Personal Canons, Foster Care and Other Letters to the Editor

Baby Steps

To the Editor:

In her review of Gabrielle Glaser’s “American Baby” (Jan. 24), Lisa Belkin asks what aspects of modern adoption will have profound and unexpected consequences. As an adoption counselor for the past 25 years, I believe some changes have been excellent, others detrimental.

Unfortunately, in many states it’s illegal for adoptive parents to help with housing and food, even though many birth moms are homeless and hungry. Additionally, the heinous practice of babies bounced from one foster care family to another persists despite scientific research documenting the harm it causes.

But adoptive parents go with their birth mother to the obstetrician, receive her medical records and are in the delivery room. And contact is one area contemporary adoption has gotten right. Knowing how important it is for their child, enlightened families exchange emails and social network information and often welcome visits from their birth mothers.

Nancy Kors
Walnut Creek, Calif.

Close Reader

To the Editor:

In his essay centered on Harold Bloom’s “The Bright Book of Life” (Jan. 31), Robert Gottlieb suggests that Bloom included Ursula K. Le Guin’s books among his favorites because of “personal considerations,” specifically Bloom and Le Guin’s friendship near the end of her life.

Gottlieb is of course entitled to his opinion of Bloom’s choice to include my mother’s works, but it wasn’t a matter of friendship or favoritism. Bloom wrote to Ursula for the first time in late 2017 to express his admiration going back decades for her work, and to let her know that he was planning to include her in a “kind of farewell book.” Their brief correspondence arose from this esteem for her prose and poetry.

The considerations behind Bloom’s decision to include her books may have been personal, but only in the sense that artistic and critical taste is always personal.

Theodore Downes-Le Guin
Portland, Ore.

To the Editor:

As an older gentleman myself and a lifelong, inveterate reader, I always succumb to book chat essays like Gottlieb’s about the sort of books other obsessive readers prefer. I have read several of Bloom’s books and must say that my impression of his literary tastes is that he was surprisingly provincial. Not only did he spend a long and distinguished career writing about the same canon, he apparently spent his reading life ignoring not only important, even fundamental, writers, but also ignoring the literary traditions of entire continents, ethnicities, genders and generations.

Naming “great” or “essential” writers is a parlor game, and my list of excellent books is quite different from Bloom’s. But it wouldn’t occur to me, as it apparently did to Bloom, that my preferred authors were better than any others. Especially when, if his literary essays are any indication, Bloom’s reading was mostly confined to a single tradition — “classics” in English and a handful of translations. We’re fortunate to live in a lively age for readers; we should be broadening our horizons and not (yet again!) extolling the virtues of “Clarissa.”

George Ovitt

To the Editor:

I cannot be the only reader who initially felt overwhelmed at the number of authors and books referenced in Gottlieb’s essay. I have read only a handful of the books Bloom included in his personal canon and could not begin to follow Gottlieb’s quibbles and asides.

At first I felt ashamed at my lack of literary chops, but then I realized that the only mentions of a nonwhite woman were two references to Toni Morrison: one about her birth year and another a joke diminishing her work in comparison with Shakespeare. Harold Bloom’s book contains many masterworks, but I prefer seeing the more robust and diverse set of authors in the pages of the Book Review each week.

Mark Weaver

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