[Expert TK] Has Arrived

To the Editor:

Bless Tom Scocca for the sanity and clarity of his James Frey piece [“The Awful Untruth,” Jan. 23], and for its painstaking walk through the insanity and absurdity being pandered in Mr. Frey’s defense. The spinning soft-shoe pirouettes have been dizzying enough, but the fact that even the outraged attacks seemed to miss the point just added to the sense of vertigo in this whole mess. Trot out the man’s “own words” and he hangs himself. How is this missed?

]I am not unduly concerned that Mr. Frey may have “damaged” the lives of countless wayward addicts. That argument seems positively treacly, as well as extraordinarily condescending.

Countless addicts would have easily called his bluff—and did. The carnage of a cynical, well-orchestrated, premeditated assault on “truth,” and its legion of apologists—that’s what boggles the mind.

Mr. Scocca’s lovely deconstruction of the first sentence of My Friend Leonard is a thing of beauty. Would that the Empress and her subjects had eyes to see just what the tailor’s been up to.

Paschal Booker

San Antonio

Watch What You Eat

To the Editor:

Just a quick note regarding Nicholas von Hoffman’s recent column about diabetes and The New York Times series [“The Rich Get Thinner, The Poor Get Diabetes,” The National Observer, Jan. 23]. He raises some good points, with a great “foie gras” tag to wrap it up. Clearly, he knows how to wield a pen well.

But I think Mr. von Hoffman does your readers a disservice when he fails to point out, as the Times articles did, that 85 to 90 percent of diabetes is behavior-related—that is, if you watch what you eat and exercise regularly, you can avoid type-2 diabetes. (Type-1 diabetes has a genetic component and isn’t so easily avoided.) Perhaps he might have mentioned Aristotle’s oft-quoted “All things in moderation.”

On the same note, when Mr. von Hoffman mentions that The Times speaks of “a culture that promotes overeating and discourages exercise,” I think he and The Times are mistaken. Our culture enshrines exercise absurdly; overeating is hardly promoted. Consumption is promoted—but not overeating.

Likewise with high-fructose corn syrup. While one could debate the advantages and disadvantages of this cheap sweetener ad nauseam, avoiding it is easy: read the labels. I’m constantly catching the inclusion of high-fructose corn syrup in new and even older food brands—and keeping it out of my body by not buying those items. I’ll gladly pass up a lemonade or a granola bar if I know it’s “tainted” with that suspect sweetener.

And when he rails about some New Yorkers being “partly responsible for people in some other place suffering and dying from this monster killer-maimer disease,” I think that’s a strained overstatement. One might as well hold everyone responsible for global warming due to our carbon-dioxide exhalations. I’ll choose not to feel guilty over diabetes illnesses and deaths; he has not made a plausible connection—even by the often-lax editorial chest-thumping standards.

Please try to keep in mind that humans were endowed with free will and can exercise it better here in the United States than perhaps any other place on our planet. (I know I needn’t recommend a Scottish Enlightenment reading list.) We’re not programmed by Madison Avenue or any other cultural force; many people in Spanish Harlem might well be insulted to hear it so stated.

I still look forward to your next column.

Mark Mitchell


Little Has Changed

To the Editor:

Thank you for running “Vanilla Ceiling: Magazines Still Shades of White” in the Jan. 16 edition of The Observer. I’m a black writer whose experience certainly echoes the observations in Lizzy Ratner’s article. After years of trying to “crack” the ceiling, I ended up working as a freelance editor and copy editor for a variety of “black-focused” magazines, including Honey, Heart and Soul, Savoy, Black Issues Book Review and the music-industry tabloid Impact. I was grateful for those jobs, but I was disappointed that they were my only options.

It reminds me of a story that appeared in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in the early 1960’s, before I was born. My mother clipped it and saved it for posterity. In it, a columnist wrote about the issue of integration. He had asked his family’s generations-long nanny/maid/cook/caretaker—my grandmother—how she felt about the subject. Did she, indeed, want to be able to sit side by side with white people in the local diner or on the bus? She was quoted as saying, “Well, Mr. Hood, I don’t know, but I’d like to think I could if I wanted to.”

Liz Randolph


How About Halle?

To the Editor:

Re “Beauties, Beasts, Biz” [Sara Vilkomerson, Jan. 16]: Once again, it’s the old story of lackluster roles for women in Hollywood. Yet I find it disturbing that Ms. Vilkomerson only focuses on the plight of white women, never mentioning one black or Latina woman that could take the “mantle” from Julia Roberts. The fact that she doesn’t consider a woman of color either seriously displays a deeper systemic problem in the culture, or reveals the assumption that “Other-ed” people aren’t going to read her article. And just who are the three most beautiful female actors in Hollywood right now? Angelina Jolie, Halle Berry and Rosario Dawson.

Dennis Reid

Poughkeepsie, N.Y.