Donna Tartt’s lawyer sends off warning letters over Bennington College podcast
Acclaimed author Donna Tartt has been sending off some tart legal letters to a podcast about her time at Bennington College, Page Six has learned.
Tartt’s lawyer sent the terse letters in October and September, sources say, to the producers of “Once Upon a Time… at Bennington College” — which details Tartt’s time at the school, including an allegedly gender-bending relationship with her male muse, fellow student Paul McGloin.
The podcast — inspired by Lili Anolik’s 2019 Esquire piece, “The Secret Oral History of Bennington: The 1980s’ Most Decadent College” — launched late last month, recounting the Vermont liberal arts school’s famed literary brat pack of destined-to-be-famous Gen X classmates, including Pulitzer Prize-winner Tartt, “Less Than Zero” author Bret Easton Ellis, and MacArthur “Genius” Jonathan Lethem.
The podcast also includes alleged tales about some of the college’s superstar faculty, including Camille Paglia.
But Tartt, 57, the author of “The Secret History” and “The Goldfinch,” seems determined to keep her school days behind her.
Her literary agents, RCW in London, have also apparently asked Apple to take down the podcast, alleging that it infringes on their rights.
The letters from Tartt’s lawyer aren’t filed legal documents, but simply warn the podcast’s creators not to use any “false, misleading or otherwise inaccurate statement” about Tartt that could be made by guests, sources told Page Six.
Another letter warns against using any of Tartt’s published works without permission, or any of her private school records. Tartt’s attorney, and her agency, did not respond to numerous requests for comment on Wednesday.
McGloin has also lawyered up, we hear.
When we reached out for comment, podcast host Anolik told us in a statement: “All I know is that Donna gave a polite decline when asked to participate in the podcast. Then my producer started hearing from her lawyer and from her publisher’s lawyers.”
She added: “My podcast is — at least in part — about how Donna Tartt wrote the American version of ‘Brideshead Revisited,’ i.e., ‘The Secret History,’ because she was living the American version of ‘Brideshead Revisited.’ While at Bennington, she inhabited a world that was very moneyed, very louche, very sexually ambiguous. The podcast is quite admiring of her, but it is also quite revealing of her.”
However, the war of words between the wordsmiths may only be heating up.
Wednesday’s episode of the podcast, “Mississippi Chippy,” detailed Mississippi-born Tartt’s personal life while she was a student at luxe Bennington, which reportedly inspired her first book, the legendary ’90s tome, “The Secret History.”
According to the podcast, Tartt began an unusually close relationship with fellow student McGloin in the early ’80s. As one former classmate, Todd O’Neal, recalls, “It was a little surreal because… all of a sudden Donna became like a small version of Paul. I can remember very clearly sitting with Paul and Donna, and… Donna was there dressed very similar to Paul. A blue blazer, a club tie and a white shirt, and khakis… boy’s pants, not girls. And hair in this funky little asexual bob. It was as if we were three boys sitting there.”
The podcast episode goes on to allege that McGloin even called Tartt by the nicknames, “Laddie” and “M’boy,” and that Tartt recalled, “the raciest thing ever” was when they were mistaken for a gay male couple during a visit to the National Gallery in Washington, DC.
In Anolik’s words, the former couple had a “Fantasy, mutual, or so it would seem… that they are two boys in a romantic and sexual relationship,” and a “straight couple that perhaps gets a little jolt out of masquerading as a gay couple.”
Another former classmate in the podcast, called only “Student X,” alleges that she was dispatched by McGloin’s former girlfriend at the time to suss out his new relationship with Tartt.
The unnamed student wrote in their diary at the time of her amateur investigation, according to the podcast, “[Paul] is in love with a ‘delightful creature,’ a girl who looks like a little boy, whose sexuality seems like she wants to be treated like a homosexual man.”
The same source says that when she eventually met Tartt, she was, “this super sweet tiny little thing … I do have to say I went back a little bit with my tail between my legs.”
The anonymous classmate also recalls that she and her group called Southern-born Tartt “the Missiissippi chippy” behind her back, and that, “People were saying these weird things about her… that she’s this powerhouse and she’s so smart. Then this other thing, I don’t know why this filtered down… why anyone knew this, but just that she somehow like, liked to have sex like a young boy… I don’t know what that means.”
The podcast episode also details a now-famous date that Easton went on with Tartt, which was previously covered in the Esquire piece, as was Tartt’s relationship with McGloin.
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