Heroines, Execution Witnesses and Other Letters to the Editor-in-Chief

For the publisher:

Thank you, Lucinda Rosenfeld, for highlighting in “Heroines of Self-Hate” (March 14) a trend in the development of female characters that regularly aggravates me in contemporary literature.

Where did the Becky Sharps and Undine Spraggs go? In their place, we have woman after woman who is his worst enemy. Usually these women are white, and maybe white women of a certain class no longer encounter enough external barriers to self-actualization.

Self-created disaster is an orderly solution to the absence of any more significant conflict. Although Rosenfeld’s play focuses on female writing, I see this continually in the fiction of male writers as well, where I call it the “cup size + emotional damage” approach to character development; in these cases, however, I attribute it to sheer laziness.

Elizabeth sylvia
Mattapoisett, Mass.

For the publisher:

In her list of real crimes (March 14), Kate Tuttle notes that the author of “Two Truths and a Lie”, Ellen McGarrahan, was totally in favor of the death penalty until she saw an execution. .

Russell Baker once wrote that as a reporter for a Baltimore newspaper he was offered the opportunity to witness three hanging executions. It was touted as exhilarating entertainment that any red-blooded journalist should take the opportunity to experience. Baker hesitated and let an enthusiastic colleague take his place. This proved to be excruciatingly prolonged, and the coworker was physically ill afterwards and several times over the next few days.

Anyone in favor of capital punishment has a moral responsibility to witness an execution – real – at least on video. If you approve of state-created death, you must see what the grim reality of a completed human life really looks like.

David English
Acton, Mass.

For the publisher:

Thank you, Emily Mortimer, for the lovely perspective on “Lolita” in your essay “Defense Witness” (March 7).

It saddens me to wonder if today an author would write and a publisher would publish such a book. Thinking about it and thinking about other works like the creative tour de force ‘Infinite Jest’, part of what separates them from the prosaic and the anodyne is the risk the writers take in defying us and maybe by offending us; making us feel uncomfortable; by giving voice to thoughts and ideas that we may wish to remain silent.

Yet this is what gives depth and meaning to art. I fear that the times are repressing his expression.

Jay markowitz
Pound Ridge, New York

For the publisher:

In his review of “Tangled Up in Blue” by Rosa Brooks and “We Own This City” by Justin Fenton (March 14), Maurice Chammah suggests that the desire of many ordinary cops to shift from patrol duty to “tactics” – the work of SWAT teams and specialized units – is the result of boredom and dreams of “shootouts and high risk situations”.

Perhaps. But Brooks’ “Tangled Up In Blue” suggests a more nuanced explanation, namely that the actual police experience does not approach the Hollywood version from a distance. Brooks describes the many complex and intractable social problems police officers face on a day-to-day basis – the effects of “poverty, addiction and violence,” in Chammah’s words – and the cynicism and fatigue that this experience can engender. .

A police chief I worked with years ago put it best: “Policing is not about adventure; it is a matter of service. As a lawyer who has represented victims of police misconduct for more than a quarter of a century, my conclusion is that those who exercise honorable profession in the police need to better understand what it is before they go. ‘to register. And police departments need to sort out those who are willing to do the tough and thankless job of “the department.” When that happens, I will have fewer cases to bring.

Andrew G. Celli Jr.
new York

For the publisher:

In his engaging review of “Four Lost Cities” by Annalee Newitz, Russell Shorto notes that a woman living in a Turkish town 9,000 years ago plastered her walls, swept and decorated her home with art “just like us ”but did not look like us by burying ancestors under his bed and keeping the skulls of deceased loved ones in niches in the walls.

But we also keep ancestors and loved ones in our homes – framed in photographs sitting by our beds and hanging on our walls. Often times, the things other people do that seem very different from what we do are really different ways of doing the same thing.

Deborah Tannen
Washington


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