Matthew Quirk replies:
He certainly has. Although Bonds, with the third highest number of career home runs (703), is closing in on No. 2 Babe Ruth's long-standing record of 714, he is still a way off from Hank Aaron's all-time record of 755.
Advice & Consent
In his article "Meltdown: A Case Study" (July/August Atlantic), Benjamin M. Friedman suggests that "the new Statue of Liberty (completed in 1886) … proclaimed America's welcome to the world's 'huddled masses' and 'wretched refuse.'" In fact, at first the statue did not proclaim welcome to anyone. It was given to the citizens of the United States by French citizens in honor of our liberty and the hope that such liberty would find its way into other countries. The statue didn't extend "America's welcome" till 1903, when the last five lines of the sonnet "The New Colossus" were inscribed on its pedestal.
Palm Desert, Calif.
One aspect of John Gardner's philosophy that Mary Gordon ("Moral Fiction," Fiction Issue 2005) does not touch on directly is his belief in the writing process as a kind of sacred cauldron for cooking down characters and creeds to their most elemental forms. A work can be moral, Gardner says, if it deals with any subject—pleasant or otherwise—in a way that carefully considers all sides. (Implicit in this theory is that "good" will always "win" if one gets the process right, a leap of faith that taxes my optimism.)
This notion of the inherent morality of the "true" writing process is connected to Gardner's belief, as a teacher and critic, that fiction should be a "vivid and continuous dream," immersing the reader in its world from the first sentence of a story or book. Anything that calls attention to the fact that you are reading a made-up story is immoral—even though Gardner himself dabbled in such tricks in October Light and other books.
Gardner's pronouncements on moral fiction—in his criticism, interviews, and even fiction—are varied and sometimes contradictory. On Moral Fiction itself nearly torpedoed his career, and the subject matter seemed in some ways to bring out the worst in him. Yet his passion for the writing process, and his belief in the ability of art to be inspiring rather than just entertaining, are infectious and, at some level, central to the reasons why any creative person creates.
Scotch Plains, N.J.
Terry Castle writes in "Gender Bending, Pt. 1" (September Atlantic) that she has yet to meet a female contemporary who has read Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Though I am not sure I can be considered a contemporary, having recently qualified for Medicare, Castle may be interested to know that I read this book some forty years ago, when my husband worked as a logging engineer for a well-known oil-service company in Egypt. Our environment provided few distractions apart from a small daughter born in Cairo, so when I came across the book I indeed read it from cover to cover.
Let me point out two factual errors in Christopher Hitchens's review of Salman Rushdie's Shalimar the Clown ("Hobbes in the Himalayas," September Atlantic). First: the correct name of the Indian epic he alludes to is the Ramayana, not Ram Leela. Second: the Bhagavad Gita, which Hitchens calls an Indian epic, is not one. It is a philosophical poem, in Sanskrit, in 700 verses, by an anonymous poet.
K. N. Kutty
Professor Emeritus, English
Eastern Connecticut State University