Readers respond to the October issue
GOLDEN DAYS FOR WHOM?
Gore Vidal evokes a now-lost moment when America was “aglitter in all of the arts” (“Cyril Connolly’s 1949 remark: “It is closing time in the garden of the West and from now on an artist will be judged only by the resonance of his solitude or the quality of his despair.”
Spring Lake, North Carolina
Gore Vidal waxes nostalgic about Karl Bissinger's black-and-white photograph of himself and four friends dining at leisure in a quaint little garden outside Manhattan's Café Nicholson in 1949. "It perfectly evokes," he reminisces, "an optimistic time in our history that we are not apt to see again soon." Yet I am troubled that his text does not make the slightest reference to the black waitress (identified in the caption as Virginia Reed), who occupies a visual point of interest in this idyll. Compositionally, at least, she fills a gap between the two people on the left and the three on the right. I found myself wondering whether she shared Vidal's view about this time being so optimistic, whether she would welcome a revival of the society and culture in which this scene is embedded, whether she enjoyed a similar golden moment as the author and his friends did during lunches at Café Nicholson.
I noticed with great delight that Kathleen Anderson was featured in "Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, mentioned in the article, and was responsible for training leading researchers in the field from 1969 to 1983. She is a recipient of the prestigious Arthur A. Allen Award, given by Cornell University's Laboratory of Ornithology, and an elected Fellow of the American Ornithologists' Union. She was honored recently by the Lloyd Center for the Environment for her conservation efforts. Frequently, age and gender, and labels such as amateur and professional, blind us to an individual's abilities and achievements. Anderson and other "amateurs" have had the vision and commitment to carefully record what they saw, which is the essence of being a scientist.
It is ironic that Michael Walsh, the author of "Andrew Lloyd Webber's hit Broadway musical, never once mentioned the name of the show's choreographer, Gillian Lynne, despite referring to it as a "dance musical" five times and naming three other Broadway choreographers. You even ran a photograph depicting the special finale devised by Lynne for the night that her second Lloyd Webber hit, The Phantom of the Opera, surpassed her first, Cats, as the longest-running show in Broadway history. Although the article is about Webber, it would have been nice to give due credit to the choreographer.
New York, New York
Add to Richard Conniff's laws of social behavior ("C. F. Kettering, which has kept me out of trouble many times: "Logic is an organized procedure for going wrong with confidence and certainty."
Robert H. Peet
North Canton, Ohio
An item in "This Month in History" said the USS Constitution was launched 310 years ago. "Old Ironsides" is actually 210 years old. Another item misstated the date of Chief Joseph's death. The Nez Perce chief died September 21, 1904.