Thursday, March 10, 2011

Through a hatch

"My only regular income was five guineas a week for doing a weekly column on novels in the Daily Telegraph. A parcel of five would arrive on Mondays, and my copy had to be sent off on the following Friday. It gave me a distaste for new novels in dust-jackets which I feel to this day—for Mr A who can spin a rollicking yarn, for Miss B who so subtly explores the relationship between a housemaster's wife and one of the prefects, Mr C who writes with a fine zestful bawdiness reminiscent of Tom Jones. I used to put off opening the parcel when it came as long as I dared, and even then it took me quite a time before I could nerve myself to read even the blurbs—as far as I got in some cases, I regret to say; but then I would comfort myself by remembering Dr Johnson's saying about the novels of Congreve, that he would sooner praise them than read them. Gerald Gould, who had been in the business much longer than I, had reached the point that his weekly quota of volumes used to be passed to him through a hatch; after which he could be heard groaning and beating his head against the wall." —Malcolm Muggeridge, Chronicles of Wasted Time (v.2)



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