Edmund Fuller, Matthew Hodgson, Lee Smith, and James West discuss the role of literary agents in the United States, from Paul Revere Reynolds in the 1890s to the 1980s. Initially tackling transatlantic publishing issues, literary agents have become general business managers for productive writers and clearinghouses for publishers. The speakers describe the regional clustering of publishing houses and the resulting regional biases in book publication. They comment on the declining role of editors, the historical debate about writers earning a living, and the roles and differences between critics and reviewers. Kent Mullikin joins the conversation.
At the time of this interview, Fuller, the author of many works of fiction, nonfiction, and textbooks, was chief book critic for the Wall Street Journal. Hodgson was director of the University of North Carolina Press. Smith, the author of Black Mountain Breakdown and Cakewalk, was professor of English at North Carolina State University. West, a Fellow at the Center (1981-82), was professor of English at Virginia Polytechnic University. Mullikin was assistant director of the Center.
This edition of Soundings was conducted by Wayne J. Pond.