K. P. Mayer writes: I offer the following letter as a constructive criticism. You may unfortunately find it a bit violent in tone. I have no desire to be destructive, but because I am trying to be constructive I can see no point in mincing my words.

In nlr 41 you reprinted El Lissitsky’s The future of the book with a covering introduction which in several places denigrates McLuhan in a most unconstructive way.

At this point you will no doubt run the risk of branding me as one of ‘McLuhan’s acolytes’. You would be wrong.

The reason for reprinting a 1926 article is given as follows: ‘If we are to discuss Marxist aesthetics we must go back to the twenties in Russia . . .’ All I can say is ‘Why?’ Your introduction goes on to echo Lissitsky’s condemnation of posters for their legibility and ephemeral nature. This seems the sort of reaction one might expect from an old-fashioned aesthete, but not from a progressive.

You describe McLuhan as an ‘uncritical observer of capitalism’ yet could an ‘uncritical observer’ make remarks about what he calls in Understanding Media ‘US cultural imperialism’?

As for Lissitsky’s fascinating article itself: he comes seriously unstuck when he makes the following prediction: ‘Correspondence grows, so the number of letters the quantity of writing paper, the mass of material consumed expand until relieved by the telephone. Again the network and material of supply grow until they are relieved by the radio.’ Of course since then the world consumption of paper, printing ink, etc, the number of papers, books, journals, etc, have increased prodigiously.

And the telephone lines themselves often get jammed. Nor does the radio relieve anything, for it, too, overfills the frequency bands leading to interference.