My Favorite Merkin

To the Editor:

Thanks for Suzy Hansen’s fine piece on Daphne Merkin [“Vagina Mama-Log,” Feb. 27], but in addition to the many references to Ms. Merkin’s fiction, essays and reviews, etc., allow me to recall her introduction to the late Janet Hobhouse’s exquisite novel, The Furies, about which Ms. Merkin wrote:

“Hobhouse’s book is marked throughout by a sense of eclipsed moments, horizons that have passed permanently out of view … [and] there is still something stunningly insouciant about the way Hobhouse handles the inevitability of her demise. What’s most striking about her attitude is that it is shaped less by denial than bewilderment, an admission that none of us have any firsthand experience of extinction until it is staring us down …. ”

Gay Talese


Young at Heart

To the Editor:

Thanks for “The Two Neil Youngs: Demme’s Film Shows a Saccharine Singer” [Ron Rosenbaum, Edgy Enthusiast, Feb. 27], and it’s about goddamn time somebody said it. I’ve wondered while reading the adulatory reviews of Jonathan Demme’s film whether any of these critics have even heard anything of Neil Young’s earlier than Harvest Moon, or how they could have missed the creepy shot of darkness (“Dreamin’ Man”) that Mr. Young slipped into that slice of country pie.

Anyway, great piece—the best thing I’ve read about Mr. Young since the ancient days when real rock critics roamed the earth. Just for the record, though, I think Mr. Rosenbaum is wrong about “Powderfinger.”

Michael Padgett

Decatur, Ga.

To the Editor:

I, too, couldn’t figure out why not a single review (that I happened to see, anyway) of Jonathan Demme’s movie mentioned Jim Jarmusch’s earlier film (which I happened to catch, for the first time, on one of the more obscure cable channels a few months ago). And I, too, found the version of “Tonight’s the Night” in Mr. Jarmusch’s film to be absolutely mesmerizing. Thanks to Mr. Rosenbaum for remembering!

Mark Spiegel


To the Editor:

I read Ron Rosenbaum’s superbly crafted piece on Neil Young over coffee this morning. Having witnessed “live” Neil half a dozen times over the years, I feel his words “This is a guy who could leave you shaken to the core with his chords, with a single incantatory phrase whose compressed, elliptical wisdom could haunt you for weeks, months, a lifetime ever after.”

Way to see into the depth of his Zen-like musical creations. I too continue to learn and find freshness in each of his extended anthems. I commend both Mr. Jarmusch and Mr. Demme for their work, time and attempt at analysis. The subject’s living body of work is daunting. As Jimmy Page once said about Led Zeppelin (and this holds true for Mr. Young as well): “It is like a hurricane one moment and a whisper the next.”

Neil for President!

Mark A. Polansky


Why So Liberal?

To the Editor:

A perfect New Yorker’s Diary [“The Times Gets Tough: A New Public Editor! Meet Ali bin-Zabar,” Bruce Feirstein, Feb. 27]. Whether intended or not, there seems to be an ever-burgeoning sympathy between these nutty, homophobic, misogynistic religious zealots and the people who fancy themselves free thinkers and defenders of human rights and civil liberties. I would love to see Jon Stewart take sustained shots at these magician-eyed Islamists; alas, he has a family to consider. If all that is currently being done around the world “in the name of Islam” was being conducted by Christian zealots “in the name of ‘Christ the savior,’” the Western left would rightly be going nuts. But the strange cultural sensitivity we’ve bestowed upon these radicals is baffling and runs contrary to almost all of our comfortable proclamations. I hope we wake up. Many thanks to Mr. Feirstein.

John Willard

Atlanta, Ga.