A Cat Story by Stephen Butterfield [Issue 174] is a spiritually void piece of hip self-congratulation. I am reminded of modern relationship confessions, in which writers tell of cruelties to ex-lovers, all explained away by alcoholism or co-dependency or Mommy fixation or bad karma — and in the telling are working to demonstrate their incredible sensitivity to how imperfect and human they had been and how wonderful they have become.

Despite the shallow overlay of Zen, Butterfield has ignored a basic premise of Buddhism: the preciousness of all living creatures. No Buddhist master would sit in meditation ignoring the cries of an animal in torment.

We humans are shameless. We will use anyone and anything. As writers, we might know better. Shame on the narrator. Would that he’d gotten his head out of his hara. Would that he had come through this lifetime as a cat.

Mary Sojourner
Flagstaff, Arizona

Stephen T. Butterfield responds:

After due paws for catsideration, let me tail you, this pusses me too fur.

You refer to The Sun as “a magazine of ideas.” What, exactly, is the idea behind the photo on the cover of Issue 174, where a young man with his trousers unbuttoned is pouring water down the shirt of a very young, but sexually mature, woman? Are we to assume that she enjoys starting her life as the passive victim of an act that is violent symbolically, if not in intent? Is she to allow anyone who wishes to pour his waters upon her? It’s obvious that she will be beautiful. Let’s hope someone enlightens her.

Are we to be titillated by this photograph? One wonders at your intent.

P.S. She is too young to be submitting to the whim of any male; you are too old to suggest that this scenario makes ethical sense.

P.P.S. I’m going to place this issue in the faculty room of my school to remind my fellow teachers that “the fall of Rome” is at hand.

Betsy Thayer
Lebanon, New Hampshire

I was shocked and dismayed at the cover of Issue 174. Abuse is subtle; it starts early. This looks like torture to me. Some women are so used to taking it, they don’t know it’s abuse. It saddens and angers me that a magazine like yours puts this out.

I would like you to consider whether you would have printed a photograph like this where the gender roles were reversed. Please do not perpetuate the degradation of women.

Jan Clement
Bath, Maine

A magazine of “ideas”? Is wet T-shirt photography why I subscribed to a magazine of “ideas”? Do you need newsstand sales so badly that you succumb to the same ancient ad gimmickry that publications such as People use?! Spare me. And cancel my subscription.

Debra Marion-Coyle
Charlottesville, Virginia

Thank you for the beautiful cover on Issue 174. I can’t remember ever being so happily stirred by a photo. Every time I look at it I fall in love with those kids and the world that gave rise to them.

Sarah Rabkin
Santa Cruz, California

The Sun responds:

I’m sorry that Hella Hammid’s photograph caused some readers discomfort. It’s regrettable that we live in a world where the wounds go so deep, where something this exuberant and innocent can evoke such pain.