In response to:
Strawberry Shortcut from the December 11, 1975 issue
To the Editors:
Martin Gardner implies, in his review of Powers of Mind [NYR, December 11], that I wrote a quick book on a fashionable subject. When I began working in the area, the subject was utterly unfashionable. Powers of Mind took more than three years of research, some of it in psychology and physiology, which Mr. Gardner did not mention. The three years were necessary to cover many courses, more than three-hundred interviews, and upwards of a thousand references. In the interim, wavelets of books appeared on transcendental meditation, the “relaxation response,” the application of Zen and martial-arts techniques to sports, and so on—each one chapter, or part of a chapter, in Powers of Mind. Had the object been to be quick and fashionable, there was certainly material enough for half a dozen books, each not much different from some current best sellers. I do not object to the selling of books by publishers—that is supposed to happen—but obviously this was not my only intent.
New York City
Martin Gardner replies:
When Adam Smith says the subject matter of his book was “utterly unfashionable” three years before he finished it, I can only wonder where he was living. The consciousness-raising trend (roughly paralleling the occult and the back-to-fundamentalism revolutions) got underway in the mid-Sixties and was going full blast when Smith started his research. Consider one tiny datum: a special issue of Cosmopolitan devoted to this country’s growing preoccupation with probing the unknown. One article is called “Drugs and the Mind’s Hidden Powers.” The date? January 1960. Zen and yoga had, of course, become fashionable long before that.
Almost every cult in Smith’s book (except EST) was the talk of cocktail parties in Manhattan in the late Sixties, especially in theatrical, art, and literary circles. They just hadn’t yet spread to spots like Houston and Omaha. As for the “quickness” of Smith’s research, I will mention only that his lengthy bibliography contains no books or articles critical of any of the movements or scientific claims about which he writes.
January 22, 1976