Indian Bummer

Michael Feingold's review of Annie Get Your Gun ["Diversion 2.0," March 16] left me feeling very uneasy, specifically his statements concerning the Native American element in the show.

Feingold writes: "Maybe when the Pequots buy back Manhattan, they can restore authenticity to Annie by having the Weisslers (the producers) scalped onstage at every performance." Mr. Feingold needs to know his history if he wants to write topical jokes. Every fourth grader knows that the Pequots never owned Manhattan. Furthermore, I thought we all knew that scalping was imported to these shores by the Europeans.

I tend to think Mr. Feingold knows these things— I think he was simply taking license in order to make a joke. Sadly, his cheap joke is as misguided as this unfortunate revival.

Steve Elm
American Indian Community House

Michael Feingold replies: I am sorry Mr. Elm finds my joke cheap, and grateful that he suspects me of knowing better. The menace of scalping was a standard feature of the Wild West Shows whose content Annie Get Your Gun now circumvents, a fact that might cause Mr. Elm more unease, but at least belongs authentically to the work's own time. The prosperity of the Pequots— who, as we all know, never owned Manhattan— of course belongs to our own time; I erred in trying to make the joke face both ways.

Head Two Head

Vince Schleitwiler's review of Heads by Harry [March 9], was schizophrenic and racist. Although Schleitwiler praises Lois-Ann Yamanaka's "wisdom and humor" and "courage and grace," he uses most of his review as a soapbox to rail against the "tired conventions" of the multicultural novel and the evils of assimilation (his pet peeves: The Joy Luck Club and "the god-awful . . . assimilationist extravaganza Flower Drum Song").

Schleitwiler writes that Heads by Harry contains some of Yamanaka's best work, then urges her to write "less predictable material." Yamanaka grew up in Hawaii and mines her own experiences to create uncommon and specific characters; the only reason Schleitwiler urges her to turn her considerable talents elsewhere is because he has decided that Asian Americans should write a different type of book. Echoing dialogue in Heads by Harry, Schleitwiler claims that he, "like most Asian American readers," has "grown tired of waiting for the hundred mirrion mee-ra-culls hawked by publishers in the aftermath of the Amy Tan craze."

Well, I can't comment on what most Asian American readers are waiting for, but I appreciate the fact that Yamanaka tries to tell the truth as she knows it. Such truth is one of the hallmarks of our best writers— surely it should be an option for our Asian American writers too?

Rahna Rizzuto

Vince Schleitwiler replies: As a biracial person, I'm used to being accused of schizophrenia, but the racism charge baffles me. Have I no right to argue that Yamanaka's talents are superior to her chosen form— the offbeat, coming-of-age family drama so beloved by the big presses? The polite applause offered to everyone's multicultural novel is stifling Asian American literature. I hope it's not offensive to want "our best writers," and particularly the Asian Americans already among them, to do better.

'Bill' Of Wrongs

Richard Goldstein, in "Just Our Bill?" [March 23], mistakenly states that I "felt compelled to defend [Clinton]" and based such a stance on the historical experience of fighting fascism. Goldstein quotes me as saying, "One error was not taking fascism seriously and another was not uniting with a segment of the ruling class to defeat these fascist forces."

With regard to the second error, I said just the opposite. The error was relying on a section of the ruling class— a mistake that has been made many times historically and is still being made today, frequently in the form of supporting the "lesser of two evils." I said that what was needed in this situation was not to defend Clinton but, rather, to oppose the Washington inquisition as part of building mass opposition to what Refuse & Resist! calls the "politics of cruelty" that Clinton and the Democrats have done so much to advance.

Mary Lou Greenberg
New York City

Silent Stanley

I have one quibble with Michael Atkinson's excellent recap of Stanley Kubrick's career ["Path of Glory," March 16]. Kubrick may have been "megalomanic," as Mr. Atkinson writes, but even so, he only wanted to control his artistic creations, not his audience.

Kubrick had enough confidence in his work to let it do the talking for him. Today's directors— trained not in life but in film school— view movies as tools with which they can draw attention to themselves and their own jejune philosophies. This behavior is far more megalomanic than Kubrick's.

How can a man who never granted interviews "overshadow" his films, as Atkinson states? Atkinson missed one crucial distinction: Kubrick himself was not famous. His films were.

Eliot Camaren

Michael Atkinson's "Path of Glory" was admirably written, but I feel obliged to get another opinion of the late Stanley Kubrick onto the letters page.

Kubrick was one of our few cinema masters. Looking at his later films (the ones that Atkinson is so quick to dismiss), one sees that they remain as creepy and terrifying as they were when first released, Barry Lyndon in particular. As for Atkinson's contention that Kubrick "abandoned" films rather than "finishing" them, it's difficult for me to think of films that are more finished.

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