I love The Sun, but I had to cancel my subscription a year ago because I couldn’t afford it. Ironically, after I was laid off last week from my nonprofit job, I got a new subscription. Even as I lose my own livelihood, I’m taking a stand to support nonprofits and small businesses that are in line with my ideals and enrich my life. If I am going down, I am going down reading The Sun and doing my best to make sure it doesn’t go down too. I’m sending word around to my friends to get a subscription because, not in spite, of these difficult times. To me this is a fight to save the community-minded enterprises that we need to survive this economic unraveling.

Mieke Eerkens
San Rafael, California

When I get the February 2009 issue, with an adorable, smiling girl on the cover, I open to Sunbeams to find the theme is “laughter.” I feel deflated. My current mood is dark. My twin sister — my only sibling — died in August. The laughs we had were the best. I feel hostility toward the two laughing men in the Sunbeams photograph; they have what I have lost. Then my eyes fall on one of the quotes: “It was the kind of laughter that caught like briars in her chest and felt very much like pain.” I close the magazine.

Later that evening I am looking through boxes in my parents’ basement when I find my favorite childhood book, Lyddie, by Katherine Paterson. It’s about a tough girl with a hard life who ends up working in a mill. I start reading it the next day, and there, at the end of the first chapter, is the line about “laughter that caught like briars.” Oh, I think.

This evening I have dinner with my housemate and her four-year-old daughter, who exclaims, “Leslie laughs a lot!” I am stunned. Is that how she sees me? I know I still smile; I just can’t feel it. She and your magazine have melted my bitterness a tiny bit.

Leslie Orihel
Detroit, Michigan

I was astonished and amused by the reactions in the February 2009 Correspondence to Halle Merrill’s photo of the Cuban man on November’s cover. What led the letter writers to have such antagonistic responses? I’m glad that Merrill held her ground in her reply. I take her at her word that her intentions were honorable, because the photo seems to say so as well.

Don Wertheimer
Ashland, Oregon

I have a handful of magazines to recommend to Betsy Ford, who was dismayed to see Halle Merrill’s photo of an “old man” with a “flabby body” on the cover of your November issue. Esquire, GQ, and Playgirl typically feature on their covers young, handsome, lean-bodied men.

Laura Jones
Madison, Wisconsin

Thank you for Linda McCullough Moore’s wildly funny and deeply moving story “Final Dispositions” [February 2009]. Though I have become perversely fond of the depressing nature of your magazine, I laughed out loud when reading Moore’s piece. Isn’t there any way to have more humor and lightheartedness in your pages? It’s easy to bum people out, but to make us laugh while delivering a point about our human condition is a real accomplishment.

Linda Bradshaw
Wauwatosa, Wisconsin

Alone in the cold darkness of the Alaska night, reading Linda McCullough Moore’s “Final Dispositions,” I wanted to wake my husband, call my sister, jump around and shout, “Yes, that’s how sisters are! Yes, that’s what it’s like to have a body that’s failing the mind and spirit it houses!” I hope Moore finds a publisher for her short stories so I can read more of her wonderful words.

Julia Normand
Houston, Alaska

I chuckled when I read Sparrow’s essay “Bananacake” [February 2009]. Here I was, on a flight home from a business trip to New York, where I had spent the week talking about washing machines, and here was Sparrow, posing in verse the question: “But does anyone / care about my washer — especially / the sort of person who reads poems?”

Well, Sparrow, I can tell you that poetry isn’t enjoyed just by teachers in a classroom or struggling artists in coffee shops. It is also enjoyed by business travelers who work for Maytag.

Amanda Konczal
Joseph, Michigan

Though I enjoyed Sparrow’s essay about losing his beloved family rabbit, I feel the need to correct a couple of factual errors. I keep rabbits as house pets, allowing them to run free in my home. Though they chew on everything, my house doesn’t smell like a rabbit, as Sparrow fears his would, and they are easy to litter-box train. It’s also not true that rabbits will live longer if kept outdoors. They are not well adapted to heat and may become dehydrated and overheat in temperatures above eighty degrees, or lower if they cannot get out of the sun.

More information about keeping rabbits as companion animals is available from the House Rabbit Society, which can also provide information about where to adopt a rescued rabbit if anyone wants to share their home with one of these delightful yet enigmatic creatures.

Charles Wilson
Newport News, Virginia

Sparrow responds:

The thought that Maytag employees are reading my sonnets fills me with glee! And let me warn my readers: never take any advice on rabbit care from me.

In his February 2009 Notebook, Sy Safransky writes, “Barack Obama, it’s up to you.” But Safransky is mistaken. It isn’t up to Obama at all. It’s up to us, the commoners, just as it has always been. If we continue to sit back and watch and wish, things will be worse than if we mouth off and act up. Unless we make the new president uncomfortable enough, he is not going to rediscover equality under law. Did Safransky pay any attention to whom (I want to say “what”) Obama stacked his cabinet with? War and Wall Street will be well served.

The most foolish example of “hope” I saw during the campaign were the Obama signs with peace symbols on them. This, for a man who has promised more war and increased military spending.

No, it doesn’t depend on him. If we want to reclaim our republic, we must stop being passive and looking to “leaders.”

Dan Raphael
Portland, Oregon

I’m an indigent prisoner, and The Sun has been kind enough to grant me a one-year subscription. I am inspired every time I open the new issue. The state of Alaska has deemed it necessary to isolate me in a solitary cell at a maximum-security unit. The Sun has kept me in touch with humanity.

Johnny Brandon Lee Johnson
Seward, Alaska

After coming home from my weekly chemo appointment (six down, twenty more to go!), I was reading Lois Judson’s “I Am Not a Sex Goddess” [January 2009] when I came across this line: “I’ve concluded that no man can compete with a vibrator unless he can rotate his body 360 degrees in midair and have a seizure at the same time.” I laughed so hard I was gasping for breath and my husband thought I was having a reaction to the chemo.

Kim Thal
Vashon Island, Washington

My Sun reading group has been getting together for several years to discuss the magazine. A recurring theme has been that The Sun isn’t as sunny as it should be: too many depressing tales of miscarriage, sickness, drug abuse, and all that is wrong with the world.

I was pleasantly surprised with the January issue’s humorous direction. I enjoyed Cary Tennis’s clever insights into people’s problems [“Since You Asked”]. His advice is not only good; it’s presented in a humorous way and reminds us that it is as important to forgive ourselves as it is to forgive others.

The best piece in the whole issue, though, is Lois Judson’s “I Am Not a Sex Goddess.” Her partner Peter’s reactions to her propositions had me rolling on the floor. It has been a long time since I have so thoroughly enjoyed an issue of The Sun.

Marion Jacobi
Hooksett, New Hampshire

Cary Tennis’s reply to Joanna, who suffered a terrible breakup, is way off the mark. Telling her that there are laughing gods throwing sheets of ice in our path, watching us spin out of control, crash our cars, and even die is just plain irresponsible.

Neither Tennis nor Joanna is paying attention: Joanna says that she “didn’t deliver” on what her boyfriend told her he wanted, then she can’t figure out why he left her with “no warning.” In fact he did warn her, but she’d didn’t pay attention until it was too late.

And Tennis didn’t pay attention to Joanna’s plea. She is on medication for self-esteem issues, and he tells her there is no hope, which could sink her into a deeper depression. He says that the bad things that happen are beyond our control because fiendish gods love to make us suffer for their amusement. But there are no gods. It’s just the universe, doing what it will do. Snow falls, roads ice up, and you’d better pay attention, or you could spin out of control, crash, and even die.

Blaming the gods is abdicating our responsibility. We do have control if we learn to pay attention.

Nancy Churchill
Princeton, Illinois

Cary Tennis responds:

I would merely suggest that Nancy Churchill read the piece again, slowly.

I was glad to see Sy Safransky reject the idea that sex is somehow “dirty” in his January 2009 Notebook. Recently I told a group of new mothers that I enjoyed making love to my husband while gazing into my four-month-old daughter’s face. (She shares a bed with us.) The other mothers looked surprised and admitted that they couldn’t have sex in the same room as their newborns, whereas delving into my daughter’s eyes and sometimes even smothering her with kisses feels natural to me. I rock in time with my husband as I look at my child and think, Wow, this is what our love created.

Mary N.
Albuquerque, New Mexico