Your subtitle, A Magazine of Ideas, seems misleading and more than a little pretentious in light of The Sun’s contents. In the issues I have examined, the articles are primarily personal exhibitionism. For example, the Readers Write section is entirely devoted to emotive effusions; the editor even encourages such by asking readers to address “subjects on which they’re the only authorities.”

The word idea means something more than just experience. Ideas are inferences or conclusions drawn from experience, intellectual concepts that can be examined for coherence and validity. An idea is not a private possession but has meaning for everyone.

Kearney Smith
Green Mountain, North Carolina

Thank you for printing Kim Addonizio’s poem “Reminder” [December 1996]. I have never read such a sensitive treatment of the problems and possibilities of loving a disabled man. Disabled myself — hemiplegic from a stroke — I have loved many women, and yet have never truly been loved in return. Reading Addonizio’s poem caused me to pause and think: I am still a man. Maybe, someday.

Robert Hammans
Purcellville, Virginia

In your November 1996 Correspondence, Cate Miller says that the photograph on the inside back cover of your August 1996 issue is of a man playing with himself. I see a street person holding his crotch in a semihumorous gesture of defiance — obviously in answer to the photographer’s request for a photo. He’s not playing with his dick any more than a man with his middle finger extended is playing with his finger.

The photograph mentioned above is available as PDF only. Download the August 1996 issue here.

Arnold Perrin
Union, Maine

I’m home-schooling all four of my kids. Jakob, fifteen, is an accomplished musician (favoring jazz and classical) and works at our tiny organic-food store — a meeting-of-the-minds kind of place where he gets the bulk of his sociology, political-science, and history lessons. Maple Flo, thirteen, is also an experienced musician, and spends most of her time reading voluminous books. Jackson, eight, and River, seven, listen to books on tape throughout their free-for-all days.

I used to worry about getting busted for my loose structure — although I am in no way permissive when it comes to behavior, discipline, and responsibility — but now I have these four to prove that it works: kids just learn. School, as we know it, rips children off by destroying their self-esteem and, at best, teaches them how to rip off back.

The Sun is a three-credit course for us (not that we’re counting), second only, perhaps, to public radio and our violin teacher as a resource. My children are always in need of examples of good writing, and The Sun provides just that.

Pearl Breitbach
Richardsville, Iowa

Please cancel my subscription. I imagine The Sun’s readers and writers to be liberal white people with long hair living in the country, eating grains, wearing Birkenstocks, and home-schooling their children. There is nothing of substance in it. To publish an entire magazine without one reference to the dire, critical issues that cause so much suffering today is too self-indulgent for my blood.

Ellen Rosner
Highland Park, New Jersey

Thank you for the November 1996 issue. I’m pushing fifty, and my wife forty-five. I’m distressed at how difficult it is for me to accept her body’s changes. How did you know to send help?

Name Withheld

Having spent the last sixteen and a half years at the California State Prison for Women, I wasn’t too eager to read “This Prison Where I Live” [October 1996], but curiosity finally got the better of me. I found the descriptions of prison life pretty chilling. Of late, I find life here pretty chilling, as well, as politicians continue to strip us of all our rights and amenities in order to appease the public’s cry for vengeance. The picture the public receives via the media is worlds apart from the life I know here.

I was particularly drawn to the story “Grass Soup,” in which Zhang Xianliang describes how, in 1960 China, prisoners were required to collect and eat wild greens, as no other food was provided for them. This prison provides inmates with three meals a day. Those Chinese prisoners might have thought this a feast, but as a vegan with allergies to wheat and dairy, I find the highly refined, processed, prepackaged food here a dietary nightmare. I much prefer the beautiful collards, vitamin-rich purslane, and tangy mustard and dandelion greens that grow in abundance on the yard here. The grounds crews are told to keep these “weeds” cut to ground level, but I still manage to find enough each day to sustain my good health.

Jeri Becker
Frontera, California