18 FEBRUARY 1949, Page 16


Sin,—While I feel that Mr. Strong ascribes the correct, and commonly held, reason for the revival of interest in certain writers as being the wish for " escapist " reading, I also feel that he has miscreated the result of his enquiries in an endeavour to gain data on the matter. Surely he does not ask us to believe that it is the • personality of writers that holds our interest, or that their personalities can even be always felt ? He gives us several examples, a singing boxer, an Irish singer, two writers of crime fiction, and a much-loved wireless comedian ; since the main purpose of his article is to discuss revivalism in reading, in which is to be found the personality theory, then these examples would appear to be useless. If Mr. Strong means by " personality," the writers' styles, then he should say so ; but if he means just " personality," then the writers mentioned by him should be examined again, when it will be found that the men were unlike their own characters in many respects, and that they were recording, and in some cases philosophising.

If, when Mr. Strong made his undoubtedly arduous search for an answer among librarians publishers, reviewers, &c., he had gone on to consult one or two booksellers who, after all, do have a little know- ledge of public tastes and even, in some cases, of their wares, he might have found that, while certain writers do indeed " boom " from time to time, there is generally a steady sale for their works. Of course, the cinema and the wireless do encourage reading in a spasmodic manner, but why are the broadcasts selected? The reason is because of the steady sale and leading which is going on all the while. Yet we still find, as in the year past, unusual happenings in these " booms." In 1948 do fewer than four publishing houses were issuing reprinti of the same title, the first edition of which it was, and still is, possible to buy in large numbers from several booksellers, at prices equal to, and occasion- ally lower than, the reprint price.

I do not agree that writers are appreciated or loved or read for their personalities, nor do I agree entirely that such things as tremendous " booms " occur in writers' popularity. As Mr. Strong says, there is no sense in writing of talking about writers collectively at am, Sir,