October 30, 1946
Mr. Kelsey Guilfoil
Magazine of Books
Dear Mr. Guilfoil:
I am sorry that the shortness of time did not permit you to send me a copy of “B.F.’s Daughter” [by J. P. Marquand]. But I am afraid that the time was too short anyway, if you needed a review by publication date.
Yes, I would like very much to do some book reviews for you. But my interest in reviewing is of a special kind, so I had better explain it to you in advance.
You ask, must I like a book in order to review it? No, not necessarily. But “like” was the briefest way to state it in a wire. To be exact, what I should say is that I would be glad to review a book if I find that it would be interesting for me to review it. This means: if the book has some aspect which I consider important, so that something serious or important can be said about it. I may then praise or condemn the book, or both in part, as the case may be.
Now the fact that a book is by Mr. Marquand does not necessarily mean that I will find it important as far as my particular intellectual interests are concerned. The book will, of course, have professional or trade importance, but that is quite a different matter.
My writing commitments are so heavy and my working schedule so crowded that I cannot undertake to do reviews just for the sake of reviewing. What I should like to do—and I’d like it very much, indeed—is write a report, occasionally, on some book which arouses my own interest enough to make me eager to express my views of it in print.
As examples: I would have liked to review “Animal Farm”—though I consider it a very bad book; but it has great historical significance—as an eloquent and frightening revelation of the mind of a modern socialist (I mean, the author. The book is not anti-Communist, you know. It’s merely anti-Stalin, but pro–Communist. This should have been said in reviews, but wasn’t.).
I would have liked to review “Mr. Adam” [by Pat Frank]. It is not a literary work—but its anti-bureaucratic satire deserves
Page 2 Mr. Kelsey Guilfoil October 30, 1946
attention, both on its own merit and as a healthy symptom in our literary world, after all these years of maudlin glorification of bureaucrats.
I would have liked to review Hazlitt’s “Economics in One Lesson”. It’s a magnificent job of theoretical exposition—though I don’t agree with everything in it.
Now there you have samples of my approach to books and reviewing. If that fits your purpose—I’m at your service.
I know that I will be difficult about it, because there are very few modern books that interest me at all. If you do not consider it too much bother and are willing to send me books for consideration—with no hard feelings involved if I keep rejecting them until I find the right one—then let’s try it.
As a general suggestion: what interests me is Individualism. Any presentation or aspect of it: ethical, philosophical, political, fiction or non-fiction. If there are any books coming that advocate the principles of Individualism—send me those. They don’t have to be books by prominent names. I suspect that they are more likely to be found among the work of new and unknown authors. Also, do allow me some margin of time—considering my geographical distance from you.
Please do not send me any books of morbid psychology studies (so many of which are being published nowadays), such as stories about the insane, drunkards, perverts, etc. I don’t think they are worth writing, publishing, reviewing or reading.
Let me know within what limits of length you want a review to be. Also, there is one condition which I attach to anything I write: it must be published exactly as written, without cuts or changes. If you find you want to make some change for some special reason, then you must obtain my consent to it, or, if we can’t agree, not run the review at all. If this is agreeable to you in principle, please allow time for such communications. I mention this only in case such occasion arises—I don’t really suppose it will.
The printed letter about me, which I am enclosing, is for the purpose of getting acquainted. It will give you some idea of what I’m like, which might interest you, if we are to work together. I hope we are.
There is no record of AR doing book reviews for the Chicago Tribune.