Issue 406 | Correspondence | The Sun Magazine


Don Perryman [Correspondence, August 2009] appears misinformed in his letter about Barbara Platek’s interview with Leslie Gray [“The Good Red Road,” April 2009]. Perryman says that Native Americans have a history of poor land management, doing nothing to protect the forests and “burning them down at will for various purposes.” I would recommend Perryman read Native Roots: How the Indians Enriched America, by Jack McIver Weatherford. The burning of grasslands (not forests) contributed to soil replenishing, while taboos prevented deforestation. The native people made use of storm-felled wood from previous years and did not often cut down large trees, as European settlers did when they clear-cut woods to make one simple house. Perryman should not belittle an entire people while disputing one person.

Native healing is primarily based on a form of psychology. To the various tribal peoples of this nation, the father — and mother — of psychoanalysis is not Freud, Jung, or any famous European, but rather the first shamans, singers, or healers. Western medicine is lagging behind native methods, having only recently begun treating the physical and the mental together. It rarely treats the spiritual at any time.

Freud may have been Jewish, as Perryman points out, but his successors have been predominantly Christian and bring their own backgrounds and teachings to what Freud began, so Euro-American psychology does have “Christian” underpinnings, as Gray said.

Perryman calls attention to the similarity between Jung’s account of finding a scarab and Gray’s account of finding a spider, but that doesn’t detract from Gray’s ideas or methods. Such therapy techniques are not uncommon, as people bring their fears with them everywhere.

S. Jewett, Blue Wolf Who Sings at Moon Godihi, Jicarilla Apache Nation
Wheat Ridge, Colorado

I could not disagree more with Susan B. Ruddy’s negative comment on the cover of The Mysterious Life of the Heart [Correspondence, July 2009]. I must confess that I purchased the book solely for the cover. How fortunate I am that I did. The writing inside grabbed me just as much, and I have renewed my lapsed subscription to The Sun.

Stacy Russo Orange County, California

I don’t know whether to feel anger or sorrow at Pat Daly’s letter [Correspondence, July 2009], in which she “resent[s] the intrusion of the Dog-Eared Page.” First she states that writing from the past can be found on the Internet or at the bookstore. But would she have known to look for, say, James Baldwin’s “My Dungeon Shook” [July 2009] if someone hadn’t directed her attention to it? She says she wants “writing that comes from the heart and soul of the living moment,” as if past wisdom were somehow dead. When reading Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1967 diatribe against American empire [“Beyond Vietnam,” June 2009], I was amazed at how far ahead of his time he was in his thinking; I copied the speech and distributed it to friends.

Would Daly also advocate the removal of Renoir and Van Gogh from gallery walls to make more room for contemporary artists?

Ken Klonsky Vancouver
British Columbia

I took a job as a wildland firefighter this summer. Often in the mornings my co-workers and I would share jokes to start the day. Wildland fire­fighters are generally rough around the edges, and some of the jokes were about sex, violence, and race. I chuckled at a few of them myself.

But one morning someone told a joke about Martin Luther King Jr. that made me feel punched in the gut. I am generally not one to shout or swear, so my co-workers were surprised when I yelled, “That joke fucking sucked!”

I had packed the June 2009 issue of The Sun in my bag that day. When I sat down for lunch and came across King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech on the Dog-Eared Page, I felt grateful. The Sun carries on King’s dream of peace and love in a world where hate can still seem as casual as a joke.

Ben Meyer Wasilla, Alaska

I laughed out loud when I got to the end of Sparrow’s “My Vertigo” [June 2009] and realized that I had cocked my head to compensate for the subtle skew of the type. The clever typesetting managed to deepen my connection with the writing.

Rebecca Goodman New York, New York

I can’t resist defending Paul Krassner from the accusations in the June 2009 Correspondence. One has only to compare Krassner’s articulate, level-headed, thoughtful responses in the interview [“In the Jester’s Court,” by David Kupfer, February 2009] to the insults about “drug-induced paranoia” or being “high on drugs” to decide who is nutty and who isn’t.

Would we insult someone for admitting to drinking wine with dinner every night or several cups of coffee a day? As a proud daily cannabis smoker, I look forward to a time when this plant will be legalized. Perhaps the angry letter writers would be happier and more relaxed if they smoked a joint now and then themselves.

Name Withheld

In his June 2009 Notebook Sy Safransky writes of ghosts haunting him: people who used to be critical of him and whose thoughts still echo in his head. I am glad he said, “Enough!” but in my experience inviting those ghosts in for tea has been far more effective than threatening, as Safransky does, to “shove my boot up your phantasmagoric asses and kick you out the door.” I’ve found that the parts of ourselves we reject simply go underground and become more powerful. What has been transformational for me is having a conversation with a ghost, listening to what it has to say and then talking back.

Isabella Esho des Etoiles Salt Lake City, Utah

In the June 2009 Readers Write on “Crushes” only four out of twenty-one entries were from men. Perhaps I am overanalyzing, but I think this may reflect something about how Western culture views “masculinity.”

It would be nice to read a contribution from a man who expresses his insecurities, vulnerabilities, and heartache; something that would encourage women to see not his “masculinity” (whatever that means) but his humanity. I’m tired of the image of a hardened, detached man who has no emotional or spiritual connection to women. I wish more men would lay themselves bare.

Emily Kandagawa Honolulu, Hawaii

After a close look at the cover of your June 2009 issue, I found myself crying. The sculpture in Gia Marie Houck’s photograph is overwhelmingly sad. Inside, I always read the poetry first, and Mark Smith-Soto’s “Calligraphy” grabbed me hard.

The Sun is the only magazine I subscribe to. Because I might soon lose my job, and I want this wonderful magazine in my life for as long as possible, I have paid for a three-year subscription.

Patricia Roemer Lombard, Illinois

In Angela Winter’s interview [“The Science of Happiness,” May 2009] Barbara Fredrickson mentions “a famous paper in psychology called ‘Happy but Mindless?’ which suggests that people who are happy are somehow bubble-headed softies, not critical of the world and therefore not intellectuals.” I agree with her that this is “a distorted stereotype that highly critical people cultivate to justify their own negativity.”

I deal with such people on a daily basis here in prison: some are intelligent, some aren’t. I choose to look at life from a positive perspective most of the time, and some of the negative thinkers in here get offended when I don’t agree with them that we’re all doomed. Since I began taking a more positive outlook, however, my life has changed for the better. I don’t have to wake up feeling bitter because the sun decided to hide behind the clouds: I know it’s still there, waiting to shine down upon me when I need it most.

Wayne T. Dowdy Douglasville, Georgia

I just finished reading your January 2009 issue. (I fell behind some time ago.) I do not typically enjoy Sy Safransky’s Notebook. I don’t dislike it; I’ve simply felt indifferent to it. In the January issue, however, he managed to move me deeply, and my perception of his work was altered. I realized that the source of my difficulty has been that his Notebook is so much like my own: a small and weathered volume in which I scratch endless anxious wonderings on mortality, love, and dreams. It almost shames me that I’ve been reading The Sun for six years and have realized this only now.

Chaim Dauermann New York, New York

“Butt Plug.” There it was in big, bold print, the first line of an essay [“I Am Not a Sex Goddess”] by Lois Judson in the January 2009 issue of The Sun. Here comes another juicy Sun article, I thought. And by “juicy” I don’t mean salacious or sexy, but meaty and substantial, something that pushes me beyond my comfort zone. I travel a lot on business and was reading that issue on the plane. I caught the stranger sitting next to me looking over my shoulder at the page, and I took a measure of delight in what he might be thinking. Then I thought about all those gift subscriptions I’ve given to my mother, my daughter, and so on. What would they think?

So it goes with The Sun. I never really understand the objections some readers have to your content. If they want sweetness and light, they should read the happy, bland publications where nothing dark or uncomfortable is discussed and all the stories are satisfying in a sanitary, sterile way.

Thanks for not editing out the unpleasantness. Bring it on.

Rebecca Steffensrud Spokane, Washington
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