When the editor asked me if I would like to review a book on the fifties, he omitted to mention that its longest – and by far its most amusing – section is an extremely detailed attack on me. I made that discovery rather belatedly when I heard my youngest son tittering as he read it. When I asked him what was so funny, he read aloud: 'Why did such a patently bad and objectionable book as The Outsider receive such praise?' During the next couple of weeks, other members of my family read it; and I gathered from their chortles that it must contain some pretty insulting stuff.
This bothered me – mainly because it placed me in the difficult position of either doing a razor job on the book – 'giving it both barrels', as a friend put it – or of defending myself, which I find equally unattractive. So it was actually a relief when, after