‘Wagner’s Music is Bombastic and Boring’ and Other Letters to the Editor

Is It Good?

To the Editor:

John Adams’s review of “Wagnerism,” by Alex Ross (Oct. 18), presents one view of Wagner and his music. Here are two quotes about Wagner and music:

“Wagner’s music is better than it sounds.” — Edgar Wilson Nye

“If it sounds good, it is good.” — Duke Ellington

For this listener, Wagner’s music is bombastic and boring. I would rather listen to music by Conlon Nancarrow and Gyorgy Ligeti.

Charles Edwin Myers
Bethesda, Md.

Slim Margins

To the Editor:

In his review of Tim Weiner’s “The Folly and the Glory” (Oct. 18), Rajan Menon writes that “Putin’s machinations certainly mattered” during the 2016 election campaign, “but Donald Trump’s rise reflects much more important changes within the United States in recent decades that widened societal divisions and increased political polarization.” Many others have issued similar dismissals of the Russian interventions.

Why is it so hard to acknowledge that, with a 77,000-vote margin separating Trump’s vote from Clinton’s in 2016, the Kremlin’s disinformation efforts were by themselves decisive — along with other factors and forces? “Reflects” is the wrong word.

Todd Gitlin
New York

Feast Takes Form

To the Editor:

In his review of “The Secret Life of Groceries” (Oct. 18), Nick Summers assures us that the author, Benjamin Lorr, was “not on an Upton Sinclair quest to nauseate readers into changing their consumption habits.”

This reminds us that Sinclair, a committed socialist who dedicated “The Jungle” to the workingmen of America, was disappointed by his book’s impact. “I aimed for the public’s heart,” Sinclair later wrote, “and by accident hit it in the stomach.”

Jon Kukla
Richmond, Va.

In Another Life

To the Editor:

I was delighted that Claire Messud — a writer whose novels I enjoy and admire — said in her By the Book interview (Oct. 18) that she is a fan of Alain-Fournier’s “Le Grand Meaulnes.” Messud wonders what he would have written next had he survived World War I. In fact, before he was killed he’d been working on a novel, “Colombe Blanchet,” which was much influenced by his love affair with Pauline Benda, whose stage name was Madame Simone and whose cousin was Julien Benda.

I found the early drafts of this unfinished novel in a French secondhand bookshop, put together by some Italian academics who had found it and tried to organize its very messy character, marked with the instructions in capitals: “This is not to be published.” It fascinated me and led me to write my novel “The Lost Love Letters of Henri Fournier,” in 2018.

Readers of Alain-Fournier (his pen name — he was Henri-Alban Fournier in real life) in the United States seem to be few and far between, but Julian Barnes in England has also written about him appreciatively, having rediscovered him in his 60s.

Rosalind Brackenbury
Key West, Fla.

To the Editor:

I appreciated the shoutout to Sally Wainwright in Claire Messud’s By the Book interview. Artists fear for their intellectual street cred if they even admit to watching TV, let alone praise some aspect of it. I’m a composer long ago branded as “classical,” so I know this territory.

I have often thought that Wainwright should be remembered as one of the best writers of her generation. On my list, I also include the brilliant TV screenwriter and producer Juana Uribe (“La Niña,” “Bolívar,” “Amar y Vivir”), who even when working in the conventions of telenovela presents human situations, interactions and conversations that rival the best novels. And keeps that going for 60 to 70 episodes.

Peter Hannan
Vancouver, British Columbia

Megacity of Angels

To the Editor:

David Kipen’s review of Peter Lunenfeld’s “City at the Edge of Forever” (Oct. 18) looks for a “thesis with which to think about the city.”

Los Angeles is not a mere city! Think of it more as a five-county region, spreading across 4,571 square miles encompassing the five counties of California’s southland region. Los Angeles as we know it today qualifies for inclusion among the world’s 33 megacities.

John McPhee, far afield from his home base in New Jersey, aptly fixes Los Angeles within an expansive frame as a “multinamed urban integrity.”

Michael H. Ebner
Lake Forest, Ill.

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