Letter: Changing minds

April 20, 2001

Alan Ryan writes (Letters, THES , April 13) that he does not believe me when I say, in my review of Andrew Malcolm's The Remedy , that I do not understand why he changed his mind about Malcolm's Making Names . I meant what I said.

I, in turn, find it hard to believe the first two of the three reasons he gives. My memory is that his later view of the book was formed independently of the reservations of my successor. I do not remember representatives being asked about the book and find it odd that they should have been as it was not part of Oxford University Press culture to consult reps on individual proposals.

Even if these reasons stood scrutiny, it would be depressing to discover that Ryan's opinions were so reliant on those of others: publishers look to academics for an attempt at a dispassionate judgement of merit.

His third reason ("the book wore badly on re-reading") is plausible, although I cannot help wondering whether he was also influenced by hostility to the book on the part of OUP management.

But it does not make sense to say he never changed his initial view that OUP should take a punt on the book: after his later reading he effectively gave it the thumbs-down.

Henry Hardy
Wolfson College, Oxford

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