The Columnist
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  David Barlow
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Clare Tomalin
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Melvyn Bragg 2
 
 
 
   
   
   

 

 

 

 

 



Oct 26, 1979

Dear Claire,

Alan and I were both very touched by the letters we got this morning. Me, especially, as running things doesn’t come naturally to me and it’s nice to feel that someone thought I was doing all right. You won’t believe it when I say that you were the best novel reviewer we’ve had for ages, but you were and I am really sorry the Sunday Times is coming back. If you don’t believe me, believe someone very different, the manic Mike Horovitz, whose letter – copy enclosed – I got yesterday.

I suppose, now that you are becoming a top Lit Ed in your own right, you ought to have the fruits of wisdom I’ve gathered in my years as a bottom Lit Ed, Difficult to sum up, really, but the basic ground rules are:-

1) Always quibble over one point in a review, no matter how good it is.

2) Occasionally review a book before publication date, otherwise Quentin Oates won’t notice you.

3) Allow for 50% of incoming books to vanish in the post room. Send them notes from time to time, asking why their reviews of the books they kept are late.

4) Never get depressed by the thought of all the books you can’t review. Think, instead, of how many of them should never have been published in the first place.

5) Don’t meditate on whether book reviews have any effect on book sales. (The answer, if you’re interested, is yes, they do. They diminish them. Most book reviews are read as a substitute for reading the book.)

6) Always remember that the chief task of a Lit Ed is to arrange free lunches for him/herself and his/hers reviewers. I have failed dreadfully in this respect. Up to you, now, I guess.

7) Never listen to other Lit Eds.


Love
Miles