In Defense of Jane Austen. Also Zebras.

Parlor People

To the Editor:

I find it interesting that someone like Imani Perry, who is considered a scholar, would describe Jane Austen’s novels as literature for “parlor people” (By the Book, Sept. 15). In academic circles, Austen is considered a classic, along with Dickens, Hardy and others. She also has quite a lot to say to modern society about manners, behavior toward others, empathy, ethics and other civilized subjects that seem to have fallen out of favor.

Unfortunately, many of today’s writers have more in common with psychiatrists, preferring, it seems, to publish depressing, despairing downers in the name of literature. They appear to be more concerned with mental anguish than with telling a good story with good characters.

Jane Austen wrote about more than her own time; her books remain popular because she describes human beings for all time.

Jane Axelrod
Larchmont, N.Y.

To the Editor:

I couldn’t agree more with Professor Perry. I have enjoyed pull quotes from Henry James and Jane Austen, but reading their prose — forget about it! Perry’s description of it as “parlor” literature is so apt. Her remarks confirmed my instincts.

Daniel Harris
Sarasota, Fla.

Reading Hitler

To the Editor:

The sincere words and poignant illustration in Nora Krug’s Graphic Review of “Mein Kampf” (Sept. 15) examine her personal struggle, as a German, with buying and reading a book that presented the ideological framework for genocide. Ultimately, the significance she draws from its shoddy writing and abhorrent ideas is that language is a powerful force. If we fail to identify and comprehend its most debased and nihilistic intents, the results can be catastrophic.

Matt Tanguay
Ann Arbor, Mich.

To the Editor:

I’m glad that the curiosity of the German writer Nora Krug got the better of her and she picked up “Mein Kampf.” And I’m glad that she’s glad she read it. But when she asks what there is to learn from it and answers, in part, “to read between the lines,” I fail to understand what she thinks there is between the lines. Hitler lays it out right there in plain view.

J.R. Solonche
Blooming Grove, N.Y.

Michael Bloomberg

To the Editor:

David Greenberg’s review of Eleanor Randolph’s “The Many Lives of Michael Bloomberg” (Sept. 15) and Bloomberg’s on-and-off-again dalliance with pursuing the American presidency underscore an essential truth about the utter perplexities of governing New York City.

Several of the city’s mayors have fancied themselves as the governor of New York, as its United States senator or as the American president. On this list of the politically vanquished are Robert F. Wagner, John V. Lindsay, Edward Koch and Rudolph Giuliani. And now Bill de Blasio has joined this circle. Bloomberg might find reason for comfort in the disappointments endured by his predecessors.

Michael H. Ebner
Lake Forest, Ill.

The writer is an emeritus professor of history at Lake Forest College.

A Father’s Love

To the Editor:

It’s heartening to read, in Fiammetta Rocco’s review of Alexandra Fuller’s memoir “Travel Light, Move Fast” (Sept. 8), that if Fuller’s father “went hunting and wounded a zebra, he’d track it through the mopane woodland until he could give it a clean shot.” According to Rocco, he “loved his wife, his dog, his children.” But apparently not his zebra. I’m trying to think of a good reason to shoot a zebra. Nothing yet.

David Sherr
Santa Monica, Calif.

[email protected]

The Times welcomes letters from readers. Letters for publication should include the writer’s name, address and telephone number. Letters should be addressed to The Editor, The New York Times Book Review, 620 Eighth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10018. The email address is [email protected] Letters may be edited for length and clarity. We regret that because of the large volume of mail received, we are unable to acknowledge or to return unpublished letters.

Follow New York Times Books on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, sign up for our newsletter or our literary calendar. And listen to us on the Book Review podcast.

Source: Read Full Article