I am excited about the digital edition of The Sun [“God in the Machine,” by David Mahaffey, April 2013]. I had put off reading the last two issues because my eyesight has recently gotten worse due to the medication I’m on. After ordering my digital subscription, I was able to download each issue and enlarge it on the screen so I could enjoy the magazine again.
The ability to get The Sun in a digital edition has brightened my year. I regretted having to say goodbye to my subscription when I dramatically downsized, going from 1,500 square feet to 400. It became impossible to keep stacks of books and magazines. Now I look forward to another long and fulfilling relationship with The Sun, this time on my computer.
Mally Z. Ray’s essay about her friend Eppie [“Side by Side,” April 2013] changed my mind about committing suicide should I develop Alzheimer’s. When Eppie told the author she was prepared to end her life as soon as her symptoms got too bad, I commiserated. Then I came to the end: “I used to believe that if someone I loved wound up in an Alzheimer’s unit, I’d stop visiting once the person forgot who I was. That was before Eppie.” Those lines awakened me to the idea that a loved one who isn’t all there is better than one who isn’t there at all.
I have let my subscription to The Sun lapse twice due to your frequent publication of the often derivative and always sophomoric articles by someone who calls himself “Sparrow.”
Each time, after my subscription expired, I received offers to try the magazine again — and I did. But both times Sparrow was there with his sadly infantile attempts at humor.
I will not try a third time.
I just received my first issue [March 2013] of The Sun after a five-year hiatus. I find it reassuring that the magazine is almost the same but a little different than I remember.
I’m pleased to see that Sparrow is still a contributor. I have been enjoying his work since he wrote for a free monthly magazine in the Hudson Valley more than ten years ago, though I don’t always see eye to eye with him. For instance, after experiencing five virtually snowless winters in Virginia, I miss the weather he describes in his essay “The Winter of My Discontent.” The snow sounds comforting to me, not insanity causing. The temperature here usually stays above freezing, but the wind and moisture from the Chesapeake Bay chill me to the bone. The thought of being blanketed by snow warms my heart. Perhaps Sparrow would consider a housing swap?
Two years ago I was diagnosed with stage-IV colon cancer. The average life expectancy for someone in my condition, post diagnosis, is thirty-two months. I’m still hoping to reach it.
I have sometimes stared death in the face, but mostly I’ve avoided that stark confrontation. So I was primed to be delighted by Sy Safransky’s brief masterpiece in the March 2013 issue. I laughed aloud at his witty, poignant, and sly approach to the way of all flesh, which invariably ends with a “hanging judge” delivering his verdict. Alas, no hung jury for us!
Greg King’s interview with S. Brian Willson [“We Are Not Worth More, They Are Not Worth Less,” March 2013] touched some painful memories of experiences I had during World War II as a German teenager. When he spoke of visiting a napalmed village to estimate the bombing raid’s success, I saw in my mind the horror of Dresden after the fire bombing of February 13–15, 1945.
Thousands of corpses, mostly of women and children, were piled up in the marketplace, then doused with gasoline and burned to ashes. Nobody knew who they had been the day before: maybe mothers cooking a meager supper, or kids running around on the playground, jumping rope and throwing a ball. It was Ash Wednesday when it happened. Some of them had come to the city seeking refuge from the advancing Red Army in the east.
We who have seen the brutality of war with our own eyes should bear witness to its inhumanity, as Willson has done. Maybe someday our voices will be heard.
S. Brian Willson clearly respects our precious planet and all life on it. I wonder whether he intended for the editors of his statements to lowercase the name of our planet, reducing it to mere soil. When we write about Mercury, Venus, Mars, and so on, we capitalize their names. One easy step we could all take toward respecting the planet is to refer to it by its formal, capitalized name, Earth.
I have written many letters to you in my mind about how much I love The Sun, but the piece that finally made me put my thoughts on paper was “Punch,” by Steven Robertson [March 2013]. I will make a copy of that essay for my twenty-six-year-old godson, who strangled his teenage sister last week until she passed out and the blood vessels in her eye popped up red. Maybe it will give us a way to talk about the violence in our family.
Henry Miller’s “The Cosmological Eye” [Dog-Eared Page, March 2013] brought back fond memories of life in France in my twenties, when I soaked up the rich philosophical menu before me. I read him back then, and his words spoke to that confused, hungry, and ardent young man searching for himself. Stand Still Like the Hummingbird is still on my bookshelf fifty years later, and it’s not dusty. Thank you for reprinting his inspired words on creation and the artist’s life.
I became angry when I read Kathleen Dean Moore’s response to readers’ criticisms in the March 2013 Correspondence. It is her opinion, not fact, that the debate over climate change “should have ended a decade ago.” A substantial number of scientists and politicians continue to publicly discuss the existence, pace, and causes of climate change. Indeed, some readers of The Sun felt strongly enough to write to the editor about Moore’s efforts to shut down debate. Her dismissive attitude toward these thoughtful, respectful, and concerned criticisms strikes me as the sort of arrogance that exacerbates rather than resolves public concerns. Brushing off others’ views like so much lint from her shoulders and bending the conversation toward her personal ends ironically undermines her stated goals.
Kathleen Dean Moore asked Sun readers for suggestions on how to avert catastrophic climate change. Here is one.
The United Nations has concluded that animal agriculture is responsible for at least 18 percent of total greenhouse-gas emissions — more than all the transportation in the world combined.
Without even considering the many health benefits of a vegan diet, as well as the reduction in animal suffering, we should all adopt a completely plant-based diet in order to slow climate change.
I was profoundly moved by Joel Peckham’s memoir “Swimming” [February 2013]. By sharing his terror of the water, he invites us into his phobia and helps us comprehend rather than judge it. His description of the accident that took the lives of his first wife and son Cyrus brought me to tears.
As a psychotherapist, I have sat with parents who have lost children, siblings who have lost brothers, wives who have lost husbands, daughters who have lost fathers. Peckham reminded me that we each live with the death of a family member in our own way. There is no normal, except perhaps that grief may change form as we swim through it.
I just finished Joel Peckham’s “Swimming” and am trying to come up for air. I have two young children and am occasionally rendered immobile by the thought of them being ripped from me. And yet I still cruise along at seventy miles per hour with them in the car. I still let them recklessly ride their scooters down a steep hill and swim and surf and paddle boats and jump from the dock into that chilly, salty heaven. That Peckham so totally embraces what renders him immobile — swimming and living his life after tragedy — is a testament to the durability of the human spirit.
“Swimming,” by Joel Peckham, is one of the finest memoirs I’ve read in the more than twenty-five years I’ve been subscribing to The Sun. The rigor of Peckham’s writing — its economy, specificity, and restraint — allowed me to share in an experience that is, by nature, private and solitary. This paradox is, perhaps, Peckham’s real subject.
“Feeling less alone — in the pool, in my grief — should be a comfort,” he writes, “but it robs you of something. We are possessive even of our pain. We become it, and even the suggestion that it could be shared is frightening. We want to be alone with it, to caress it, saying, This is mine and mine only.
“But there are other people in the pool.”
I also enjoyed Sy Safransky’s Notebook in February. Apparently he and I were born within a month of each other in 1945, and I had a similar experience at my last doctor visit. I used to be six foot seven, and they told me I’d settled to six foot five and a half. Somehow that measly inch and a half cuts to the core of my identity.
I thank Safransky and Peckham and the scores of other writers in The Sun who remind me once a month that there are other people in the pool.