WHEN Marieke Hardy's red-raggin' grandad, Frank Hardy, wrote a roman a clef of Melbourne life and corruption, he was sued for defamation by John Wren's widow, a devout, Mass-every-morning lady who took umbrage that his readers might conclude she had taken a lover, as did the wife of the novel's central character. Hardy won the case on the grounds that, as the widow had never had an affair nor done anything else untoward, she could not possibly be the inspiration for the Power Without Glory character.
That was some very smart lawyering right there, but such logic would quite clearly have done First Tuesday Book Club's resident doxy no good in her just-settled legal tussle with inoffensive blogger Joshua Meggitt, who will collect a reported $13,000 for having been branded a stalker. Hardy not only named the wrong man, her travails have inspired the real needler to go back on line.
Hardy need not worry too much, however. Her admirers are flooding the comments with witty quips about the tormenter's misshapen private parts, amorous interest in dogs and solitary habits. Marieke must be so chuffed to have a legion of supporters who express their admiration via imitation, the sincerest form of flattery.
Less pleased, perhaps, will be Jonathan Green of the Drum, whose site re-broadcast Marieke's wrongly directed assault on Meggitt, omitting only his name (which was common knowledge all over the web). It is too much to hope that one of the legal wizards who defended old Frank might still be working and ready for a brief, but the Drum is going to need someone of equal calibre if it is to wriggle out of this one. As Meggitt's lawyer, Stuart Gibson, notes, "'where an original publisher apologises, one would be foolish to ignore subsequent republishers of the same material''. Especially a slur that remains on the site to this day.
If this all works out as it probably will, what a happy result! Marieke gets back her $13,000 via First Tuesday tit-wiggling and suspender-flashing, while her new column for young Ben Knapsack, who is taking charge of Fairfax's Good Weekend, also will be a nice little earner. Meanwhile, those forking out 8 cents a day (or is now 25c?) can take heart that some of it may end up in Meggitt's pocket, rather underwriting the further misadventures of their ABC.