In “Philadelphia” [October 1995], Sy Safransky revealed the essence of three people. I came to know and love them. I cried, and I marveled at this gift.

The Sun is laden with such gifts, dense with taste and texture. In each issue, life is compressed and made almost tangible. I would love to subscribe for my brother, who has been unjustly incarcerated. The Sun would help keep his mind and heart alive.

But how could I send your in-your-face male-genitalia cover to him in a penitentiary?

I can’t quite trust you.

Jeanne DeSilver
Jacksonville, Florida

I’m writing to say I was shocked — yes, shocked — by your October cover. And here I thought I’d been hardened by the nonstop images that manage to filter through my rose-colored glasses despite my valiant attempts to ignore the chaos and concentrate fully on a life of inner bliss. But I like viewing the commonplace from new and unusual perspectives. And I have to hand it to you for honoring the old axiom: A picture is worth a thousand words.

Patty
Oshkosh, Wisconsin

I want to thank you for the cover of the October issue. Every time I pick it up, I find myself feeling like I’m lying on the floor, staring up at some guy’s cock while he holds a sword over me. What can I say? It just makes my day!

Cate Miller
Gainesville, Florida

What is the message behind your cover photograph showing a statue’s genitalia — a view from the knees, looking up, no less? Are you trying to impress us? To shock us? Are you inviting us to stimulate you? Do you want to urinate on us?

“It’s just a photograph,” you’re probably saying. “Relax.”

But you can’t turn rhetoric off. This photo speaks through its subject matter, its point of view. I don’t like being spoken to this way. I deserve better.

Matt Curtis
Salt Lake City, Utah

At the risk of appearing prudish, we must register our disturbance and disappointment at the cover of the October issue. We enjoy The Sun very much and often have to retrieve it from our twelve- and fourteen-year-old children, who devour it upon its arrival each month.

The photograph does not serve to show off the statue but rather Jennifer Warburg’s personal interpretation of its genitalia. We could not figure out whom this was directed toward. Women are not typically stimulated by such an overt viewpoint, nor are men turned on, inspired, shocked, or uplifted.

And this after so many painful articles about oppression and abuse of women! What is your point?

Len and Colleen Van Nostrand
Goleta, California

I experienced your October penis-in-your-face cover photograph as an aggressive statement toward your women readers. After reading through some of the articles, I threw the issue out so as not to be continually offended. If you don’t understand why, I guess you just don’t “get it.”

Maureen Hicks
Hamden, Connecticut

The cover of your October issue is an abomination. It is demeaning, crude, and uncalled-for. Why didn’t you send it to some adult bookstore instead of to me? You were probably amused by its shock value, but really it just shows poor judgment by the editors.

Shirley Heintz
Harwood, Maryland

The Sun responds:

We apologize to readers who thought the cover of our October issue was in poor taste. Certainly, no disrespect was intended.

It’s regrettable that some women (and men) find the sight of a penis offensive. Jennifer Warburg’s photograph was meant to be provocative — but not because the statue wasn’t wearing a fig leaf. Ironically, in an issue on war and violence, this warrior’s detumescent penis created more dismay than his menacingly raised sword.

The statue is on exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I’ve lived with a lot of grief the past five years; The Sun, much as I like it, was often no solace. In fact, I could hardly open it without reading some sad story or letter that would only remind me of my own sadness. The back issues piled up.

Well, I’m doing better now, and have finally caught up on my reading. Is it just me, or is The Sun doing better, too? It seems the last two issues have left me feeling more empowered than paralyzed. If this is a conscious editorial shift, I applaud it. After all, shouldn’t a “magazine of ideas” have as many good ideas as bad?

The September issue was wonderful through and through. But what really got me was the Readers Write from Chris Comles: “As we got ready to leave, Bobby’s mother put her arms around me and told me to remember I wasn’t a bad girl.” I swear, I burst into tears when I read that. To learn of parents in the fifties (or any decade, for that matter) who could bestow on a young girl such a spirit-lifting, confidence-building note made me feel that the world is good, and full of hope.

Brian Knave
Berkeley, California