Broke down the other day and did my laundry. Took THE SUN along for company, just in case I didn’t get approached. Stuffed the colors and whites into the mouth of the yawning dryer. Sauntered into the drizzly gray afternoon. Eugene, Oregon at its dampest best. By the time I returned a fellow had latched onto THE SUN, sucking up the words of your opening piece. I made two complete circuits of the room, counting how many washers were on which cycle. Hawwed, hiccoughed, hemmed. He looked up.
“This your magazine?”
“You want it back now?”
“Well, my clothes are dry.”
“This editorial is great. I’d really like to finish it.”
“Sure, why not? Keep it.”
He introduces himself as the owner of the Bijou (artsy fllms) Theatre; says he’ll leave it at the ticket counter with instructions for me and mine to enter free. So I went and saw Choose Me — pretty fair flick. I was trying to be subtle at the ticket counter, not certain the would-be owner had actually left instructions with the ticket seller concerning me.
“Do you have THE SUN magazine lying around here?”
“Yes. Right here. Are you David Koteen?”
“In the flesh.”
“I gotta see some ID.”
“Do you have a lot of people come here impersonating me, asking about THE SUN?”
“You have to be careful these days. Times are tight.”
I decided to take my backlog of THE SUN up to the Bijou. Spread the wealth around, try to loosen up the times.
This is the chronology that finally brought me to responding to THE SUN. I pulled the mail out of what seemed to be a too small Box 461 — lots of catalogs missing their target audience, one letter from a close friend (ya-hoo), an irritatingly humorous card that bespeaks twice a week of “lowering the boom on advertising” by advertising by mail, and THE SUN (ya-hoo).
As I walked out of the post office, I first opened THE SUN, skimmed the sunbeams page, got in the car, drove home, looked again at the sunbeams page, looked at the title of the Editor’s Note, flipped the page to correspondence and “To The Assistant Editor” caught my eye. I skimmed the two letters directed to Carol Logie and found myself becoming more mystified — “What Sherwood Anderson article?” So in my mind I tried to locate the whereabouts of issue 106. It eluded me. I knew it was last month — height of canning, patching the roof — busy season and not enough time taken to read.
In that whirling-dervish of thoughts about things accomplished during the Summer and the enormous amount to accomplish before snow draws the seasonal curtain, it came to me. Issue 106 is in the back of the Opel! I kept it there for reading while waiting, grasping at snatches of busy season time to read. Numerous times I find myself sitting in the car waiting.
I sat back down in the front seat of the Opel, THE SUN in my hands, the car door open, the late afternoon cobwebby light settling into the dark frame garage. I read Sherwood Anderson’s story, then I read Carol’s “What’s Missing,” then back to re-reading the correspondence letters.
I wholeheartedly agree with Rebecah Newton on freedom of personal expression and freedom from editorial censorship and I feel undoubtedly that Carol does too. I found no trace or words or thoughts to the contrary in her “What’s Missing” note following Mr. Anderson’s story.
I wholeheartedly disagree with the question (and over-used cliche) “Where’s the Beef,” Carol? My answer to Rebecah is the beef is with inequality, which I found shining like a red neon BAR sign glowing on a Winter’s night throughout Sherwood Anderson’s story.
Discrimination is often so subtle that it takes a knowledgeable eye and a sincere heart to recognize it and to recognize that it is ever present and sinisterly slipping on by again. Carol recognized it. To have the courage to make that recognition known is truly consequential — not petty.
I get the impression that blacks too get the impression that the world views them as subhumans, yet I’m sure they all don’t feel that way. How does the majority of a group of people who are continually discriminated against feel when they continually take a back seat in the media in this society? Or if they do show up in a front seat they’re either a chauffeur or undressed? Regardless of how secure one is with oneself, how solely responsible one is in determining one’s self worth, how much integrity one has, discrimination is real and is alive and well and will remain so, unless more “insecure” sensitive people like Carol Logie simply state their views about the subtleties that exist — giving warning signs.
Symbols are strong. Language as a symbol is strong. Sherwood Anderson’s symbols are strong, and regardless of the insight of the article, let’s face it, the stereotypes are there. William Irwin Thompson writes in The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light, “For years feminist scholars have objected to the use of man and I as much as anyone bristled with annoyance at the ideological cant, their zealotry, and their insistence on the use of the ugly and abstract word “person;” but it is clear, they are right. Naming does direct thought.” (My emphasis.) Sterotypes direct thought.
I do not feel that Carol has prevented anyone from the freedom to choose his or her own opinions about the author’s words; she has simply and straightforwardly opened up a cobwebby, small-paned window and let that clear afternoon light into the darkened garage of discrimination and inequality.
P.S. As far as inequality in the media, I find the blatant sexism of a boob and butts show like the television program Charlie’s Angels less alarming than the subtle stereotyping of Mr. Anderson’s article nestling itself in the light of THE SUN.
Thaddeus Golas’ “Understanding Pain” in Issue 108 evoked a lengthy letter from Brian Knave and a shorter one from Darryl Carlton, which we printed in Issue 110. I asked Thaddeus if he wanted to respond.
Thanks for your nice card.
The only point of Knave’s letter (the Knave! the bounder!) that stuck in my mind, that I thought I ought to reply to, was his illegitimate equation of “reward” and “pleasure,” when the article says, most pointedly in its last lines, that “pain is rewarded by survival.”
Now that I read his letter again, it seems to me only that Knave is delighted with the sound of his own vocabulary. He knocks down targets I had not set up, and ignores essentials of what I said. And I am saying this only because you asked.
Mostly I was just grateful that the letters were reasonably intelligent, and let it go at that. Many years ago I had an article in the Village Voice, and then they printed a letter, supposedly in refutation, but which actually paraphrased what I had said in the article. Very strange experience. Now that I think of it again, perhaps it was an exercise in dada or surrealism.
The human race is on the edge. We must solve the problem of violence. Violence grows out of pain. People get violent, they abuse their loved ones, they start wars, even nuclear wars, in an effort to nullify the pain by destroying the other that is regarded as the cause of pain. (They even write letters to the editor.)
Therefore, it would seem to me, any suggestion as to the roots of violence should be examined. If people know that pain is inevitable and even useful, perhaps they might bear with it instead of stupefying themselves and lashing out and starting wars.
The only other thought that I will offer now in response to the letters is that I am amazed that both spoke as though I had abandoned the spirit and surrendered to the local reality. I suppose I didn’t communicate clearly enough, even though I did say “the whole universe is a rich, eternal pleasure.” It is precisely the contradiction between that Reality and what we human beings experience that I tried to explain.
Much useful analysis is possible, but I have misplaced the thimble with which I usually empty oceans. Consider the rash of teen-aged suicides: young people in comfortable towns kill themselves, leaving notes saying they “cannot bear the pain.” Of course they can’t — they have had no conditioning in doing so. What they needed was a miserable, uncomfortable British Public School, of the kind that so many sensitive authors have complained about. The kind of school that produced people capable of ruling one-fourth of the Earth’s land mass. They always dressed for dinner. (Alas, World War I destroyed them.)
Well, there I go again, running on, when I was determined to write a short letter. I’ll try to end again:
Actually, I have reached the great goal — I’ve stopped thinking. As a consequence, I will probably write a lot of books.
Oh, yes, I must tell you my favorite mantram, which I recommend to one and all: “The answer is already known.”
In Issue 109, I wrote about the death of Jane Roberts, author of the Seth books. Robert Butts, Jane’s husband, wrote to me after the essay appeared, and gave me permission to reprint part of his letter.
I was with Jane when she died. Her death was the result of soft-tissue infections, stemming from a form of rheumatoid arthritis. Of course, that’s only part of the reason she died, and I hope to go into it all in a book — perhaps a biography. Jane’s death was peaceful, though half an hour before she had been in great pain.
I got home from the hospital a couple of hours later — about 4:00 a.m. It was a warm starlit night, just beautiful, and as I got out of the car and looked up into that depthless sky I felt Jane right there, above the car. She’d followed me home. “Thank you, Jane,” I said aloud, and went into the house.
I went back to work on a long-overdue Seth book the next day, but as I wrote a friend last week, “Don’t let my determination to carry on Jane’s work fool you. A cave has opened up inside me, and I can only trust that the wound will heal itself. I stlll cry for my wife several times a day, fifty-seven days after her death. From watching Jane for 504 consecutive days in the hospital, I learned that human beings have tremendous, often unsuspected reserves of strength and power, yet I still don’t understand how I can feel such pain and still live.”
Thanks for writing about Jane in THE SUN. It’s a fine job, and I’m grateful. Jane is too, I bet.