UP FRONT ON THE DOWN LOW THE MADONNA AND THE GODFATHER
I was dismayed to find the pastor and church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel tarred with the broad brush of Mafia association in Wayne Barrett's "Dark Angels of a Bogus Catholic Museum" [June 19]. This is the parish that was the subject of Robert Orsi's celebrated sociological study of immigrant community formation, The Madonna of 115th Street. As Orsi makes plain, the shrine was founded in the 1880s by Italian immigrants who had endured decades of discrimination, along with marginalization within the (Irish-dominated) Catholic Church in New York. Throughout its nearly 120-year history, Our Lady of Mount Carmel has been a bulwark in East Harlem, serving successive generations of Italian, and now largely Hispanic, New Yorkers.
None of this seems to matter to Barrett, who views it only as the church from which Fat Tony Salerno was buried. Barrett also reduces Father Peter Rofrano's 60-year career as a priest to a single cliché uttered at Salerno's funeral, and to the fact that he has attempted to bring the National Museum of Catholic Art and History to one of his parish properties. But pastors are supposed to find suitable tenants for their vacant buildings, thereby shifting the maintenance burden off struggling parishioners and assuring parish solvency. Rofrano's fiscal responsibility may be one of the reasons that Mount Carmel/Holy Rosary elementary school survived the recent round of Catholic school closings, allowing it to continue to provide a good primary education for many (often non-Catholic) minority students.
Wayne Barrett replies: Apologies to Father Rofrano and Mount Carmel. My story was about the museum, not the church or the pastor. The theme was the coterie of mob and other tawdry associations that taint the museum. The two-sentence reference to the church was a shorthand way of adding to that picture. I do believe, however, that Reverend Rofrano's quoted eulogy for Salerno was regrettable.
There is something strange about "moral equivalency" in journalism. Nat Hentoff ["We Are All Targets," June 26] quotes a poll finding that 76 percent of Palestinians surveyed support suicide bombingthe killing of Israeli civiliansand then equates that by quoting Alex Kapilushnik, a 20-year-old Israeli soldier on leave in Tel Aviv, who said, "This was the endthe only thing on our mind now is to kill Arabs."
This young man does not represent 76 percent of Israelis. He does, however, represent the same age group and the same immigrant population as the young people killed in the Tel Aviv disco bombing. Does this mean that Israelis want to indiscriminately kill Arabs? On one hand you have a poll indicating that more than three-quarters of Palestinian Arabs are calling for blood; on the other, an angry young man. Don't try to make it morally equivalent.
I was very disappointed with Nat Hentoff's column "Pogrom in Tel Aviv" [June 19]. I know Hentoff knows better but, like so many others, he portrays the conflict as one between equals. The Israelis can have an open Jerusalem any time they wantan option the Palestinians do not have.
As a former citizen of Austria, I am often confronted with the question, "How could you let it happen?" Meaning, how could you carry on with life as usual when, to use Hentoff's example, an event like Kristallnacht took place in Germany?
Hentoff ends the column with the remark that Palestinians danced in the streets of Ramallah after the carnage. But it seems the youths of Tel Aviv were dancing toowhile their nation was occupying another country, oppressing and killing its citizens. And if they danced not out of maliciousness, but carelessness? How can you let it happen?
Nat Hentoff replies: I do not intend "moral equivalency" in the present killings. Both sides have profound grievances, but recruiting and training suicide bombers to deliberately kill civilians indiscriminately cannot be justified any more than the indiscriminate deaths for which Ariel Sharon was responsible in Lebanon in 1982, and for which he was denounced by many Israelis.
Will Friedwald, in his glowing piece on Louis Armstrong ["The Old Songster," June 12], credits the song "It's All in the Game" to Charles Dawes, who was vice president under Coolidge. It's true that Dawes wrote the melody. But the tune didn't take off until the great composer and lyricist Carl Sigman put words to the music. Tommy Edwards recorded it for MGM in 1958, and it remains an imperishable standard. Sigman, who died last year, wrote the words for many hits, including "What Now My Love," "My Heart Cries for You," "Arrivederci, Roma," "Ebb Tide," and Duke Ellington's "All Too Soon."
East Hampton, New York
The writer is a longtime record producer and a former partner in Atlantic Records.
Hail to the literary hustle that exposes genius like J.T. LeRoy. And hip to The Village Voice for noting the reading of LeRoy's work at the Brooklyn Brewery. The well-written article by Joy Press ["The Cult of J.T. LeRoy," June 19] was key to my not missing a memorable evening in Williamsburg. I found the piece truthful and thought-provoking.
I see the relationships built by LeRoy with his literary elite not as pandering but as a natural development of his gift. I sense his ability to allow people like Dennis Cooper and Dorothy Allison into his barricaded soul is possible because their written words have formed a path of understanding and trust.
LeRoy offers readers a template to place over their own stories. He proves our vocabulary is not deficient to express the complexities of trauma and the beauty in which our minds find a place for our experience in order to sustain hope. There is "something graceful and startling in the language." Right on, Joy Press, for a great piece!
A QUESTION OF UPBRINGING
Ed Park's Atlantis movie review was a veiled masterpiece ["The Waterboy: My Antediluvian Baby, I Love You," June 19]! Stream of consciousness sprinkled generously with biting sarcasm and arcane referencesfor adults only (unlike the movie). The most subtle and hilarious part was the last paragraph.I read it thrice.
The musical transcriptions that accompanied Matt Glaser's article "Satchmo, the Philosopher" (June 12) were by John McGann.
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