To the Editors:
Your readers may be interested in the following letter recently sent to Time Magazine which has not yet been published.
Mr. Roy Alexander, Editor
Dear Mr. Alexander,
As a contributor to the New York Review of Books I was particularly distressed by the comment of my colleague, Professor Lewis Coser, in a recent tendentious story about the Review. Professor Coser stated, “I wanted to write critical reviews not the kind of demolition jobs asked for. They kept telling me to sharpen the knife more.” I have respect for Professor Coser but in this instance, certainly, his statement strikes me as grossly unfair and misleading. As I know from personal experience, the only knife the editors of the Review have ever asked a writer to sharpen is his pen. I and many other writers have greatly benefited as a result: that is, our writing has been clearer, more polished, less littered. Never, to my knowledge, has Robert Silvers or his associates asked for a “demolition job.” Just the contrary, many of us have been delighted by the wonderful freedom we have in our writing for the Review. And, for one, I have never once been asked to modify a judgment about a book or a position in the slightest degree. I have only been asked to be consistent, lucid, and true to my own conviction.
Beyond all this, let me say, the New York Review deserves and has the gratitude of many thousands of readers of all political points of view for being what it is: simply the best general review of books and human affairs to appear in this country in at least a generation. Nothing remotely equal to it in overall quality now exists anywhere. The entire country, therefore, is deeply in Robert Silvers’ debt.
Henry David Aiken
Professor of Philosophy
March 14, 1968