Re Tom Robbins's "Why Mailer Matters" [November 21–27]: Who better than the Voice's Robbins to take us down the decades into the turbulent world, warts and all, of Norman Mailer? What more stunning a closing image than the aged author ranting Lear-like at a funeral?

The ever-phallocentric Mailer was prone to belittle men with small penises, once writing that they could never go dark and deep, just cheep a beep-beep. Now, along comes diaphanous Tom Robbins, he of huge literary endowment, who takes us way, way down there inside Norman Mailer through the shimmering opacity of brilliant, untrammeled memory.

Robbins gets Mailer right!

Russell Smith

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As a small note to your recent articles on Mailer and the Voice, I should like to point out that when the Irish playwright Brendan Behan visited the United States in 1960, he made a list of four Americans he most wanted to meet: Eugene O'Neill's son, the Joyce scholar and Harvard professor Harry Levin, Jackie Gleason, and last but not least, Norman Mailer. I have no idea if Behan got his four wishes granted.

Louis Phillips
Department of Humanities and Sciences
School of Visual Arts


While your exposure of some of Giuliani's skeletons [Wayne Barrett's "No Skeletons in My Closet!," October 31–November 6] does reveal some of his significantly poor decisions, the one that was the defining moment in his tenure as mayor of New York was overlooked.

The year was 2001, and New York City was on the verge of the first test of the new term-limits law. The campaign had been disrupted by the events of September 11 (9/11 was actually primary day), and of course New York was in, to say the least, a rather chaotic state. As Giuliani was reaching the end of his second term, he was compelled to yield the reins of New York City to his elected successor. In the middle of this, and in light of Giuliani's leadership role, a movement emerged to cancel the elections, or at least delay them, until things returned to "normal."

Now, history is replete with examples of leaders who, in the midst of "chaos," either suspended or canceled elections or constitutional rights in order to retain power until things returned to "normal." Hitler and Pinochet come to mind, and we can now add Musharraf to that list, and there are still plenty of people in New York who sport tattoos as souvenirs of their last personal experience with that notion.

Rudy, instead of showing leadership (and absolute revulsion with the idea), allowed it to fester, perhaps hoping that it would gain some traction, until it became evident that it would not fly.

Needless to say, we had the elections on time, Mike Bloomberg was elected, and we are doing quite well, thank you.

G. Holman


Re R.C. Baker's Best in Show [November 21–27]: Thanks for your review, but let me please add one important point. In 2005, I was granted access to photograph West Germany's decommissioned spy complex (in use from 1947 to 2003). They've built a new one in Berlin, but the former headquarters is still in use. During the six months when I took my pictures, 3,500 people were working there—3,500 people who were not allowed to take their cameras to work with them, and saw me with a large-format camera. That may give you an idea of the circumstances of the work on the one hand, and the open-mindedness on the part of the administration staff on the other. The absence of people in the photographs was a decision for the dramaturgy of the book and part of the leaden atmosphere I felt at the beginning.

Andreas Magdanz
Aachen, Germany


Re "Congress and the Disappeared" [November 21–27]: While Nat Hentoff is waiting for the presidential candidates to address the CIA's "kidnappings," I'm waiting for them to mention the death rate in the forgotten war in Afghanistan. More than a hundred military deaths this year already—the highest ever after six-plus years, and what do people talk about? Iraq. That is what Bush wants to hear.

The war in Afghanistan is already lost.

Joseph P. Bell
Woburn, Massachusetts


Count me among the longtime Voice readers who think your paper is going in the wrong direction. We already have an endless supply of empty media, thank you very much.

Case in point: Your Letters section as of late has never been more vacuous, and suspiciously so. Many of the letters you print are shockingly childish and of the most brainless variety: "Loved your article on blah blah blah!"

When did you decide to imitate Teen People magazine? No insight. No intelligence. What gives?

And where are all the articles about our very crooked Mayor Bloomberg? Are you going to live on your knees for this criminal like every single other media source in NYC that is afraid of the billionaire?

Ashamed for you.

Janice Amato


Re: Julia Wallace's review of Everything's Cool [Tracking Shots, November 21–27], which included this paragraph: "But mostly we get long, dreary clips of icicles melting and children playing in slushy snow that are downright manipulative: Ice and snow melt every spring, and highlighting micro-changes that are well within the parameters of normal variation does nothing to explain the broader problems of climate change."

That's way too fair and balanced. Fire her immediately. Thank you.

Jerome Masterson

The article "Unwelcome Science" [Karen A. Frenkel, Education Supplement, November 14–20] made me very impressed with Columbia's new secondary science, math, and engineering school. It was very encouraging to see how much reform is still possible in our public (or semi-public) schools. However, one voice was glaringly missing from all of the interviews: the students'. How are we to know how this school is really affecting students' lives if we don't actually talk to them? If this school prides itself on treating kids like adults and approaching real-world problems, I would hope that this writer would do the same.

Wendy Scher

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