The Third Leader: Author! Author!

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Flutterings and mutterings, I see, over the decision of the editor of the BBC magazine, Focus, to devote a dozen pages to a book he has written. There is a feeling that this might not necessarily accord with what the editor, a Mr Parsons, describes as "Focus's scientifically critical eye".

Well. I am disinclined by temperament to criticise editors; even so, there are persuasive pleas in Mr Parsons' defence. He shows, for instance, an enviable freedom from the false modesty that bedevils so many of us. The chief marks of a mature society, as is apparent in several other current contexts, include openness and honesty. And there are some distinguished precedents for an unabashed eagerness to promote one's own product. The great German diva Elisabeth Schwarzkopf chose recordings only of herself on Desert Island Discs, a decision that, for some reason, has been mocked mercilessly ever since.

Writers have form, too. Dickens didn't exactly hold back as a magazine editor. Walter Scott compared himself to Shakespeare in his own magazine. But that was surely preferable to Anthony Burgess's failure to mention that the author he was reviewing was his pseudonymous self (although, as Gore Vidal remarked, "he is the first novelist in England to know that a reviewer has actually read the book under review").

You will still, perhaps, be worried about a conflict of interest. But remember we have recently been advised not to take too suspicious a view on this. In this spirit, it would be ridiculous to suggest my views have been influenced by the forthcoming paperback publication of my own fantastic book.

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