To the Editor:
Willie Morris’s “Cell 722, or Life Among the Extremists” [October 1964] is a masterpiece. . . .
What journalist Morris has described is not limited, of course, to Austin, Texas—it is not limited at all. There is plenty of it right here on Long Island. Worse, not all right-wing extremists are as preposterous as those who people Morris’s article. There are many who, although their drives are the same, are decidedly more intelligent, and who, consequently, are all the more dangerous. . . . The most frequent basic problem with the extremist of the Right—and I have met some, too—seems to me to be that, contrary to his denials, he is consciously or subconsciously terrified. . . .
L. Edwin Ritchie
Floral Park, New York
To the Editor:
Willie Morris describes me as “the curious goateed figure.” Goateed I am but what’s so damned “curious” about me or my figure? Is it that, as suggested by the absence of a comma between the adjectives, a beard is still considered odd in Texas? Or is there some more arcane, or perhaps unmentionable, reason for your writer’s curious choice of “curious,” that is, “5. Exciting attention or interest because of strangeness or novelty.” If arcane, I hope he will explicate. If unmentionable, mention. Just to satisfy my own curiosity.
New York City
Mr. Morris writes:
Mr. Macdonald, who is one of my favorite figures, nonetheless showed up down there wearing not merely a goatee, which should have gone out with the scissor, but a shirt with thin red stripes and the goddamndest string tie I ever saw. I have a suspicion Mr. Macdonald bought them at Nieman-Marcus. During my conversation with him at William Arrowsmith’s ranch on the very evening of the day the agents from the Department of Public Safety had looked him over for any traces of arcane disaffection, this tie actually changed colors several times. I was afraid to look at his shoes. Mr. Macdonald came to lecture on anarchy, not realizing he could have given his cause a much greater boost merely by walking down any street during the rush hour.