Australia's Funniest Ghost Writer
Oscar Brittle stirred and disturbed his readers
|Animal lovers, rejoice! Oscar Brittle has been gagged at
last. He probably upset you with this letter to the Sydney Morning Herald:
I believe that I have eaten more types of animal than anybody else on
the planet. I have eaten (not necessarily in this order): cow, sheep,
pig, shark, goat, camel, horse, kangaroo, wallaby, wallaroo, potoroo,
bandicoot, duck, chicken, pigeon, whale, wild dog, wild cat, cat, fish,
catfish, dormouse, python, toad, turtle, monkey, impala, sea urchin,
slug, jellyfish, fox, grouse, alligator, llama, vulture, mole, lobster,
mongoose, daddy-long-legs, salamander ..."
That letter was just one of hundreds Oscar sent to the editors of Sydney's
four daily newspapers in an 18-month writing frenzy. Like many other
letter writers, talkback radio callers and bloggers, Oscar was an
opinionated blowhard who wrote stacks of provocative nonsense and
Here are extracts from a few of his letters, which often drew heated
replies, mostly as email comments to the newspapers that had published his
- Dear editor, I turned on the television on Saturday morning and saw
a video clip for the first time in years. I have discovered that 68
per cent of Federal MPs are obese, showing off the tops of their
bottoms with apparent impunity.
- Tomorrow, I and I suspect many of my ilk, will once again firmly
stamp my ecological feet and take the car to town. Climate change is
one thing, but passenger comfort is not to be undervalued.
- Whatever happened to manners on the road? At present, there seem to
be more road rages than ever.
- Recent research shows that young people are having sex younger and
younger. ... Dear, oh dear!
- Video clips have come a long way in 25 years. For three horrible
hours, I watched in disgust and denial as young women gallivanted
about the place in tiny swimsuits, braziers, underpants and other
garments that a man should only see in the boudoir.
- Does anyone have any information about shutting the internet down
for good, or is it too late?
But Oscar wrote too many letters for his own good. Eventually, Amanda Meade,
aptly-named media diarist in The Australian newspaper, became
suspicious. She wrote:
An Oscar for Best Actor.
Meade was right. It turned out that Brittle was a ghost, the
brainchild of three young Canberra writers, Glenn Fowler , Christopher
Smyth and Gareth Malone
DIARY calls on prolific letter writer "Oscar Brittle of Killara"
to identify himself. After a series of curious letters were
published in The Daily Telegraph, we tried to verify that Brittle
was a real person. Here is Brittle on public transport: "The
morning trip was pleasant enough, as I sat next to a handsome,
lightly perfumed young woman, read the paper and even attempted a
Sudoku puzzle" ...The opinionated Brittle is not listed in the
White Pages and he does not exist on the electoral roll. But he has
popped up in Column 8 in The Sydney Morning Herald and on the
letters pages of The Australian. So beware, letters editors
everywhere, there may be another phantom on the loose.
Interviewed in Australia's ABC-TV Stateline
program, author Fowler described Oscar Brittle:
He is generally a fairly conservative, indignant older chap from the
leafy, neat, established northern Sydney suburb of Killara. Very
Dear Editor... The Collected Letters of Oscar Brittle have now
been published as a highly entertaining book.
What we tried to do was create somebody who has that combination of
ignorance and outspokenness. He's got an opinion on anything. He's
got ideas about anything and he's quite prepared to share them. He
doesn't check things very often. He gets things wrong.
We tried to create maximum confusion and maximum offence with many
of the letters, and we wanted the readers of the letters to be
shocked. Obviously, first of all, that would be the editors doing
the reading, and if they then got published and other people read
them, we wanted to provoke responses, we wanted people to write
letters back. And, fortunately, that happened in a lot of cases. So,
Oscar offends virtually everybody on the planet in his letters,
unless they're exactly like him.
The publisher's blurb says:
In an eighteen month campaign to wrest control of the debates in the
nation's newspapers and magazines from the wishy-washies and the
weaklings, Oscar Brittle became (arguably) the most significant and
powerful contributor to public debate in contemporary Australia.
There really was a man who devoted much of his life to tasting as many
different animal species as he could find. Dr
William Buckland (1784-1856), Dean of Westminster and a professor
at Oxford University (UK) tried to eat specimens of every living
This book is a collection of published letters and their originals,
published replies from various correspondents, email exchanges
between Oscar and editors, as well as the rejected letters, all
interspersed with gorgeous illustrations throughout.
He was a frequent visitor to London Zoo, as he lived nearby. When an
exotic animal died, he took the opportunity to taste its flesh. On one
occasion, a leopard died and was buried while he was away on holiday.
Returning to London, he dug it up, to taste leopard steak in the name
The dean pronounced moles and bluebottles (flies) to have the worst
He taught his son, Francis
Trevelyan Buckland (1826-1880) to enjoy the flesh of exotic
animals by participating in banquets of ostrich, crocodile, hedgehog
and mice on toast.
Frank inherited his father's interests. While studying at Oxford, he
complained of the "horribly bitter" taste of earwigs. Frank
became a popular scientific author and lecturer.
Published 2009-04-23 11:32 (KST) in OhmyNews,
International Art & Life produced by the OhmyNews Journalism
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