Cuckoos and gun lovers

Readers respond to articles on Robert Stone, Ken Kesey, Tom Stoppard and nonhunters who hunt.

Published November 21, 2001 8:00PM (EST)

Read "Robert Stone: 'History Has Come for Us'" by Andrew Leonard.

I enjoyed the Stone interview, but have a minor quibble with his view that in the Israeli-Arab conflict, "Both sides [made] no provision for ... a multicultural, multiethnic state."

I contend that Israel, as a democracy, has made those provisions. The proof is in looking at the non-Jewish minorities within Israel without nationalist aspirations, such as the Druze, Bedouin and Circassion populations. On the one hand, they retain their cultural identity; on the other hand, they serve in the Israel Defense Forces -- the main stamp of acceptance into Israeli society. I am not blind to the difficulties these minorities confront in a "Jewish" state, but their involvement proves that Israel is viable as a democratic, multicultural and multiethnic state.

-- Joel

Read "Down on the Peacock Farm" by Rob Elder.

I want to thank the author for my favorite Kesey article to date. Kesey's death was a great loss for all, yet the special essence of the man has been captured in print by Rob Elder. thanks for helping to preserve a larger, more enlightened image of one of my heroes.

-- Chris Lee

Nice piece on Ken Kesey. He spoke at my high school graduation in 1986, and two years later came to a scriptwriting class I took at the University of Oregon to talk about the screenplay for "Cuckoo's Nest." Up close he was a tree of a man, big around with thick branches for fingers and aging skin like old-growth bark. He didn't talk much about the film, but he did tell great stories about his college fraternity and riding shotgun with a whiskey-drinking Paul Newman. All I remember him saying about "Nest" was that he wanted for the lead role Gene Hackman, who, perhaps not by chance, looks a lot like Kesey. Whatever the reason, he had wrestled for his vision like he always did, and for that I will miss him.

-- Jason Moss

Read "Brilliant Careers: Tom Stoppard" by Amy Reiter.

Beautiful piece on Stoppard. "Arcadia" for me also was a transcendent experience. I saw the SF ACT's production and I still get a buzz thinking about it. There, too, some people left at intermission. To quote master thespian Mr. T., I pitied the fools. I already had seen the ACT's version of "Rosencrantz" a year or so earlier and I had a budding notion that Stoppard's ideas, wit and diamond-cutting language were something rare and wonderful. Five minutes into "Arcadia's" first act, I knew.

Since then, I've seen several more of his plays including "Indian Ink," "The Invention of Love," "The Real Thing," his adaptation of "Rough Crossing" and an Oregon Shakespeare Festival's version of "Arcadia." I've also amassed quite a library of his other plays and criticism. (I was so damn happy when I learned he wrote the screenplay to one of my favorite films, "Brazil.") With "Arcadia," I'm told, he still has the unusual honor of writing the only play ever reviewed by Scientific American. A couple of years ago when Stoppard was in the Bay Area, he spoke on the U.C. Berkeley campus at the invitation of the math department. The professor moderator -- I can't remember his name -- seemed moved nearly to tears as he characterized Stoppard as a writer who understood the romance laced within the hard sciences and, by extension I guess, the scientists themselves.

Anyway, this simply is to say very, very nice work. My insomniacal Web surfing rarely pays off so handsomely.

-- Mike Lewis

Thanks to Amy Reiter for her loving tribute to a brilliant playwright.

Back in the late 1970s, our 12th grade English teacher (thanks, Ms. Greco) took our class to see a strong, fast-moving production of "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead." It changed my life by opening my eyes to just how good theater could be. For people who love language and ideas, his plays (when done well) are the verbal equivalent of a night at a three-ring circus, where the audience strains to keep up with the constant motion of the acrobats, the clowns and the aerialists.

Reiter articulates and crystallizes what it is that make his plays such wonderful experiences. Thank you for bringing it to us.

-- Pattie O'Donnell

Read "Hunting Not to Kill" by Christopher Ketcham.

A "three-point" buck? You are hopeless -- hopelessly ignorant. I know most Salon readers are just as ignorant about firearms and hunting, but please spend a little more time researching the subject.

-- William Ross

"In morning, I squat to defecate in a ravine downhill ..."

What the fuck? This story reads like James Fenimore Cooper on acid. Please. And who did Christopher Ketcham consult for his firearm nomenclature, the intrepid Jake Tapper? Sarah Brady could have penned a more accurate treatise.

Please. The woods just west of the Hudson are full of these wannabe dilettante-types: enjoying the "experience," penning pensive journal entries and "roughing it" by shopping at the local IGA rather than bringing in victuals from their favorite tofu purveyor.

We see them pull up to the local diner, in their "Free Tibet"-emblazoned Subaru Forester, reeking of patchouli oil, decked out in L.L. Bean -- an otherwise accident waiting to happen.

Ketcham's ilk are typically a strain on the local Search and Rescue resources when they go on these voyages of self-discovery and find out that their Nokia is "out of service." Leave the hunting to us: hunters.

-- Brent Trimble

Christopher Ketcham's "story" starts with the assertion that he is neither a "gun nut" nor a hunter. I don't know about the gun nut part, but his characterization of guns relative to hunting certainly demonstrates that he's no hunter. If anything, his story indicates his disconnection with nature and some unhealthy sense that guns have a role in re-establishing that connection.

Hunting is not about power. There is no place, nor should any of us be comfortable with the notion of hunting as a means of exercising power. In this environment, a gun, or for some, a bow and arrow, are means to a different end.

For true hunters, hunting is about exercising a role in the wilderness as a predator. This is a natural part of some of us and has been for as long as our species has existed. It is about assimilation and acceptance in the natural world. These have become such foreign concepts for many of us because we fancy ourselves as "civilized." We attempt to sanitize and distance those aspects of our being that remind us that we are of the natural world. We use utensils to eat, bathrooms to defecate and butchers to separate us from the killing part. I'm not saying that we shouldn't do these things. But our rationalizations in the process often cut the cord between us and the natural world and we have difficulty reconciling our relationship with things that are truly "wild."

Such seems to be the case with Mr. Ketcham. I'm not suggesting that he become a hunter or that hunting is the only way to achieve this reconciliation. But I do hope he finds a more comfortable relationship for himself and the wilderness. That does not occur in an instance like that at the end of his story. It occurs in a process over the course of a lifetime. I'd suggest he keep the guns out of his process.

-- Ken Brown

By Salon Staff

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