Look a little closer at the fiction list and you’ll notice other familiar names – Nevil Shute, Angus Wilson, Frank O’Connor. I’m also struck by the number of names made familiar by Hollywood. And look further down on the nonfiction list and you’ll find the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl, Rachel Carson’s The Sea Around Us, a book by a sitting U.S. Supreme Court justice (William O. Douglas’ Beyond the Himalayas), Aldous Huxley’s The Devils of Loudon (later adapted as a typically hysterical film by Ken Russell) and, best of all, in its twenty-second week on the list, Whitaker Chambers’ Witness, one of the great American autobiographies. My point is that inevitably such lists are mixed bags, not evidence of imbecility, and that there’s a plaintiveness built into them. Whatever happened to Consuelo Vanderbilt Balson, Elizabeth Gray Vining and Noel F. Busch? Someone, somewhere, I’m certain, remembers them with fondness. I remembered them after rereading Dr. Johnson’s The Adventurer #58, published on this date, May 25, in 1753:
“It often happens that an author's reputation is endangered in succeeding times, by that which raised the loudest applause among his contemporaries: nothing is read with greater pleasure than allusions to recent facts, reigning opinions, or present controversies; but when facts are forgotten, and controversies extinguished, these favorite touches lose all their graces; and the author in his descent to posterity must be left to the mercy of chance, without any power of ascertaining the memory of those things, to which he owed his luckiest thoughts and his kindest reception."