He was our sunshine

Re Robert Christgau's "Ray Charles 1930-2004" [June 16-22]: I sit here in utter amazement at the focus of the nation on the lionizing of a man who was a contemptuous bastard, instead of on Ray Charles. Charles never aspired to lead a nation nor achieve Faustian levels of power.

Simply put, Ray Charles was a man who struggled against his pain and demons in a manner that didn't take or destroy lives. He brought joy and healing to others even while he continued to endure his own shadows and darkness.

Thank you, Robert Christgau, for shedding light on this great man, and thanks of course to you, Ray Charles.

Gary-Lydell Womac
Plattsburgh, New York

Pasta Imperfect

Re Robert Sietsema's "100 Best Italian Restaurants" [June 9-15]:

Due to my Italian American heritage, I know real Italian food. Sietsema is totally mistaken about two places he considers the best Italian restaurants in Staten Island. He listed Joe and Pat's (33) and Denino's (39) as good Italian restaurants. All they are good for is their pizza. The reason people claim they make good Italian food is because they are not Italian and don't know shit about real Italian food.

The restaurants that should have been included are Italianissimo (on McClean Avenue) and Trattoria Romana and Nino's (both on Hylan Boulevard). These are the only true Italian restaurants in Staten Island, and your review missed out on them.

Giuseppe Fiorentino
Duncan Hills, Staten Island

Commendations and Confirmations

Re Nat Hentoff's "Wallace v. Schumer" [May 5-11]:

I want to commend Hentoff on speaking the truth on the Pickering cross-burning issue. I am a longtime democratic socialist, but I do not believe that character assassination has any place in politics. Shame on you, Chuck Schumer, for not admitting you made a mistake. Perhaps Judge Pickering should in fact be confirmed.

Peter Cogan
Seattle, Washington

The Missing

Ed Park's discussion of lacunal art in "The Connections: A Selective History of Instant Inspiration" [Books, June 2-8] reminded me of a passage in Oulipian permanent provisional secretary Marcel Bénabou's recent To Write on Tamara? During the narrator's brief, youthful "affair" with Violetta, she sends him verses from Baudelaire's Fleurs du Mal with "certain words . . . circled in red and situated on the page in such a way as to constitute genuine little poems within the original poems . . . even more explicit in their invitation." Bénabou does not elaborate, so I humbly submit the following possibilities: "man/your/billows surging without end/You plunge/hug it/moan/two/eternal wrestlers" ("Man and the Sea"); "naked/Naked" ("Jewels"); and the unambiguous "Ill Luck": "So huge/long/I come."

Mary Benson
Red Hook

Ed Park replies: Hot stuff, Mary. Another "connection" has since revealed itself to me: A Humumental sample adorns the cover of David Lodge's Consciousness and the Novel, just out in paper from Harvard. Before a female head floats a sentence worthy of Gertrude Stein: "He thought/June/thought/the only/thought/known to him."

Sinking Ship

Re Jonathan Adams's "Generation Debt: Kiss Your Career Goodbye" [June 16-22]:

I understand the lack of engagement with politicians and their promises among these young women. Women and children are always hot topics in election years. Then issues like the health needs of the poor (working or otherwise) either disappear or become rhetoric for in-house deal-making among those elected. Unless the voters can afford very expensive lobbyists, rarely do the issues they voted on get addressed. My husband and I have reared our children, and although we had to work very hard to provide for them and our retirement, we began with a better playing field than those in your column who now struggle just to stay afloat. It's a travesty that they sink without notice from those they elected on broken promises.

Katherine Carrigan
Marquette, Michigan

Egging Them On

Re "Fessing Up: How Guilty Is the Times?" [June 2-8]:

I feel I must quibble a bit with a few of my dear friend Richard Goldstein's recent observations in your Press Clips column. I think it is utterly irrelevant to cry "sexism" in regard to Lynndie England's exposure as one of the many torturers at Abu Ghraib prison. No doubt the treatment of prisoners throughout the gulag the U.S. has constructed around the world is just as barbaric as what we see in the digital photos that have been reproduced everywhere, and Ms. England is hardly the brains behind the policy of ditching the Geneva Conventions. Nevertheless, "just obeying orders," however loosely interpreted, doesn't excuse anyone, male or female, for egregious crimes against humanity.

My second quibble concerns the question "How guilty is the Times?" raised in the subhead. Ask Wen Ho Lee, whose interrogators brandished the front page of the Times when it was splashed with allegations against him that his interrogators had themselves fed to "the paper of record." The only apologies the Times extended when Wen Ho Lee was exonerated were to members of its own staff who might have taken the paper's half-assed apologies for itself personally.

Did they cause the war, or did the supine public the Times helped create with a flood of disinformation? Which came first, chicken or egg?

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