Letters

UP THE ACADEMY

Re Michael Feingold's "Family Feud(al) Obligations" [July 23-29]:

I have long admired Michael Feingold's theater criticism and regularly assign his work to my students; his polemic on Miss Saigon is still required reading. I have recently noticed, however, a marked intolerance of experimentation, which is odd considering the Voice's significance to downtown theater. His recent indictment of "academic assholes" as the cause of theater's demise is offensive and, considering assaults on academic freedom, downright reactionary.

If students are drawn to theater studies rather than seeking careers in, let's say, the more lucrative "manufactured media," it is probably due to inspiring teachers. Further, the disciplinary incorporation of deconstruction and postmodernism has significantly elevated theater criticism above the journalistic thumbs-up/thumbs-down variety, but they can hardly be considered predominant stylistic (or anti-stylistic) tendencies in American theater. Or theater training, for that matter, which still privileges psychological realism. Finally, when speaking for the "audience's point of view" on matters of style, just what monolith does Feingold have in mind when denigrating complex ideas or alternative methods? Surely not uptown audiences?

David Pellegrini
Eastern Connecticut State University
Willimantic, Connecticut

Michael Feingold replies: Pellegrini's prose and his haughty assumption that theorizing has "significantly elevated" the level of theater criticism only prove validity of my argument. Only an inspired critic can set that elevator in motion, just as only an inspired teacher can awaken a love for the theater in students. Naturally, I don't consider such teachers "academic assholes," but that's precisely because, as I know from experience, they don't teach by the theoretical book.

And—contrary to Pellegrini's fears—I have said nothing against experimentation per se, or in favor of abridging academic freedom: Let them be assholes if they like, as long as they don't bore me. When the audience is bored by the irrelevance of alleged "experimentation," it exercises its freedom not to go to the theater. That may be what Pellegrini desires for the theater; some of us feel differently.


HAWAIIAN PUNCH

Re Judith Levine's "Stop the Wedding" [July 23-29]:

As a survivor of the Hawaii same-sex marriage debacle of the last century (in a state that is supposedly about love and aloha), I am thrilled by what is happening on the mainland. On top of this amazing movement, there are articulate people like Judith Levine. Her wonderfully powerful article was right on the money—literally.

It's time we showed that the real "special rights" have always been (and continue to be) held by married heterosexuals. Now with the ruling in the Supreme Court and the same-sex couples consistently challenging state marriage law, this religious conservative "Special Class" is under pressure.

And see how they run! Slowly but surely, the pious smoke screens around their passionate bigotry are beginning to get thin. The beauty part is the more they lash out, the worse they look!

Bravo to the Voice for being a voice of reason in this brave new world.

Scottie Shelton
Kaneohe, Hawaii


PIONEER DAZE

Re Anya Kamenetz's "Homeless in the Homeland" [July 23-29]:

In an otherwise interesting article on poverty in Israel, the Voice allowed the following sentence to stand unedited: "Like the original halutzim, or pioneers, who fought off Arab tribes and made the Israeli desert bloom, he has staked his claim."

You can't be serious. Fighting "Arab tribes"? "Making the desert bloom"? Have we not—after some 53 years and a couple of decades of illuminating research by historians—arrived at a point to recognize both of those statements as propaganda which obscured the violent dispossession of Palestinian peasants and urbanites (not tribes) in 1948 from lands they farmed (not deserts) and lived on? Are the Palestinian citizens of Israel squatting in the downtown square alongside Tuitu also like "original pioneers" driving out the inhabitants of the land to make room for a colonial state?

Laleh Khalili
Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Anya Kamenetz replies: Your point is well-taken. I had hoped that the substance of my article would indicate that I was intentionally invoking the gilded image of the halutz in the most stereotyped way possible, in order to show Mr. Tuitu as a completely different kind of hero.


YAEGER MEISTER

Lynn Yaeger's Elements of Style is the best fashion column I have ever read. Not only does it provide sound shopping advice, it does so with the dark humor of a true downtowner. Keep up the good work!

Becky Tung
Manhasset, New York


QUOTING JAMES DAVIS

Re Richard Goldstein's "Death by Outing" [July 30-August 5]:

Goldstein should have called me before leaping to an inaccurate conclusion about a quote from slain city councilman James Davis in my Brooklyn Politics column.

Goldstein questioned Davis's truthfulness when the councilman said of his eventual killer, Othniel Askew, "I've never heard of him—or her." According to Goldstein, Davis uttered the quote "as the campaign heated up" and thus it was doubtful that a "master pol" like Davis would not know about someone collecting signatures to run against him.

In fact, Davis delivered the quote before petitioning began. I had called Davis immediately after Askew's name surfaced for the first time in a June 2 filing with the Campaign Finance Board. The back-and-forth between Davis and another opponent, Tony Herbert, was indeed under way, but neither Davis nor anyone else in Brooklyn politics had ever heard of Othniel Askew before June 2.

Davis said more than a few zany things to me during his tenure but I never found him to be dishonest or disingenuous, unlike some of his colleagues in politics.

Erik Engquist
Author, Brooklyn Politics
Park Slope


CORRECTION

A description of a 1982 merger between Barnard College and Columbia University was wrong in "Big Plan on Campus," by John Giuffo [August 6-12]. That was the first year Columbia College admitted women as undergrads (who had previously been limited to enrollment at Barnard). The schools both continue to exist (and Barnard remains open only to women) as separate undergraduate colleges within the larger sphere of Columbia University.

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