19 JULY 1957, Page 32

PUFFS DIRECT SIR,—I strongly support Mr. John Bayley's protest against

the habit certain publishers have adopted of issuing their books with a barrage of puffs obtained before publication by personal approach.

It might be claimed that such puffs, usually printed in the form of bands on top of the wrapper, are no different in essence from the opinions of critics— which will in any case shortly be appearing. The eager publisher-midwife has simply secured the healthy—if premature—arrival of a bouncing and serviceable opinion.

There are, however, important differences between criticisms and puffs. The criticism will appear in any case: the puff only if it is sufficiently lavish to satisfy its procurer.

The innocent reader who sees, to use Mr. Bayley's example-1 am still shaking from the sheer pity and terror of it,' Roger Fishwick—has no means of knowing how many other Fishwicks may have been approached, and either said they thought the book lousy, or thrown the publisher's plea for a few kind words into the wastepaper basket.

A twelve-month study of the names on these puff bands suggests that at least one of our leading literary figures must be sacrificing a full working day each week to the discovery and recommendation of fresh genius—and that one or two figures who are not literary at all arc earnestly struggling to achieve literary fame solely in this new specialized field of puff-band writing.—Yours faithfully,

TOM HOPKINSON 5 Stanhope Place. W2