Commentary Magazine


To the Editor:

In the December 1970 COMMENTARY there appears a letter I wrote in response to a piece by Dorothy Rabinowitz in the September 1970 COMMENTARY. It appears that in editing this letter certain words have been added that were not part of the letter I wrote. This occurs in two places and in one significantly distorts my meaning. I refer to the sentence: “In the face of such calculated callousness as Miss Rabinowitz displays I suppose it must seem a bit strange that some clergy retain a capacity for gaiety.” The words I have italicized here are not my own. Certainly the sentence as written by me was not meant to imply that the attitudes of Miss Rabinowitz might be expected to have influenced the emotional states of protesting American clergy (if only because those attitudes must have been completely unknown to them until recently) . I was referring rather to the attitudes of “certain government spokesmen,” attitudes which reflect official government policy.

I do not know how this unfortunate change occurred. It is possible that it was the result of someone’s effort to tie together two parts of my letter that were not originally separated. The long portion in parentheses which immediately precedes the quoted sentence was a footnote in the letter I sent and not meant to be part of the main body of the letter. By inserting this “aside” at that point, the flow of my argument is interrupted and my meaning lost not only to the casual reader, but evidently also the person responsible for these changes.

Beverly Woodward
Cambridge, Massachusetts



To the Editor:

. . . In the September 1970 issue of COMMENTARY I found Tom Milstein’s “A Perspective on the Panthers” the most penetrating, the most brilliant essay I have read in many years.

In the November issue, on the other hand, it was disconcerting to find Norman Podhoretz remark, in answering Alfred Kazin: “I am at a loss to understand.”

And in the same issue, Shlomo Avineri, answering critics, remarked: “I am at a loss to understand.”

Adding up these and other confessed losses to understand in COMMENTARY, the aggregate looms as formidable indeed.

In half a century as a reporter and news writer I found that we fellows were required to understand everything. The less we know about a thing, the more invincibly we understood it.

Far be it from me to recommend newspaper training to the literati. But clarity is, in truth, a wholesome affair.

Charles Roland
New York City



To the Editor:

Letters from Readers increase in number, in length, and in acrimony. Group in-fighting becomes always more strident, truculent, and bad-mannered, reflecting and encouraging these all-too-prevalent aspects of the current social scene. Scholarly discussion descends to the cockpit in a shrill display of vituperation. . . .

I keep framed on my desk an observation of the late Edwin G. Boring, psychologist, scholar, urbane wit: “Tact, objectivity, good taste, and generosity. One is then in the home of the intellect.”

I suggest that editors of COMMENTARY and letter writers follow his prescription.

Grace Rubin-Rabson
Los Angeles, California



To the Editor:

In the November 1970 issue, in a letter to the editor, Mr. Joseph Neyer of Rutgers University writes: “Let us not forget the sixteen-year-old black girl who wrote in her introduction to the black exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum that, with regard to the attitude toward the Jew, the blacks would find themselves at last ‘with the majority.’”

It should be noted, as has already been noted in the New York Times of February I, 1969, that the introduction by Candice Van Ellison was not to the exhibition at the Museum but to the book, Harlem on My Mind, published by Random House. The passage referred to by Mr. Neyer was actually a quotation from Beyond the Melting Pot by Nathan Glazer and Daniel P. Moynihan. In the original manuscript submitted by Miss Van Ellison the passage is enclosed within quotation marks and a complete footnote cites the original source by Glazer and Moynihan. The editor of the book, who was not connected in any way with the Museum, saw fit to omit the quotation marks and the footnote, and those omissions led to the unfortunate misunderstandings that followed.

I hope this clarifies this matter for your readers.

Arthur Rosenblatt
Administrator for Architecture and Planning
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
New York City



[We are not at a loss to understand how the “unfortunate change” to which Miss Woodward. refers occurred: it occurred precisely as she suggests. We apologize for the error. As to the late Dr. Boring’s prescription, admirable, though it be in many respects, we fear that following it might make of the Letters section an all too fitting memorial to his name.—Ed.]

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