Issue 199 | Correspondence | The Sun Magazine


The other day, at the Saint Mark’s Bookshop, the guy behind the counter said, “Sparrow! How are you?” and a woman near me gushed, “For years, I’ve read you in The Sun! I never thought I’d meet you.” I never thought I’d meet her, either.

This happens every so often. I wish I knew what to do about it. I mean, my mentor, Ted, would either try to sleep with the woman, or borrow five dollars.

I, alas, am too moralistic for this. I did tell her I’m running for president. (Sadly, I had no fliers to give out.) Then I showed her Sylvia, who was on my back.

Last night, my friend Claude phoned. He asked, “What can Sylvia do?” The question startled me. I don’t think about it often. “She can’t do anything, really,” was my response — though she is five months old. She’s trying to crawl. She can sort of eat mushy food. She can definitely grab the notes for your groundbreaking novel out of your hand and crumble them — but is that really doing something? And she can say surprising things like “gub.” But none of this is solid doing. Our bohemian friends seem surprised that babies don’t immediately march out of the womb and begin composing choreography scores.

Though she does go to art events. Last night we took her to “A History of Silence,” a dance/drama composed by our neighbors. Sylvia sat in Violet’s lap, and watched as if it were a TV set with the latest baby gossip on. At times, I stood and held her, and swayed — the antidote to agitation, with her — but basically, she didn’t peep. Maybe we can try a movie again, I thought after the near-debacle with Bugsy.

The dance last night was an astounding orchestration of grief. A guy in our apartment building killed himself a few months back because he had AIDS. He was found dead and smiling in his bathtub. That shocking event weaved itself into the piece — which was immensely funny, mostly — until, by the end, it wasn’t clear if everyone in the dance, or everyone in the world, had AIDS, and would die.

Somehow the fact that we all want to be loved and admired — without much of the ability to be givers of love and admiration — has given us all this disease. It is the disease of unlove, and it is killing us all because, in our unlove, we dream and plan for our penises to give us love. But it is not merely the sexual who are to be scorned; we monogamous Freudians are in on it, too. It is everyone together who dies of unlove, and our tragic need to smash into each other (the dancers were always colliding), like the car that killed three sunbathers in Washington Square Park last night. “The brakes just got stuck,” the driver, who was unhurt, said. Something about America compels us to slam into each other.

Sparrow New York, New York

Etta Clark’s “Growing Old Is Not for Sissies” [Issue 196], with its pictures of “super” agers, bothered me. Where are your pictures of the “average” octogenarians, full of wisdom and experience, crippled with arthritis and draped in wrinkles?

Are we going to continue to worship youth and express our fear of aging by lauding those who are able to do “youthful” things when they are old?

The beauty of aging — the blessing of deteriorating bodies — is that it turns us inward. No longer distracted by the physical, we are led to an exploration of soul. Let us celebrate who we are.

Becky Achten Juneau, Alaska

John Welwood [“Reopening the Wound,” Issue 197] uses the euphemism “artistic liberties” to describe the lies and distortions in Oliver Stone’s JFK. Yet there seem to be more artistic liberties than facts in Welwood’s essay.

According to McGeorge Bundy, Kennedy’s National Security Advisor, Kennedy never mentioned withdrawing from Vietnam.

The statement that the mayor of Dallas “must have” been involved in the last-minute decision to change Kennedy’s motorcade route is mere supposition. Or should I say artistic liberty?

To say that Jim Garrison had “everything to lose (his family, his job, his life)” is as falsely melodramatic (he only lost his job) as saying “he had nothing to gain” (he wanted the Democratic nomination for vice-president).

I mourn the death of John Kennedy to this day. I mourn Watergate, the Iran-Contra scandal, and all the people Reagan and Bush have slaughtered in their lust for cheap, macho glory. If President Kennedy had lived, we might have been spared these horrors. Then again, we might have been forced to endure them anyway. Who can say? But to pin all these horrors on an entity as implausibly vast as the Conspiracy to Kill JFK seems simple-minded. I am surprised that The Sun would publish such a rant.

Mark O’Brien Berkeley, California

Your magazine consistently brings me great pleasure. It is a good day when the mailbox contains The Sun; I often read it from cover to cover before that day is done. I particularly enjoy the Us section. You have introduced me to many thoughtful and creative writers, many wonderful stories and ideas.

With any other magazine, I’d have tossed your request for a contribution in the trash with a sigh, a shake of my head, and no doubt some muttering, but I really feel that you do a great job. The Sun is worthy of additional support, beyond the subscription cost. I am not employed at present and cannot contribute a lot, but I want to give what I can.

Thank you for putting together the best magazine I’ve ever read.

Stephen Nielsen Houston, Texas

I’ve contemplated this donation for a long time, and your recent appeal finally prompted me to do it.

I don’t consider myself well-informed about literature (I’m a manager of R & D in a software company — pretty left brain), but I do consider myself capable of recognizing an authentic labor of love. I appreciate the depth you reach for, the height you strive for, and the wonderful tapestry you weave in between. (Is that a mixed metaphor, or what?) While I reject some of your writers outright as having totally missed the boat, I usually find something that is so touching that it makes the dross worth wading through.

Tom Field Denver, Colorado

As a very recent subscriber to The Sun, I was initially dismayed to receive a fund-raising letter. After finishing the letter, however, I was inspired to drop you this note. Your letter was one of the most gracious requests for support that I’ve received in a long time. Your tone was more a polite request than a harsh demand. My donation is a humble one, but it is happily given.

Andrea Mok Emeryville, California

Just about the time I decide to abandon you, along you come like an errant spouse wearing a silky grin and carrying a rose. What can I do? Accept the bad with the good — and most often, the good far outweighs the bad. Besides, we need to remind each other of our differences, and you do. Good luck; keep the pots boiling.

Alma F. Conley Farragut, Tennessee

I have been reading The Sun for about five years, and have enjoyed it greatly. I wanted to let you know that I have found recent issues to be better than ever.

It is difficult to put my finger on exactly what is behind the magazine’s great improvement. I have spent a good deal of time trying to decide just what has made such a difference, and have finally figured it out.

Without a doubt, the woman who is the new editorial assistant, Erika Simon, is the real force propelling the magazine to such new heights. It is impossible to praise her impact on The Sun too highly.

I trust you already know this, but I wanted to make sure you understood that your readership is also aware of it.

Ken Simon
(Erika’s father)
Yellow Springs, Ohio
Catching Up

Like other monthly magazines, we publish twelve issues a year. But unlike other magazines, we don’t date our issues two months ahead. So it seems to some readers that The Sun is always two months behind. They raise their eyebrows when the June issue arrives in July, as if the contents were slightly spoiled.

Our distributors urge us to roll up our jeans and take a step into the mainstream. OK, a small step. The issue you’re holding, Issue 199, is our June issue, but we’re calling it June/July. Issue 200 will be our August issue. We’re not skipping an issue: subscribers who paid for twelve issues a year still receive twelve issues. Only time — fat chance — has been cheated.

— Ed.

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