Kelefa Sanneh’s comments [“Open Ears,” interview by Finn Cohen, July 2023] about separating the art from the artist reminded me of my ongoing struggle with the classical music of Richard Wagner. How do I reconcile the soaring majesty of, say, the Tannhäuser overture with the composer’s very public and unapologetic anti-Semitism? It’s a troubling yet profound mystery that a mind capable of such musical genius could also be capable of such bigotry and hatred. Ultimately it feels very human to wrestle with these moral dilemmas, for although a world without xenophobia and prejudices like Wagner’s would be heavenly, a world without his music would be far less so.
Comparing pop and classical, Kelefa Sanneh says, “With popular music there’s a sense that you’re eavesdropping on someone’s culture.” Why is that not true of classical music? Igor Stravinsky made waves with his bombastic new style of music in The Rite of Spring. Listening to it is just like eavesdropping on a culture from one hundred years ago.
While reading the July 2023 issue of The Sun, I realized how valuable the Correspondence section has been to me. Readers’ comments on previous stories challenge my notions of what I thought a story was about, and I often end up rereading pieces from previous issues. Recently I took a second look at the essay “Captain’s Log,” by Andrew Johnson [March 2023], and saw it as an everyman’s journey, illustrating the frustrations and joys inherent in life.
Jamila Minnicks’s essay “Footprints in Alabama” [July 2023] is an eloquent and powerful statement about the legacy of enslavement. It highlights exactly the type of history current wannabe-tyrants would like to erase.
I have two old dogs, and one of them is dying of cancer. Ruth Lee’s letter in your April 2023 Correspondence made me cry and reminded me of my dogs’ devotion and continuing need for love.
Boy am I glad I went back and reread “The Den Mother Has Her Say” [Lance Larsen, March 2023]. I was sleepwalking the first time I read it, and I didn’t catch much except the parts about snow cones. When I read the story a second time, though, I realized the narrator was telling readers how to honor the life and death of a beloved pet.
When I was twenty-one, it was time for our family dog, Farfel, to be put to sleep. Like the dog in Larsen’s story, he had cancer. When my father and I took him to the veterinarian’s office, a technician asked, “Do you want to be present when we give Farfel the injection?” Farfel was the first pet we’d ever had, and I didn’t know how to do death, so I said no. Next she asked if I wanted to keep Farfel’s collar, and again I said no. After sharing our lives for seventeen years, I was not present for Farfel’s last breath. I am hard-pressed to forgive myself decades later.
I was struck by James Rennie’s contribution to Readers Write on “Drug Experiences” [March 2023], in which he wrote about trying to use LSD to find an altered state of consciousness and meditation to find a higher state of consciousness.
I believe many drug users just want the blessed relief of getting out of their own heads. I like to give my thoughts a rest by becoming fully absorbed in playing with children. Simpler than meditation and more pleasant than drugs, total immersion in a child’s world is a real trip.
In Vikki Thomas Forte’s Readers Write on “Drug Experiences,” she shares how pregnancy and her sister helped her find treatment for a drug and alcohol addiction and how she has worked to stay sober for thirty years. I wish my brother had a similar story. I was naive to the depth of his addiction. He was able to hide it from most people, but it came to light when he was about to become a father. Most of our family and I believed that he could get himself together with the help of a thirty-day treatment program and continued counseling. But he didn’t think he had a problem. “Lots of people have kids and use drugs,” he said. He overdosed last year at the age of forty-nine.
I have a friend, George, who spent some time on The Farm in its early days, so I thought he would like Rupert Fike’s poem about one of the members of the commune [“He Arrived in a Hollowed-Out Studebaker Lark,” November 2022]. Not only did my friend like it, lo and behold, he’s the subject of the poem! George was unaware of the impression he’d made and glad to find out what happened to the car.
In my files somewhere I still have a copy of Andre Dubus’s essay “Sacraments,” which appeared in the July 1999 issue of The Sun. In it Dubus writes about being a divorced dad and making sandwiches for his daughters. Those sandwiches were a kind of outward show of love — a sacrament. The essay is so emotionally beautiful and complete, yet so basic that it has stuck with me all these years. Dubus passed away before the essay was published. I wish I could have told him how I carried his writing with me and how, when I do small things for my family, I think of him.
It seems like a lifetime ago that I first saw The Sun on my in-laws’ coffee table. I was hooked from the first issue I read, and my mother-in-law immediately started a gift subscription for me. Even after my husband and I split up, the subscriptions kept coming. It has been years since I have seen my amazingly kind now-ex-mother-in-law. I thought this year might be the one that The Sun would stop coming, but then, just like always, it showed up in my mailbox.
Thank you for continuing to publish a print magazine. I keep each issue until I’ve read it completely, taking it with me on trips or to appointments. Digital just doesn’t do it for me.
I am grateful for the online archive and digital issues included with my Sun subscription. I travel often, but even when I’m away from home, I can read The Sun each month, just by tapping the link in my email inbox.