To the Editors:
…My enthusiasm borders on the ecstatic, and so does that of any of my friends who’ve had the good luck to see a copy.
I read every issue of the TLS,The New Statesman, and The Spectator, and for years I’ve regretted the absence of anything comparable on the American scene. I don’t mean that I prayed for a responsible paper containing nothing but book reviews. Not at all. What I missed was a publication full of good American journalism, written by the best writers with a minimum of editorial restriction. The book reviews in your paper are not merely book reviews. For the most part they are essays performed in such a way that almost every writer seems to be doing the best he can do. This must have come about because you have not had time to take any stance except the one saving one: the intention to use the best writers around, and let them write.
I doubt the quality of the first issue could be sustained for long—though I’d be delighted to be proved wrong—but the quality could sink a long way before such a paper ceased to be indispensable. It’s so good, in fact, that it makes all the other American publications that feature book reviews seem, in contrast, unpardonably dull, eccentric, or over-specialized. Give or take a little bit.
I kept looking for what experience told me would be there: the predictable, the safe, the perfunctory, the intolerant gestures of writers who are ashamed to be writing book reviews and begrudge the time spent on such secondrate activity. It was good to find them missing. Not that there wasn’t much that was irritating or, to my mind, just plain wrong. More than usual, in fact. But the very things that irritated me were neither boring nor unworthy of attention. I read your paper in bed, and I didn’t go to sleep until I’d read the last word. The trash-collector’s truck was roaring in the alley. I dreaded the ringing of the alarm clock, but I’ll bet any money that I slept that morning with a smile on my face.
Hoboken, New Jersey
June 1, 1963