San Francisco, Calif.
My wife and I moved into a continuing-care retirement community in 2007, when we were 72 and 71 and living a full and active life. CCRCs can provide the spectrum of living arrangements, from independent living through hospice, all on the same campus. Now we can enjoy our children and grandchildren in the full knowledge that we will never burden them emotionally or financially.
The middle-aged audience of Jonathan Rauch’s message should take steps now to relieve the burden on their families and friends. Plan now to ensure not only your own comfort, but that of your children and family, when you approach the inevitable end of your life.
Women and The Atlantic
While I applaud Jonathan Rauch for bringing the issue of children as caregivers to light, I’m dismayed by the comparison he draws in his final paragraph: “In the years after Betty Friedan named their problem, women who work in the home … demanded and got society’s recognition that they were providing an indispensable public good. As a result, they are not isolated or silent anymore.” It’s nothing short of insulting to portray what continues to be a freighted struggle for equality of the sexes as something that disappeared overnight.
I might not have taken such umbrage at Rauch’s flippant comparison, were it not for a line in Benjamin Schwarz’s review of David Kynaston’s Family Britain (“Intimate History,” April Atlantic) just pages later. Schwarz writes, “Anyone attuned to the interplay of public and domestic life should read these books (this includes many women, devoted readers of, say, Alice Munro and Marilynne Robinson, who tend to leave the history and public-affairs tomes to the men).”
Is it really possible, in 2010, that a book reviewer might not only condescend to brilliant writers like Munro and Robinson by suggesting they do not subject history and public affairs to thorough examination, but also go so far as to state that female readers in general simply don’t care for such subjects? Mr. Schwarz’s review contains a double insult, and I have to admit that I laughed out loud at the sheer audacity of its being printed. There is nothing funny, however, about the fact that TheAtlantic published its own double insult: two male authors so wantonly out of touch with the reality of being female in today’s world.
New York, N.Y.
Benjamin Schwarz replies:
I think this is the first time I’ve been accused of being “wantonly out of touch with the reality of being female in today’s world.” I know many readers of Alice Munro and Marilynne Robinson; nearly all are women. Surveys show that literary fiction is primarily read by women, and that history and public-affairs books are primarily read by men. I think those facts speak worse of men than of women. As for the charge that I condescend to Munro and Robinson, I suggest that Aria Sloss review the treatment both writers have received in this magazine’s Books pages, which I oversee.
The Power of Fiction
This is just a note to say how moved I am by your Editor’s Note (“A Long Story,” April Atlantic), about the magazine’s plans to publish digital fiction on the Amazon Kindle and continue to offer your annual fiction issue. The piece brilliantly defends the power of fiction to entertain us, move us, and “communicate big ideas.”
Carole Spearin McCauley
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