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Letters to the Editor – The New York Times

To the Editor:

Of the 27 authors George Pelecanos mentions in his interview for By the Book (Aug. 26), 26 are men. He speaks of only one woman, Harper Lee, whom he uses as an example of an inferior influence when compared to three male — again — filmmakers.

He is, of course, entitled to his choices. However, after reading his take on the world of writing, I would very much like to ask Mr. Pelecanos: Have you tried to balance your reading experience with a few more books by female authors? Many of them are quite good, really they are, should you ever wish to broaden your literary nightstand, influences, pleasure reading, or dinner parties.

MARTHA DUNN
PHILADELPHIA

To the Editor:

Upon reading Joyce Maynard’s eloquent essay, “Me, Too” (Sept. 9) in addition to a kind of muted rage, I was left with an odd thought. What would Holden Caulfield think of the cruel, hollow-hearted predations of his creator? “Phony” is far from adequate, but I feel sure it would be among the adjectives deployed.

JEFF BREITHAUPT
NEW YORK

To the Editor:

The sexist and conceited rejection of Joyce Maynard’s 1998 memoir by critics and the literary establishment was, heartbreakingly, not all that dissimilar to the degredation she suffered at the hands of a deceptive, conniving older man. And yet here she is, strong and brave, an interesting, productive writer, who has almost tripled her would-be mentor’s paltry body of work.

LORENZO GARO
MAHOPAC, N.Y.

To the Editor:

In Touré’s review of Raymond Arsenault’s new biography of Arthur Ashe (Sept. 2), I take exception to a comment regarding what the young tennis player was taught by Dr. Robert Walter Johnson. I live in the area where Dr. Johnson worked, and have known the story essentially for a lifetime. I have always been proud that the two most notable tennis players to have been trained here were Arthur Ashe and Althea Gibson. The reviewer quotes Dr. Johnson’s biographer, who described the teacher as instructing his players “to pick up the balls and give them to the opponent when changing sides.”

This was an example, his biographer claimed, of Dr. Johnson’s turn-the-other-cheek philosophy of “subservience.” I played tennis for decades, only at a social level, but nevertheless think those implications are far off base. I do not recall ever not handing the balls to my opponent when changing sides of the court. That is just the civility with which the game is played at every level. That practice has nothing to do with race or perceived subservience. It is decency.

We will be far better served when writers do not dig to find racial implications in every aspect of life, especially when none are intended. Dr. Johnson taught his students to overcome many obstacles and to succeed in tennis by playing the game in a manner that was above reproach. Many players of later generations would be well served to adopt that same civility.

LEAH SETTLE GIBBS
AMHERST, VA.

The Times welcomes letters from readers. Letters for publication should include the writer’s name, address and telephone number. Letters should be addressed to The Editor, The New York Times Book Review, 620 Eighth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10018. The email address is books@nytimes.com. Letters may be edited for length and clarity. We regret that because of the large volume of mail received, we are unable to acknowledge or to return unpublished letters.

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