Benjamin Schwarz replies:
Like Justin Palmer, I'm always sensitive to the fact that the Confederate States of America suffered defeat at the hands of those damn Yankees, and when I wrote the Pétain review, I was very much aware that the leaders of the CSA faced the dilemma I describe. That is why I deliberately used the term "U.S. statesman," not "American statesman." The Confederate States of America was a political entity separate from the United States of America—which, after all, was why the war was fought in the first place.
Advice & Consent
I am an attorney representing Werner Erhard, and it has come to my client's attention that in "Lost in the Meritocracy," by Walter Kirn (January/February Atlantic), the author writes, "Working under a young crew boss who belonged to a self-improvement cult led by Werner Erhard, the founder of est …" While I am aware that much of Kirn's article was lighthearted and tongue-in-cheek, the implication that est was a cult is neither light nor humorous.
Werner Erhard has defended est and himself from such allegations on a number of legal fronts, with the help of testimony from numerous experts. For instance, Margaret Singer, the foremost authority on cults in the United States and the author of the book Cults in Our Midst, has testified under oath that est was not a cult.
Despite the fact that Erhard has never been the leader of a cult, articles like the one in your magazine perpetuate an "urban legend" that damages Erhard's reputation and character, and continues to cast him in a false light. Kirn's comments are hurtful, unfounded, and inaccurate. Even if made in jest, they are misleading and cause Erhard and est to be held up for ridicule and contempt. It is well known that a reference to something as a "cult," even if inaccurate, leaves a stigma that is hard to overcome. To make such an allegation unless one has solid proof is a serious error in judgment.
Terry M. Giles
Giles & O'Malley
Sandra Tsing Loh ("The Secret of the Old Saw," October Atlantic) has offered a convincing argument that the fictional sleuth Nancy Drew has two mommies. She might have added that Nancy Drew had a male parent as well. Three of the early Nancy Drew novels were written by Walter Karig, who ought to fit anyone's definition of a two-fisted he-man. Karig (1898—1956) was a U.S. Navy commander who reported directly to Dwight Eisenhower.
I read Tsing Loh's appraisal of the Stratemeyer Syndicate with great interest, because I, too, am one of the unsung and ill-paid authors who wrote pseudonymous novels under its auspices: in 1991, for Archway Books, I authored The DNA Disaster, a novel in Stratemeyer's ongoing series about the boy scientist Tom Swift. While writing this book I was approached to write a Nancy Drew novel, and the Stratemeyer Syndicate gave me a copy of its in-house "bible" listing the taboos that must never befall Nancy Drew and her fictional chums. The list is deeply intriguing. Apartheid was still going strong in 1991, and so was communism; Stratemeyer authors were specifically forbidden to write any adventures sending Nancy Drew to South Africa, but had no constraints against adventures set in Russia or China. If the plot of a novel requires that the villain render Nancy Drew unconscious, this may occur only by means of a blow to her head from behind; no chloroform, no needles. The villain is likewise permitted to imprison Nancy, but only by locking her in a room in which she is able to move freely. No bondage, no manacles for our Nancy!