I was amused by Sparrow’s chronicle of his run for the presidency [“Why I Am Not President,” January 2006] — amused, that is, until I came to his poem “River of Tears,” in which he envisions “120,000 Americans on Prozac” going off their medication and weeping collectively. There was a time I might have cried over the poignancy of the poem, but it’s much easier for me not to now that I have joined the ranks of those on antidepressants.
Depression is a dangerous disorder that separates one from the light of the world. Many people get lost in that darkness. Since I’ve gone on antidepressants, my life has been more serene, my relationships better, my temper more controllable, and my outlook more optimistic. I often fear what would happen if my medication became unavailable.
But, as Sparrow’s poem reminded me, in taking antidepressants there is something lost as well, for I know that the tragedies in this world should not go unmourned.
I would volunteer to be one of President Sparrow’s 120,000.
Last night I came home to find the December 2005 issue of The Sun in my mail. The Readers Write topic was “Tests.” Just that morning my nine-year-old had cried her heart out, saying over and over that she didn’t want to go to school because they were being given a big social-studies test that day. She was afraid her learning disabilities would get in the way, and she wouldn’t even be able to read the questions, much less know the answers.
Her fears grew until they made her physically ill. It took me more than an hour to convince her to get dressed. By then she had missed the start of school, and I was late for work. I agonized over how to handle the situation: Do I yell? Do I threaten? Do I call my ex and let him be the bad guy? I opted instead for patience and a lot of cajoling. It took another hour to get her into the car.
When we arrived at her school, she begged me not to make her go inside: “I just can’t do it, Momma. I can’t take that test.” I was afraid I was going to have to physically drag her from the car when suddenly she wiped her tears, got out, and walked with me to the door. I marveled at her bravery, but my heart broke to think how many tests she will have to face in her future. Tests, which have always been so easy for me, will be a struggle for her, and she will likely never think of herself as smart. Will anyone ever understand how much courage it takes for my little girl to face a simple test?
I would like to respond to Mitch Hider’s letter in the December 2005 Correspondence, which said only, “An issue of The Sun without the word I in it would be refreshing.” I wish he had written more than the one line, because I’d like to know why he feels this way.
Journalists remove the word I from their reporting, and we con ourselves into thinking that this also removes all bias. My students are taught never to use I in their papers, and as a result their prose is littered with such empty phrases as “Many people believe . . .” and “It is evident that . . .” In the university, using I is an admission that your position is subjective and cannot be proven with 100 percent certainty. But what do any of us know with 100 percent certainty?
I subscribe to The Sun for the very reason that it values the I, the individual voice, the individual life.
In his story “The Friend Beside the Pool” [December 2005], David Brendan Hopes writes, “Near the end of the day, as the western sky turned blood red and a thin sword of moon glittered in the east . . .” This is impossible. Any moon rising around sunset is full or close to full. All “thin swords” of moon rise in the morning.
The movements of the sun, moon, and stars have always been with us, and always will be. It’s sad that these beautifully simple rhythms are no longer common knowledge.
David Brendan Hopes responds:
I confess not to be able to tell a setting moon from a rising one sometimes.
In the December 2005 Correspondence, I read with interest both John Rosenthal’s critique of Poe Ballantine’s essay “The Irving” [October 2005] and Ballantine’s response. While I have much respect for Ballantine’s writing, I found myself agreeing with Rosenthal. I too wondered why The Sun decided to publish this particular essay. A couple of times I winced at Ballantine’s gibes, which is not necessarily a bad thing, if only I could have located the point of it all. Come to think of it, that was pretty much the same reaction I had to Ballantine’s response to Rosenthal’s letter. I’m just not sure why he thought it better to attack the letter writer than to address his critique head on. Had he done the latter, I suspect we all might have learned something. As it was, I’m left to wonder who or what he’s really angry at.
My search for a thought-provoking literary magazine was proving to be disappointing at best until I received my first issue of The Sun. It is refreshing to discover a literary publication that forgoes pretension and instead favors raw, straightforward human emotion. The Sun is a rare find in a literary-magazine market full of fluff and advertisements for the latest novel churned out under the strict guidelines of the creative-writing programs.
Jane Braswell’s essay “Over the Garden Fence” [December 2005] has helped me realize that not every event in life has the resolution we want or believe we deserve. For many years I pitied myself for having an absent father. I felt abandoned. I was angry. I looked for a father everywhere, making many wrong turns and causing myself much grief.
Braswell made me see that “the final outcome may not be about my father’s apology, but about who I can be without it.” Finally, at fifty-nine, I have my answer. And that angry, abandoned girl who has lived inside of me all these years can stop searching.
When my dearest friend gave me a gift subscription to The Sun, I had no idea what it would come to mean to me. Here inside the walls of the United States Penitentiary at Big Sandy, Kentucky, the majority of inmates have thirty or more years left to serve. Many are so emotionally defeated or mentally drained that they can no longer hold a conversation. Your magazine has become for me a much-needed connection to the world, an escape into the reality I left behind. It is the most honest, positive, and stimulating publication I have ever read. Thank you for helping me (at least once a month) to feel like myself again.
I just got the December 2005 issue of The Sun, and I didn’t enjoy T.K.’s lame letter in Correspondence finding fault with Sy Safransky’s Notebook. Phrases such as “pity party,” “navel-gazing,” “hand-wringing,” and “bleeding heart” register nothing but negativity with me. T.K. can take his (or her) navel-gazing, pity-partying, bleeding-heart whining and shove it.
I also cannot tolerate people who are unwilling to publish their names with their letters. It stinks of cowardice.
Michelle Cacho-Negrete sure gives Coney Island a beating in her essay “Steeplechase” [December 2005]. As much of New York City is changing due to gentrification, I cling to Coney Island as a connection to the city’s past. Plenty of people (including myself) still wait in line for hours to get on the rides. Even in the winter, when the attractions are all closed, people happily walk along the snow-covered beach with a certain look of satisfaction that only Coney Island can give.
The short story “God Is Dead” in your December 2005 issue was audacious, moving, and powerful. Ronald F. Currie Jr. mixes empathetic horror with satire in a whole new way. As a Zimbabwean, I particularly appreciated how thoroughly he situated the story in Africa. Even the Americans were in Africa.
The quote attributed to me in your December 2003 Sunbeams should be attributed to Jane Wagner: “No matter how cynical you become, it’s never enough to keep up.” [Wagner is the letter writer’s partner and collaborator. — Ed.]
We love your magazine, and as you can surmise, we keep all the issues for years.