Twelve years later, Christgau says there's "no point moralizing" about Eminem's Marshall Mathers LP and calls on readers to "disable your prejudgment button and you'll hear a work of art. . . ." He gives the album an A.

Eminem's musical talent cannot be denied (I've caught myself humming the chorus to "The Real Slim Shady" more times than I care to admit). But I simply can't get past the abhorrent lyrical content of his songs, and it's sad that there are so many people who are just letting it slide because it's "art," after all. As Nat Hentoff has reminded us, the best disinfectant for hateful speech is sunshine. Why are we leaving Eminem in the shadows?

Jim McGaw
Portsmouth, Rhode Island

Robert Christgau replies: Art isn't merely a matter of musical hooks. For me, Axl Rose's lyrical content is one-dimensional and offensive, while Eminem's is complex and disturbing. One invites you to hate, the other forces you to think.

Kick in Gear

Now that it has dropped below 100 degrees outside (temporarily) here, I can thaw out and compliment Russ Kick on his review of Autoextremist.com [Machine Age, September 5]. Except for a pure love of car design and the fact that I am a weekend window-shopper, I have no ties to the auto industry. But to an enthusiast, this new perspective from insiders certainly helps clarify things. Most interesting has been the site's recent rantings about Daimler's snaking of Chrysler, and how the GM board can possibly sleep at night churning out bland, half-baked product as they continue to lose market share to just about everyone. Thanks for the heads-up.

Dave Muzyka
Houston, Texas

Hard To Swallow

Re "RU Pissed Off Yet?" [September 5] by Sharon Lerner:

Remember DES, "the wonder drug women should wonder about"? That tag line has application to the current scramble to get RU-486, the drug which promises a revolution in abortion, into women's hands.

Mifepristone, one of the drugs involved in this potent chemical cocktail, can cause serious vaginal bleeding. Why is there such an outcry against the FDA proposal to limit its availability to physicians who are trained in its use and have hospital admitting privileges? These restrictions seem strongly pro-woman.

Unfortunately, the "pro-woman" voice easily gets lost in the rhetoric about "rights." Isn't a woman's own life—potentially on the line if she hemorrhages—worth these basic safeguards? And what of the right to life for the unborn woman, no bigger than a grain of rice? If women have no value, any restriction to the profit motive of abortion is suspect. If women matter, we should investigate what the fuss is all about.

Mary Dwelley
Rochester, New York

Sharon Lerner replies: DES, which was widely prescribed to women in the 1940s and '50s to prevent miscarriage, caused gynecological cancers and other medical problems in those women's children. Mifepristone has been used safely by more than 500,000 women in Europe alone and was declared safe and effective by the FDA four years ago. The wait for the drug in this country hardly constitutes a "scramble" and is not about safety. Rather, as Dwelley herself demonstrates, objections are rooted in overall opposition to abortion, which is still legal in this country.

Bloc Liberation

Here we go again—the self-appointed arbiters of the "new tolerance" rising up to enforce their definition of "authentic blackness." Peter Noel's "The Uncle Tom Dilemma" [August 22] illustrates what I mean.

What is the "new intolerance"? It is the attempt to castigate, intimidate, and ultimately silence any black American who dares dissent from the traditional civil rights establishment's orthodoxy. That orthodoxy is: be Democrats; be leftists; abrograte individual responsibility and liberty; possess a paranoid's mistrust of private markets (where wealth is created); and profess an overreliance on government-as-nanny. It is the belief by black liberals that black Americans must be monolithic in their political attitudes and voting habits.

It is that last point, in this election year, that is sparking renewed totalitarianism in the black community. For black liberals there is reason for concern. Poll after poll indicates that more black Americans are describing themselves as "conservative." They are one of the most church-attending groups in the nation. Many oppose abortion. A significant number support school vouchers, welfare reform, and stiffer penalties for criminals. And many are self-identifying as conservatives and independents, rather than Democrats.

Instead of name-calling and ridicule, why not present differing opinions among black Americans in an honest and forthright fashion? We can debate them with vigor and civility and then let black Americans—indeed all Americans—decide the merits of the arguments.

As General Colin Powell challenged at the GOP convention, "What are [you] afraid of?"

Phyllis Berry Myers
Executive Director
Center for New Black Leadership
Washington, D.C.

Gospel Truth

Interesting review by Robert Cantwell of Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music, Volume 4 ["The Ghost in the CD," August 8]. I take issue, though, with his statement that "there are few if any traditional singers, black or white, who can sing gospel songs and secular songs in the same period of their lives." One thinks immediately of singers such as Almeda Riddle, Hobart Smith, Charley Patton, various members of the Watson family, Vera Hall, Doug Wallin, Dock Boggs, Roscoe Holcomb, Son House, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Mississippi John Hurt, Bessie Jones, Uncle Dave Macon . . . and on and on.

Paul J. Stamler
St. Louis, Missouri


In last week's "Brooklyn Betrayal," by Wayne Barrett, a photograph of Congressman Ed Towns was mistakenly used where one depicting Congressman Major Owens was meant to appear. The Voice regrets the error.

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