Issue 579 | Correspondence | The Sun Magazine


When I first saw Sy Safransky’s letter in the December 2023 issue [“A Letter from Sy’s Desk”], I suspected that he was making an emotive appeal for contributions. But as I read the piece, I was stunned to learn that Sy is stepping aside and saddened to hear that he has dementia.

I met Sy in the early 2000s at a Sun retreat at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California. He was gracious, generous, and accessible. Years later I listened to him read his writing in front of a packed audience at Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon. I have heard hundreds of authors read their work, but Sy is the only one who received a standing ovation upon entering the room.

Sy, you are a virtuous and wonderful human. I will continue to treasure The Sun and all of its creative contributions.

Alex Gordin Portland, Oregon

“A Letter from Sy’s Desk” felt like a punch in the gut. How could such an intelligent person be diagnosed with dementia? My respect for Sy is enormous and has only expanded now that he has shared this challenging chapter of his life with courage, grace, and even humor. Derek Askey’s interview with Lynn Casteel Harper in the same issue [“Speak, Memory”] didn’t soften the blow, but it offered a different perspective on dementia, helping me stomach the surprising news.

The Sun has been my favorite teacher (next to my dog) for more than twenty of my seventy-two years, and I know there is still more to be learned from this strangely wonderful magazine.

Christine Clayworth Petaluma, California

We get precious little education in our culture about how to be with the misfortune that eventually touches us all. Sy Safransky’s work has helped many people face great personal and collective hardships and has shown me the mechanics and function of grief.

I am both in awe of and heartbroken by his letter in the December issue. Sy’s raw honesty made my skin prick. I have no words. How weird is that for a writer to say? Sometimes the space between the words must carry the weight.

Mishele Maron Seattle, Washington

When Sy and everyone at The Sun found me two years ago, I was standing on the edge of a cliff inside myself. Writing about what I saw from that vantage point was the only thing that prevented me from jumping. Since then The Sun’s editors and readers have said: Step back. Don’t jump. Enjoy the view with us. And I’ve listened.

In the final Sunbeam of the December 2023 issue, Sy writes that running the magazine sometimes occupied him “like a conquering army” and other times “like the Holy Ghost.” He goes on to say: “Even living your dream can feel like a burden now and then. But, my oh my, to live your dream!” While reading this, it occurred to me—for the first time—that I’m living my dream. It’s a holy burden, and I’m happy to shoulder it.

Thank you, Sy. I know you will get that desk in heaven. And I hope that when you sit at it, your hair is down to your shoulders and your feet are bare, just as you were when you stood on the street, sharing the first issues of this gift you’ve offered to the world.

John Paul Scotto Virginia

I stumbled upon The Sun about fifteen years ago while living in a conservative, rural area where the subjects covered in your magazine weren’t topics of open discussion. Seeing them addressed in your pages gave me a sense that maybe—just maybe—my ideas and beliefs had merit. Thank you, Sy Safransky, for starting The Sun and filling it with insightful writing.

Sandy Pence Kangas Menominee, Michigan

I was moved by Doug Crandell’s honesty and incredible skill at layering moments from his past in a way that accentuates the power of the memories [“His Body of Work,” December 2023]. After reading his essay and Sy’s description of his encroaching dementia, I was in tears, grateful to have spent a Sunday afternoon steeped in something that really matters, rather than running errands and chipping away at holiday to-do lists.

Kendra Yates Atlanta, Georgia

Poetry can be a profound mirror of ourselves and our shared humanity. Listening to three of the poets in your December 2023 issue read their work was like being at the center of a flower as it opens in blossom.

AGBT Sendai

You can also listen to the poetry that was featured in our “Poems about Departures” section at


As a clinical psychologist, a writer, a science buff, and an individual who has often felt lost and unmoored in this world, I was touched by Emet North’s short story “Deformation Catalog” [December 2023]. It skillfully examines the forces both attracting us to and repelling us from each other, and our inner selves.

E.H. Jacobs Methuen, Massachusetts

You have got to know that your magazine can be a hard read. It’s a lot of kumbaya nonsense and hand-wringing. Almost any circumstance, it seems, can create redemption. I am especially impatient with Readers Write.

Still, I own the crag on which I sit. I am an only child and a loner, though I was married twice: once for a ten-year sentence and the second time for a happy twenty-four years. Now I am a widower who’s been overeducated for every job I’ve ever had. And perhaps too educated for The Sun as well. But I took your subscription offer some time ago and renewed for several years. I am committed to absorbing what is offered, though I have yet to look forward to the task of your next issue.

I write to share that, surprisingly, your November 2023 issue hit the mark. The writing was cogent, even the interview. I read it all (well, not all of Readers Write; let’s not expect miracles) without parsing a single story. I even found myself relating to a Readers Write piece on “The American Dream.” M.B. wrote about learning how small acts of kindness can have big impacts. I have been supporting a local church’s food drive, and like M.B., I will relish helping anonymously where I can, until I cannot. Then I will want to disappear in a similar fashion.

Name Withheld

I’m writing this the day after Thanksgiving, having finished last night your November 2023 issue. I am particularly grateful this month for Amy Dryansky’s “Forecasting.” Writing a poem like that must be akin to birthing a child. In either case, the end product is a miracle. If I could bring myself to tear out a page of The Sun, I would tack this to the wall above my writing space.

S. Kay Murphy Calimesa, California

I laughed out loud while reading Bethany Marcel’s short story “Animal Moments” [November 2023]. It reminded me of the animal buried in my own sixty-nine-year-old body. I, too, was once a new mom recovering from giving birth, struggling to nurse for the first time, and navigating the foreign mass of my body, which my husband was eager to have at his leisure again.

The narrator’s dialogue with the pockmarked man in the bar reminded me of a time I went to a sex club with a girlfriend. I saw many hungry people there who, like the narrator of the story, were looking for answers in the wrong places. Threesomes were all around.

Every time I consider not renewing my Sun subscription due to the heaviness of the magazine’s content, some delightful, serious levity appears. Please don’t forget the levity, especially now.

K. Johnson Virgina Beach, Virginia

Lately I have been rereading my back issues of The Sun. There were some great stories in the Readers Write on “Smoking” [July 2019], most concerning tobacco, but my favorite was Jaimie Baxter’s experience with marijuana: her friend pulls out a roach, and misunderstanding the slang, Baxter goes home that night and tries to smoke a live cockroach.

I was reminded of my own attempt as a young college student to smoke a baked-dry banana peel in a pipe. It worked about as well as the cockroach.

Ray Cage Tucson, Arizona

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