Rarely do I delight in anything as much as I did Debbie Urbanski’s fantastical, witty, subtle, and strange story “A Few Personal Observations on Portals” [November 2017].
A.O.’s piece in the Readers Write on “Winter” [November 2017] broke my heart. She writes about struggling to find human contact after leaving her job, especially in the winters when she’s unable to be outdoors in Upstate New York.
Like A.O., I’m retired, and the nine years since I stopped working have been the most glorious of my life. In addition to taking adult-education classes, I have found many volunteer agencies that need my help. I can sign up for projects and meet new people with similar interests. My only difficulty has been choosing from among all the options available. I encourage A.O. to look into volunteer opportunities: the need is great, and the rewards are even greater.
In Aaron Carnes’s interview with Henry Robinett [“Jailhouse Blues,” October 2017], Robinett expressed perfectly what all of us who teach in correctional facilities know: it is a privilege, not just a job. My incarcerated students are some of the most intelligent, hardworking, humble, and grateful I have ever taught.
Your interviews and essays about incarceration resonate with the inmates in my creative-writing workshop here in Tucson, Arizona. The writing in the magazine suggests to them that their stories might be worth telling. More than any publication I know, The Sun treats the struggles of poverty, racism, drugs, and violence with dignity.
Many of these men have been inspired to write their own narratives, some of which have been published in Readers Write.
There appears to be a new harshness in your Correspondence section. In October 2017, for instance, William Mann calls your editor “lazy” and says the magazine’s content is “rehashed old crap.” Libby Hewes is “afraid that 95 percent of Sun readers have probably closed their minds and committed themselves to hatred.” Where is this frantic certainty and righteousness coming from?
I, too, am disappointed that the world is not what I once hoped it would be. But why, when times get tough, do we turn on one another rather than toward one another in solidarity?
Paul Mandelbaum’s haunting, beautiful essay “We Are All Children Here” [October 2017] gave me my first real insight into Holocaust survivors and the harshness of their memories. But what really spoke to me was the story of how Mandelbaum, after holding his comatose mother’s hand, left the hospital only to find out the next morning that she’d passed away during the night.
As my mother lay dying in hospice, I stayed by her side and held her hand and sang to her. Then my brothers talked me into leaving for the night. As Mandelbaum writes, “In so doing, I missed my mother’s final breath.” It is the biggest regret of my life.
I think I may never forgive myself, but Mandelbaum’s essay made me believe that, somehow, my mother did.
Thank you for reprinting the pieces by the late Brian Doyle in your September 2017 issue [“The Salt Seas of the Heart”]. I now own a copy of Doyle’s masterful novel Chicago. His love of life was infectious, and the depth of emotion he felt for humanity blazes through the pages of his work. I am a better person for having seen the world through his eyes.
I appreciated that Kelly Luce wrote about an everyday person with money struggles, a good dog, and failures in love [“Stop Hitting Yourself,” September 2017]. Her short story wasn’t melodramatic, obvious, or silly, but it made me cry and laugh out loud nonetheless. I hope to read more of her work.
I was enjoying Kelly Luce’s story “Stop Hitting Yourself” until I reached the line, “I fell in love with him the same way you fall asleep: bit by bit, then all at once.” The sentence resonated with me, not just because of its poetry, but because it is nearly identical to a line in John Green’s bestselling young-adult novel The Fault in Our Stars: “I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, then all at once.” I will give Luce the benefit of the doubt and assume this was an inadvertent homage, but I urge your fiction editors to be more diligent in the future.
The “homage” was indeed inadvertent; I haven’t read that book nor seen the film based on it. Nonetheless, I did some investigating.
My first draft of “Stop Hitting Yourself,” from 2011, already contains that line, and the ones leading up to it: “Things were simple with George, who came next. George wasn’t boring, really; he was just someone who made naps easy. And I fell in love with him the same way you fall asleep: bit by bit, then all at once.” Green’s novel came out a year later, in 2012.
In a subsequent draft that I workshopped, I have a note next to that line: “Would Marissa really say something this corny and romantic?” Apparently I decided she would.
After twenty years I’ve chosen not to renew my subscription. Recent letters to the editor have echoed my reaction to your strident insults to our president: essays that have nothing to do with politics yet add negative comments concerning the election, or Anthony Varallo’s essay lamenting how to tell his young children Donald Trump had been elected [“That Night, That Morning,” May 2017]. I am constantly bombarded with liberal outrage on social media and was hoping for a respite in your publication. It was not to be.
I always knew The Sun’s editors leaned to the left, but I expected them to offer fair and balanced content each month. The majority of your contributors appear to be unhappy that Trump is our president. A lot of us were unhappy with Barack Obama, but we swallowed our disappointment and moved on. My hope is that your world, which has crashed and burned, will emerge from the ashes of hate and intolerance and be capable of being rebuilt.
As Hurricane Irma approached Florida, my city was under mandatory-evacuation orders. The storm surge was predicted to be life-threatening. My spouse and I did not expect our home to survive, given its proximity to the bay. (Mercifully it would be spared.)
How does one decide which possessions to save and which to sacrifice? We packed important documents, pottery jars containing the ashes of deceased pets, my spouse’s mementoes of twenty-three years in the Navy, and my unread issues of The Sun. As we made our way toward Mississippi, I couldn’t bear to follow the nonstop news coverage of the storm. So I read The Sun.