I want to express my strong negative reaction to the cover photograph of Issue 182. I am sure a large percentage of women who have been pregnant would agree that it is wrong to use a trick posture like this to depict the very real discomfort of producing a new life. It is demeaning and in poor taste.

Myrtle Leatherman
Monroe, Wisconsin

The cover photo for Issue 182 left me quite disturbed. I was disappointed in The Sun for publishing such an offensive and degrading picture.

Hella Hammid pictured pregnancy as something fat, awkward, and ugly, when it is actually a beautiful, sexy, graceful state. It is a time for growing and learning — not manipulation and ridicule. Pregnancy and birth are special times; women should not feel or be made to feel fat or ugly.

Kendra Elisabeth McNair
St. Louis, Missouri

The Sun responds:

Ridicule was never intended. To my mind, the cover celebrates rather than demeans pregnancy. But I must apologize to Hella Hammid for printing her photograph upside down! Blame it on my being a man, accustomed to looking at pregnant women from a different angle.

Please accept the enclosed thirty-dollar check for a one-year subscription to your wonderful magazine. I hope you’ll make sure I get Issue 182 so I don’t miss the next installment of Sparrow’s adventures.

I work in the magazine industry here in New York City, so I’m always reading magazines I haven’t tried before; it’s rare that I’m so thrilled by one. The Sun offers an unusual combination of artistic and intellectual rigor and spiritual depth. I don’t remember the last time I read a magazine where so many stories rang true. Congratulations to your editor and the rest of your staff. I look forward to more.

Ariel Zeitlin
New York, New York

I came home late last night after a retirement party for a friend. I was happy and tired. Your magazine was in the mail. Standing in my kitchen, I started to flip through it; I ended hunched over the counter for half an hour before I decided to make a cup of tea and read by the wood stove. I went to bed and read a bit more. And just now I woke up and finished the first part of Sparrow’s tale.

Thank you for kind and gentle Sparrow, who made me laugh out loud; for Ram Dass and his humanness; for Dan Barker’s gardens.

What a great magazine!

Sue Walton
Alexander, North Carolina

Concerning Sparrow’s “Born Too Young: Diary of a Pilgrimage” [Issue 181], the tendency to depict women as objects permeates American culture. Disrespectful and demeaning messages about women are always disheartening and infuriating, but it is even more appalling to find such misogyny in one who praises himself as an enlightened and egalitarian “thinker.”

Why would Sparrow, who regards even a gnat’s life as sacred, take such sadistic pleasure in his wife’s “frozen look of pain”?

Sparrow spent time in a peace camp in Scotland protesting acts of aggression, and yet he never questions his own propensity for violence (“. . . I’ll hate her — smash in her face when I reach Dharamsala.”)

The act of urinating on his wife is degrading to them both. How would he feel if the roles were reversed? Why does the man always violate the woman? Just reading the passage is humiliating.

So to Sparrow, the one who says women “smell bad,” we say, you stink! You wrote, “I’ve been meditating twelve years. I feel like I haven’t made any progress.” We agree. You haven’t.

P.S. to the editors: Where was your judgment? What were you thinking? Please don’t insult us by crying “artistic expression.” It is shocking enough that Sparrow wrote this rubbish, but it is even more shocking that you had the poor taste to publish it in your magazine of presumably enlightened ideas. If we’d wanted to read sexist trash we’d have bought a copy of Hustler. An explanation and apology to your female readers is in order.

Barbara and Ginia Stevenson
Memphis, Tennessee

Sparrow responds:

I’ve always wanted to do this — to write a shrewd, devastating rebuttal to a letter writer, like they do in The Village Voice. Now, on a train from New York City to Staunton, Virginia, I may do so. The problem is, I agree with these letter writers; the whole thing is scandalous. (To make matters worse, my parents have a subscription to this magazine!) I think The Sun made a mistake printing it. Or I made a mistake writing it. Or perhaps my biggest mistake was living it. But I certainly didn’t intend to live it. It was, like most life, something I backed into.

By the way, I spoke to Jeanne and she says I begged her to pee on me.

And when did I say I was enlightened? Huh? (Though I did grandly define “karma” and “dharma.”) Isn’t that the point of the title, “Born Too Young”? That I, or everyone, is born twenty years too early, and by the time we’re thirty-two we’re dumb as a twelve-year-old?

Shouldn’t we all be stopping this war instead of arguing like this?

We’re switching from an electric to a diesel engine now in D.C. A boy in front of me who’s about two has been saying, “Choo choo,” over and over for about three hours. Now his mother is tickling him and he’s gurgle-laughing. He is cute and very boring, and I must publicly apologize to everyone I have cutely bored with my book.

My spiritual advisor, Dada Daneshanandaji, read the Stevensons’ letter, said, “Uh oh,” a number of times, and advised me, somewhat cryptically, to write a short response. I suppose he thinks I’ll appear statesmanlike so that the Stevensons will seem hysterical. Well, I refuse to be statesmanlike! If anything, I will be more hysterical than they! I demand my own execution! I demand my writings be burned! I refuse to be level-headed about this!

I’ve been reading The Sun for about six months now. I don’t know yet what it’s about. That’s a compliment to Sy. After six months of reading Changes or Reader’s Digest, I knew the departments, the focus — I knew what to expect. Depending upon my mood, I choose one or the other of those magazines, knowing what promises it holds for me.

The Sun is too subtle for that. It’s a fertile pasture where I graze like a lazy cow, laying it aside often during the month to allow myself time to chew cud.

Barbara K. Hadley
Prairie Village, Kansas

Please cancel my subscription. Your magazine stinks.

Gerane Weinreich
Ann Arbor, Michigan

I was having a late lunch in the Snack Shack near my bookbindery, and reading my then-current copy of The Sun [Issue 182].

I was alone until an elderly woman came in, ordered a cup of coffee and a Rice Krispies bar, and sat at a table opposite me.

I continued to read, though I noticed she was looking in my direction and squinting. Soon, she was staring. I raised the folded magazine to block her view of my face.

She suddenly crammed the last of the bar into her mouth and gulped her coffee, then struggled into her coat, and left — no, she fled! I finished Rob Eaton’s fine article, “Three Women,” and flipped over the magazine to read the next piece just as the woman burst out the door.

This was when I discovered the poem by Joel Long, with its large title: “Her Vulva.”

I was alone once more with The Sun.

For the PDF of the page spread mentioned above click here (see print page numbers 34–35).

G. David Farkell
Detroit Lakes, Minnesota