Cartoons, JFK’s Victory and Other Letters to the Editor

Catching Fire

To the Editor:

I am everything but a Black, queer, nonbinary American. Born and educated in England, I am a white, straight, unequivocally female naturalized citizen. Danez Smith’s review of Robert Jones Jr.’s novel, “The Prophets” (Jan. 17), opened my eyes to a perspective I had never thought about and surprised my heart wide open with its lyrical charge and fierce passion.

Smith’s hopes, fears, history and honesty are unique to their experience but universal in their ability to move another human heart.

Gillian Renault
Atlanta

To the Editor:

Simone Martin-Newberry’s illustration of Isaiah and Samuel, the central characters of “The Prophets,” piqued my curiosity. Two slave boys embrace, as seven hands touch their lithe bodies.

Interestingly, 13 celestial stars adorn the two bare-chested Black partners, who are bathed in royal purple. Is this a sign of protection from the gods, or will the twosome be put to death for expressing forbidden love?

David Tulanian
Las Vegas

Different Characters

To the Editor:

Well, that was a surprise! I actually read a book, “Wild Minds,” by Reid Mitenbuler, before it was reviewed in the Book Review (Jan. 10).

Growing up with a child’s delight for the Saturday matinee cartoons of the 1940s, I have always had a certain nostalgic fascination for the art of animation. With that incentive I eagerly devoured the book. I also quite enjoyed Michael Tisserand’s review, though my own notes reveal some other interesting facts.

For example: Winsor McCay, often considered the greatest of the early animators, used his artistry to make a film in 1918 about the sinking of the Lusitania because there were no actual photographs of the event. Max Fleischer (who adapted “Popeye” and “Superman”) moved his studio to Florida, when most film studios were moving from New York to California. And I was certainly surprised by the revelation that many animation artists made pornographic films for one another’s enjoyment, probably because it was almost exclusively a male enterprise.

George Dunbar
Toronto

Doing the Math

To the Editor:

In his otherwise insightful review of Stephen and Paul Kendrick’s “Nine Days” (Jan. 17), Raymond Arsenault repeats the old canard that John F. Kennedy’s “razor-thin” electoral triumph in the 1960 presidential campaign came about, in part, by “Mayor Richard J. Daley’s ability to pad the Democratic vote in Chicago.” In fact, if Kennedy had lost Illinois, he still would have won the presidency. Had Illinois’s 27 electoral votes instead gone to his opponent, Richard Nixon, Kennedy’s margin would still have been 276-246, enough to win the White House.

Stephen Schlesinger
Toledo, Ohio

Listen for the Music

To the Editor:

S. Kirk Walsh’s essay (Jan. 17) about the influence of E. L. Doctorow recalled my own experience. In the spring of 1973, Doctorow and I were both approaching commencements of a sort, I a college senior and he about to hit the big time with his novel “Ragtime.” My English professor at Union College, Pat Allen, had assigned us “The Book of Daniel,” a novel that still resonates with me both for the merits of the book itself — every time I hear the name Paul Robeson, I am taken back to the riots in Peekskill, the rocking yellow school bus — and because Doctorow graciously accepted an invitation to join our seminar and talk about his craft. There we were, students on couches and the carpet of a social room, Doctorow seated in a chair, as we talked about narration in first and third person. Over the years I read a good deal of his work, but as a Brooklyn boy, perhaps the greatest pleasure was curling up in my own chair around 1984, lost in Doctorow’s music of the Bronx and the 1939 World’s Fair.

From my end, that intimate encounter cemented my bond to a great writer and citizen.

Tom Parisi
South Bend, Ind.

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