Issue 339 | Correspondence | The Sun Magazine


Jeffrey Luer’s brave action, described in his Readers Write on “Idealism” [December 2003], is appreciated by many who champion his effort. He set fire to three SUVs to draw attention to global warming and the despoiling of the environment. If Americans were more self-educated and able to face reality, they would embrace this type of direct action. Instead they’re willing to condemn property destruction without decrying the destruction of the earth and its inhabitants.

Sherry Franzen Eugene, Oregon

In McCabe Coolidge’s teenage memoir “A Night of Falling Alone” [December 2003] his stepmother tells him, “You are just too young to know about love.”

I’m still too young to know about love. It feels exactly the same at seventy as it did at seventeen.

Ted Merrill John Day, Oregon

Reading Genie Zeiger’s interview with Natalie Goldberg [“Keep the Hand Moving,” November 2003] was like attending a personalized writing workshop. I found myself thinking, I could do this. I could actually “just write.”

I found an old journal, in which I’d faithfully chronicled exactly one week’s worth of my life, and did ten minutes of writing practice. I took Goldberg’s advice and kept the pen to the page. So far I’ve practiced two days in a row.

It’s too bad more colleges don’t teach Goldberg’s method. This one simple interview inspired me to write a letter to The Sun for the first time in fifteen years.

Julie Gottlieb Sylvan Lake, Michigan

I suspect that Sparrow’s tongue is planted firmly in cheek in “Money-Back Guarantee” [November 2003], but the piece is still offensive. I’m surprised that someone who worries about the humanity of the fictional character Tonto would so casually dismiss the Midwest as a polyester-wearing, eccentric-free bastion of conformity.

Sparrow puts forth the humorous theory that the Midwest is boring because the states are square in shape, whereas the state he inhabits, New York, owes its eccentricity to the strangeness of its boundary. He then uses this premise to wallow in stereotypes and slurs. He may be joking, but his words still sting. He writes, “White is the primary color (of skin, and of many buildings). No one is a transvestite.” True, there is a white majority, but isn’t this the case in nearly every part of the country? I’ve lived in the lily-white Midwest for twenty-three years, and I have Iraqi, Malaysian, Mexican, Vietnamese, Russian, Turkish, Jewish, African-American, and homosexual friends. I have to admit, I don’t know any transvestites, but my mother worked with one in her small Midwestern town.

As for Sparrow’s implication that the Midwest is lacking in eccentricity, tell that to native sons Marlon Brando, Bob Dylan, Devo, Harvey Pekar, and Prince. Tell that to the hundreds of lovable oddballs I met while living in the Midwest. And none of them had to change their name to “Sparrow” to prove to the world that they were interesting.

Josh Krauter Austin, Texas

As a long-time subscriber to The Sun, I am more than a little annoyed at the increasing slams at our president in your pages. I guess you do not care that some of your readers happen to believe in what our president is trying to accomplish: peace and economic expansion for America and the rest of the world. We support his tactics and respect our president’s character and integrity.

In his essay “Money-Back Guarantee,” Sparrow claims that “Bush is too unintelligent to write novels.” George W. Bush is more eloquent in his direct honesty, including his endearing misspoken words, than anything Sparrow has written for The Sun. While our president is standing at the forefront of history, setting a clear course for our world’s future, Sparrow is busy choosing which insult to sling to prove his intellectual superiority.

Linda Gallagher Sunrise, Florida

Sparrow wonders how the Lone Ranger can be called “lone” if Tonto rides with him. Someone should tell Sparrow that the Lone Ranger is called that because he alone survived the massacre of his troop of rangers. Tonto found him, cared for him, and saved his life.

Any fifty-year-old could tell you that.

Nancy J. Knight Longview, Washington
Sparrow responds:

I have insulted so many people in two pages (without intending to insult anyone) that I am uncertain where to begin apologizing. Forgive me, Lone Ranger, Tonto, George W. Bush, people in the Midwest (especially the transvestites!), and all others I offended.

Other people manage to write two pages without insulting nine readers. (I am including personal letters I received.) Why not me? What is my shortcoming? Is it because I spent sixteen years listening to shock-jock Howard Stern every day?

No. I refuse to paint myself as a Howard Stern victim. I will accept responsibility for my moral deficiencies. And I will begin correcting those deficiencies — this afternoon!

Erin Van Rheenen’s “Thirteen Ways of Claiming a Literary Prize” [November 2003] was poignant, painfully telling, and funny. I could relate to the moment when she discovers her name has been misspelled on her medal.

After finishing Van Rheenen’s essay, I attended a reading and dinner for two visiting poets. When I arrived, a friend handed me a copy of a journal she edits, in which some of my work appeared.

The night was filled with strained conversation and big egos. I found myself wishing I were anyplace but there, eating overpriced appetizers with people who had no interest in my presence. When it was over I flopped into bed at 1 A.M. I had to get up early the next morning for a long drive. But at least I had the journal in which my work was published.

Before turning out the light, I opened the cover, and there was my name, spelled incorrectly. Thanks to Van Rheenen, I had just the words to express my feelings: “Fuck a duck,” I said aloud. “Fuck a large, quacking duck.”

Kathryn Petruccelli Monterey, California

I got hooked on The Sun because of the fiction and the lack of advertising. Lately, however, I sense a change in The Sun, not only in the stories, but the opening interview in each issue. I find much of the writing depressing and lacking in some sense of goodness. I would rather read a story about someone who has devoted themselves to helping others than read about why our society is going down the drain due to the “haves” versus the “have nots.” These topics are important, but is this the heart and soul of The Sun now?

John McPhail San Diego, California

I see that letters still sporadically come in about the “depressive” nature of The Sun. Granted, many of the essays and stories in The Sun are more real (the word I’d choose) than we’d like. But the careful reader will note that even the most despairing of pieces, and perhaps especially these, include moments of clarity and illumination.

I believe that the mere act of writing down painful things is to start to climb the ladder that might lead out of the pit of despair. I think of The Sun as a collection of ladders that lead both ways, up and down.

Julie Shavin-Katz Woodland Park, Colorado

Four years ago I was diagnosed with a rare cancer. After three major surgeries and two chemo regimens, my tumors are stable, but I’ve had to quit my job. Looking for ways to cut back on expenses, I pared my magazine subscriptions down to two. One of them is The Sun. I read it cover to cover within two days of receiving it.

This summer I was planning to send a gift subscription to a dear friend I’ve known since high school. As teenagers we both wrote poetry and short stories and dreamed of a writer’s life. Three months ago, at the age of forty-five, my friend died suddenly of a brain aneurysm. I hope that wherever she is, there are a few back issues of The Sun lying around.

Jamie Fear Woodbridge, Virginia


In our December 2003 issue, photographer Edis Jurčys was erroneously identified as a woman. “I love women,” he writes, “but at this time I am a man.” We apologize for the mistake.

Free Trial Issue Are you ready for a closer look at The Sun?

Request a free trial, and we’ll mail you a print copy of this month’s issue. Plus you’ll get full online access — including 50 years of archives.
Request A Free Issue