Letters of the week

Readers reflect on Cindy McCain's wardrobe, genre snobbery, human suffering and more.

Published September 6, 2008 8:57AM (EDT)

Read the story "Vampires That Don't Suck"
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I'm sorry to see this kind of "genre snobbery" among Salon readers. The fantastic tradition in Western literature has existed as long as there has been Western literature. What is Beowulf, if not an epic fantasy? Vampires, specifically, appear in the legends of many different cultures, and they are featured in literary works that predate the modern novel. The "realist" tradition, which many people now believe is the superior one, is actually an upstart, barely two centuries old.

Alan Ball did realism brilliantly in SFU, so I'm intrigued by this foray into the fantastic. But I'll have to get my HBO back ...

--Medium Dave

Read the story "Those Liberal Elitists"
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Cindy's outfit would have paid my mortgage off three times over. She looked like an asparagus with pearls.


Read the story "So Much Misery, So Little Time"
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My experience is that America does not like us to grieve. We may be angry or we may be forgiving, tidy boxable feelings, we may be most anything, but not grieving. That is far too uncomfortable and uncontrollable and real a feeling to be permitted. Grief demands that we each be seen as a complete human being, not a mere consumer. One cannot sell things to real grief, neither products nor platitudes. Nor does it lend itself, truly, to "quick fixes." Suffering is different for each person, and for all our vaunted love of individuality, we don't seem to like that. We want a standardized thing with a standardized "solution" we don't have to think about.

We're also not taught by our culture -- books, television, movies, news, or cultural heroes, whomever they may be, or often, alas, not even by our religious institutions -- to simply bear witness to suffering. "Bearing witness" sounds a lot like "doing nothing," and we Americans seem obsessed with filling every moment with activity.

About a year ago I was in a meeting at my church, and a distraught man burst in. No one knew him, and we did not know what was going on -- was he a drug fiend? Delusional? Angry? It turned out he was in, truly, an agony of grief. His wife had died and he had fled the funeral home, where he and his family were "making arrangements" and come to church. Someone called our priest, someone called the funeral home, practical things that definitely needed to be done.

I left the meeting and simply stayed with this man. I felt stupid and useless and worried my presence might aggravate him, but I simply could not leave him all alone. When his family arrived later to collect him, they were astounded he had received, as they put it, "actual help!" from a church or anyone in it.

All I did was hold this man's hand, let him weep and rail, and occasionally acknowledge that grief is great and painful.

And it turned out I did the right thing, the one thing that could help that man at that time: simply stood beside suffering. I didn't try to fix or change it, I didn't try to sell him on church or God or drink or "time will heal."

I dread the suffering in Trachtenberg's book, and I'm sorry if he has made a soapbox, but I look forward to reading it: a whole book acknowledging that grief and suffering are powerful and there is nothing we can do except stand beside our fellow human beings and cherish them.


Read the story "Reality Shows We'd Like to See"
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You want reality?

Keep it real. Make a show about a guy who bought an nice new wall-mounted plasma TV that is connected to his 1 Tbyte DVR. Every night he sits frustrated on his couch flipping through the on-screen programming guide desperately searching for something, anything interesting to watch.

-- Mr. Jones

By Salon Staff

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