Reader responses to our July/August issue

From the Editors Readers agreed that Paul Theroux’s journey to Harper Lee’s hometown [“Return of the Mockingbird”], which sparked thousands of shares on Facebook, was sensational. “Thank you,” Linda Messner wrote, “for your beautifully written portrait of Monroeville, Alabama.” The photography project Past and Presence stirred strong emotions. Dozens of readers criticized “The Vigil,” which showcases Jon Lowenstein’s images of the 2014 protests in Ferguson, Missouri, following the police killing of Michael Brown. Even though our story was intended to focus on the cultural consequences, the main criticism was that it did not provide a more complete account of the incident itself. The text was “extremely one-sided,” Tony Oberdorfer wrote, because it failed to mention the demonstrators who looted stores and destroyed property. Likewise, Patricia Talley said we “should have shown the violence that occurred and the aftermath.” Others felt that our characterization that a grand jury “declined” to indict the officer seemed loaded. As Thomas Stepnowski pointed out, “there was insufficient evidence to charge the officer with violating Michael Brown’s civil rights.” Diana Markosian’s photographs of Armenian genocide survivors [“The Endless Exile”] were inspiring: “My grandmother was a survivor...I know firsthand what it’s like to grow up with someone so traumatized by such atrocities,” Sydney Keller wrote. One tribute to Markosian’s work expresses our hopes for the photo package as a whole: “I’m glad someone is remembering,” Helen Noakes wrote, “because the world seems to have forgotten.”

Wrath of Vesuvius

As an antiquity buff I am always excited to read your articles, written in such depth that I can establish my own tour itinerary from just your narrative alone. I am so happy that at last serious reconstruction programs have been undertaken at Pompeii and Herculaneum [“The Fall and Rise and Fall of Pompeii”]. My first visit to Pompeii, in 1964, was filled with both exhilaration and wonder, yet with a nagging sense that there had to be more to that place. I returned in 1979 only to feel that it had regressed. Herculaneum was not promoted as a site to visit on my earlier trips, but now my interest has been tweaked by your article and I am ready to return to the Bay of Naples, where I will certainly visit Herculaneum.

Ernest Kallen, Scottsdale, Arizona 

Italy’s economy is in great despair. They can’t afford to take care of history. Many business people are paying for restoration to many areas such as the Spanish Steps out of their own pockets. Hopefully Pompeii is on someone’s list. 

Mary Jo Nosek Galen, Facebook 

Read, Ho!

When I was young and my father and I went fishing, he’d tell me stories by Rudyard Kipling and Jules Verne. He could recite Longfellow’s narrative poems from memory. By the time I was in junior high he’d given me The Virginian, Shane and Sherlock Holmes. Two Years Before the Mast, by R. H. Dana Jr. [“The Young Man and the Sea”], was one of Dad’s recommendations that I’d never read. After seeing your article, I got the book at our local library and read this technically detailed account with fascination, impressed by the language and observations of sailing. I felt my father’s presence, his love of explorations and adventures while I read. It was an unexpected joy. 

Rosemary Dunn Moeller, St. Lawrence, South Dakota 

Magna Carta

The Magna Carta was even more revolutionary than most people realize [“The Mad King & Magna Carta”]. Kings had often made proclamations of their good intentions to maintain the law of the land. But this charter was different. It had an enforcement clause. The king was not above the law and would be punished by an elected assembly if he broke it. Is it any wonder that John repudiated the charter? Or that the likes of John Locke and Thomas Jefferson saw it as an inspiration for the idea of a social contract between the governed and the governing?

William Stevenson, Huntsville, Alabama 

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