sweaty and sinister, a less charismatic Kevin Spacey, playing Eric. Then it will be a musical: Flett! Sara Brightman is Kathryn Flett. A forgotten and despised former pop star will play Eric.
But for the time being there is only the book - The Heart-Shaped Bullet - an extract of which appeared in the Observer. I suppose a book of this kind might work if it was authentically transgressive and obscene; if it really told you the nasty details about a relationship that you never even tell your closest friends, that you hardly admit to yourself.
The greatest diarists have this quality of complete self-absorption and unembarrassability. Thomas Macaulay wrote in horrified admiration of James Boswell: "Everything which another man would have hidden, everything the publication of which would have made another man hang himself, was a matter of gay and clamorous exultation to his weak and diseased mind." However, Macaulay conceded that "he has used many people ill; but assuredly he has used nobody so ill as himself".
That couldn't be said of Flett. She uses Eric iller than she uses herself. She makes a token effort to give examples of how she could be difficult, but the real point of what she writes is to show how irritating Eric was.
I mean, for God's sake, on a supposedly romantic holiday, she was reading Captain Corelli's Mandolin and he was reading some book about management. Worse and worse, he kept interrupting her to ask what it was about. When she laughed at something, he interrupted her again and asked her what it was.
What none of this - or anything at all in the entire, long extract from the book - made me think was: "how awful for her" (or him), or even how unsuited they were to each other. It just confirmed how meaningless are the unadorned details of other people falling in love or out of love. Because when the person you love keeps interrupting you with stupid questions, that seems lovely and charming. On the other hand, is there anything more horrible than being nice and amusing to somebody who doesn't like you and realising it isn't doing you any good at all?
Much of Kathryn Flett's "case" reads like one of those elaborate and learned trials, conducted in a medieval court, of a pig which had eaten a hen. There is all the apparatus of evidence and argument and counter-argument, but it doesn't really apply to anything.
Flett writes well and I read every word, but, well, "Eric appeared to believe that you could get on in life by working reasonably hard and being a nice guy, while I knew that it took a little bit more than that". The bastard. It reminds me of those hopeless arguments you have where one of you accuses the other - all right, I am accused - of being untidy and you - I - pathetically and pedantically start saying, well, I hung out the washing yesterday morning and I swept up the kitchen this morning, and I'm always the one who wipes out the bath and, for once in my life, I just hope that there's a God up there who's keeping score, because he knows I'm right.
Still, perhaps it's better than watching a cockfight or a bear being baited. I hope Eric's writing his own book: Eric's Version - "he's back and he's mad". Schwarzenegger is Eric.