Being disabled and on a fixed income, I have to budget my money carefully. There isn’t room for extras. Some may think a magazine subscription falls into that category, but The Sun has become as necessary to me as food. It nourishes my mind, my heart, and my soul. I only wish it were longer.
In his essay “Troubled Youth” [June 2010] Poe Ballantine writes brilliantly on summer: “The days were as long as medieval dragons and even harder to kill. It was so hot the squirrels took off their jackets, dredged their slender bodies in cornmeal, and arranged themselves with pearl onions in buttered pans.” Reading this in Georgia as the hammer of summer heat starts to fall, I smiled and wished I had written it.
Whenever I see Poe Ballantine’s name in Contents, I’m cheered. Why would such a miserable wretch make me feel better? Because he views his problems with insight, resignation, and wry humor. His narratives are sad and riveting and crafted with immense skill. If Ballantine can survive his dozens of rejected manuscripts and failed relationships and personal problems, there must be hope for all of us.
I cried three times while reading the Readers Write on “Taking Chances” [June 2010]. My chest heaved, and the tears ran from their ducts and fell like the rain that pelts my roof outside and drips off the bamboo and makes the birds in the bushes sing and chirp. I feel better.
Having awakened this morning with the Gulf oil spill foremost in my mind, I was heartened to read Thea Sullivan’s interview with Woody Tasch [“Prophet of Modest Profit,” June 2010]. Slow Money may not be able to stem environmental and economic catastrophe in the immediate future, but it is an idea whose time has come. In light of so much bad news, surely we as a nation and a world are ready to throw off the old quick-profit regime in favor of a preservation-minded model.
Thea Sullivan’s interview with Woody Tasch made me think about the food problem in the U.S. today. I applaud Tasch for taking action, but he doesn’t address how the changes he recommends in agriculture will affect average Americans — especially poor Americans, whose well-being should be an essential concern in any scheme for saving the environment.
If Slow Money succeeds, it will get rid of mass-produced, cheap food on which poor people depend. And how can people who live in the inner city or in the bone-dry parts of the West support local agriculture? There is virtually no local agriculture in these areas, and certainly not enough to feed everyone.
Perhaps Tasch and other environmental advocates should ask why we continue to have such a dysfunctional food system in spite of its obvious flaws. The quick answer is that people depend on it to survive. We can’t just pretend that Americans’ resistance to change is pure ignorance or selfishness. Fear is a legitimate response to a threat to one’s survival. We need to reform American agriculture, but people have to eat.
Woody Tasch responds:
Aristotle said it best: “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” The shift to an agriculture based on organic methods and diversity is going to be imperfect. One of the most glaring imperfections is the expense of organic food versus the cheap calories produced by industrial agriculture. But hoisting the flag of “we all must eat” doesn’t address this imperfection; it just hides the structural problems of our food system behind a political slogan. The goal is to provide healthy, clean, affordable food to all citizens. The goal is not a system that offers cheap calories with one hand and diabetes and obesity with the other. Can we get there in one fell swoop, guaranteeing equal access to all at every step of the way and producing food only within local foodsheds? Of course not. But if we do not reduce our dependence on a system that is dangerously imbalanced, a system that is floating on a sea of oil and destroying soil fertility, then access to food will become an even greater problem with each passing decade.
The letter from Sarah Weintraub [Correspondence, June 2010], about her response to all the violence against women in your January 2010 issue, struck a chord with me. I had to set aside that issue myself, finding it too disturbing.
I am a rape victim, and I appreciate the need for victims to tell their stories, but the writing in the January issue focuses on the violence itself and not the lifelong legacy that shadows a victim’s life. Tales of stolen sex and power can inadvertently cross the line between helping readers understand a tragedy and feeding them a prurient treat.
In his essay “Love and Death in Paris and London” [June 2010] Andrew Boyd reminds us of the seductive power of religious belief. Boyd, like many atheists, has a moment of doubt. At times the rational, scientific approach to life’s unanswerable questions appears insufficient, and the “oceanic feeling” he describes offers more comfort. That Boyd was so moved by his experience in the Sainte-Chapelle only goes to show how effective religious theater has been through the ages and continues to be. Ultimately Boyd realizes that love and human contact can be enjoyed by anyone with intelligence and the will to perceive the universe clearly.
I was going to let my Sun subscription expire and concentrate more on my own writing until I read Kelly DeLong’s unflinching and marvelous memoir of personal redemption [“My First Date,” June 2010]. To think I might have missed that! My check is in the mail.
Rahul Mehta’s short story “Ten Thousand Years” [May 2010] gives insight into the often quixotic nature of gay and intercultural relationships. I truly appreciated it, having been involved with men of different cultures for most of my adult life. Stories about how love transcends gender, race, culture, and nationality make for great reading anytime.
The May 2010 Readers Write on “Sugar” was the most predictable I’ve read. Eating disorders and sugar addiction — the same material found in trashy women’s magazines. Fascinating.
The photograph by Clemens Kalischer on your March 2010 cover so captivated my imagination that I carefully laminated it and hung it next to my computer, where I can look at it every day. I was surprised to read in the “On the Cover” note that “the man on the right is Oskar Kokoschka, a Viennese artist who was teaching classes through the local museum.”
It might interest readers to know that Kokoschka, born in 1886 in Austria, was one of the many artists Hitler deemed “degenerates” in 1937. Four hundred and seventeen of his works were removed from German museums. Kokoschka escaped to London in 1938, and today his work is respected and admired in Germany. In Vienna there is a square named after him.
Kalischer, I’ve since learned, was born in Germany in 1921 and fled the Nazis with his Jewish family in 1933. How lucky that these two artists were brought together in an American landscape decades later.
In July 2009 I read your Readers Write on “Choosing Sides,” in which a few of the pieces were about losing connections with family members because of divorce. I have a similar story: My parents divorced when I was very young, and I lost contact with my father for more than fifty-seven years. I knew where he lived and had a nagging desire to make contact, but I never took the next step.
After reading “Choosing Sides,” I decided to write him. He didn’t respond, but he kept the letter, and subsequently his daughter by another wife found it and contacted me.
That was a month ago, and I now have a great dad, a sweet and loving half sister, and two wonderful nephews. My wife and I have been to Florida to meet them all, and we’ll be returning in a few months for my dad’s ninetieth birthday, thanks to the readers who openly share their joys and sorrows in your pages.
I’ve been a subscriber for three years and have enjoyed every issue, but I must say that I just don’t get Sy Safransky’s Notebook. His page comes across as pointless ramblings and makes me think, Jesus! This guy must be a nightmare to be around in person. Then again, I could probably come up with a long list of people who think the same about me.
Hurricane season is here, and I am preparing my “safe room” in a tiny closet on the top floor of my condo in south Florida: bedding, pillow, flashlights, and as many issues of The Sun as I can find.
I approach each issue that arrives with the intention of reading it cover to cover, but I get busy, and sometimes I’m just not in the mood. Then a storm comes, the lights go out, and I finally start reading and reading and reading.