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Correspondence

March 12, 2000

To the Editor:

I was happy to read in Michael Mewshaw's review of "Greene on Capri" by Shirley Hazzard (Book Review, Feb. 6), his account of Penelope Gilliatt's profile of Graham Greene, published by The New Yorker in 1979. I have been waiting for years to see this story in print. Renata Adler told part of it in her recent book, "Gone: The Last Days of The New Yorker." And now you have published Mewshaw's account. But there is more.

Mewshaw was paid for material which William Shawn acknowledged Gilliatt had "unconsciously lifted" from him for her profile of Graham Greene. So was I, for what Gilliatt took from an article entitled "Graham Greene as Film Critic" which I published in 1972 in Sight and Sound. I bear no responsibility for the pieces in her profile which Greene objected to in The New Statesman; they were entirely Gilliatt's own. On the telephone Shawn acknowledged the shocking similarities and paid accordingly. He also made it clear he would print no apology; indeed, he said unequivocally that he would do everything in his power to keep the issue quiet because The New Yorker had recently been obliged to apologize to Lutece for claiming the restaurant had served frozen fish. Greene, whose last book, "Reflections," I edited and introduced in 1990, and Penelope Houston, who was then editor of Sight and Sound, knew of the business at the time. Both objected to William Shawn on my behalf.

I wonder if Adler knows whether The New Yorker's famous fact checkers warned Shawn in advance "that Miss Gilliatt's piece tracked to an extraordinary degree" my article as well as Mewshaw's. Sight and Sound was (and remains) hardly an unknown journal.

Judith Adamson

Montreal, Canada

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