Readers respond to our October 2018 issue

"The End of the Line,” William T. Vollmann’s epic narrative marking the centennial of the armistice ending World War I drew an epic response from readers. “It only took a handful of covetous men to start, yet many millions suffered and died—only to be repeated two decades later,” Luke Speckman wrote on Facebook. “One of the most senseless, unnecessary wars in history,” Bryan Estell said. “Millions died for nothing.” Though some readers mistook Vollmann’s dark asides on the futility of war as flippancy, most had nothing but praise. “I was awestruck,” wrote Fred Fehlauer of Pensacola, Florida. “He evokes a very personal memory of what it meant to be a participant in this horrendous campaign, and what that means to us today.” As Merrie Sims Longbottom of Arizona put it: “The piece was a pleasure to read, in spite of the dreadful reminders of the costs of war.”

Disappearing Owls

I am grateful that people like Denver Holt study these magnificent birds (“Flight of the Hunter”). I don’t see how the snowy owl decline isn’t related to climate change, but I hope that the reasons for it are figured out and something is done to reverse this scary trend.

Nancy Cain | Leadville, Colorado

I never knew an owl could be so beautiful, so majestic. The snowy owl has had more than an 85 percent population decrease in five years—I don’t understand why it is not listed as “endangered.” The problem with Far North species decline is that the issue is “out of sight, out of mind.” More publicity is surely needed before it’s too late to save these beautiful owls.

Christopher Alden Lumpkin | Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania

Jordan’s Stone City

Susan Orlean’s “Zooming In on Petra” did more than justice to this amazing place, which I’ve also visited. It enhanced my understanding. It is amazing to see what is behind the facades of the structures and even more amazing is that the site has survived centuries of neglect.

Lois Sobel | Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Coloring Outside the Lines

Art in any form is a unifying force in the world (“Flying Colors”). I applaud Johanna Basford for her artistic ability and coloring books.

R.A. Pedroso | Coral Gables, Florida

Another View of Venona

The article on the Venona code breakers (“Code Name: Venona,” September 2018) references my parents, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg: “[Rosenberg’s] wife, Ethel, was implicated in two of the [Venona] messages.” I believe Venona exonerates—it does not implicate—my mother. The first message stated that my father had told his Soviet handlers that his wife vouched for a relative as “intelligent and clever.” The second explicitly stated that she “does not work.” Meredith Gardner, the Russian linguist who was the “master” book breaker, has stated that those words meant Ethel Rosenberg was not an espionage agent. Finally, all Soviet agents were given code names. My mother never was given one.

Michael Meeropol | Location withheld at his request

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