Thank you for Michael Bronski’s article about Ellen Willis. She was one of the best minds in the women’s movement and on the left. I disagreed with her often, especially during the “sex wars” of the 1980s and ’90s. But her writings during those years were more important to me than those of many with whom I agreed. She was never an ideologue, but always a thinker, always a challenge. I don’t think her work ever changed my mind, but it always broadened it.
Although I never met her, and hadn’t read anything of hers in a while, her death came as a loss, and as a reminder of what writing that is both passionate and intelligent can give to any movement that faces the temptation of party lines and preachments. You picked the right person for the article: Bronski is that kind of writer as well. I hope he remains with us a lot longer than Willis did.
In his tribute to Ellen Willis, Michael Bronski writes: “Willis had it all over Sontag. . . . She was not only intellectual but political — on-the-streets political.” Feel free to prefer Willis over Sontag, but you do realize that Susan was “on-the-streets political,” right? I am at this moment looking at a picture of Sontag being arrested in 1967 for protesting the Vietnam War. How about Sontag’s work in Sarajevo in the ’90s? How about Sontag’s rabid defense of Salman Rushdie after he had a fatwa put on his head? She risked her life by supporting him. I don’t remember too many other writers rallying around a man with a bounty on his head. And how about Sontag being one of the only people in the world brave enough to call Bush on his b*llsh*t posturing after 9/11 (see her New Yorker piece)? Is that on-the-streets political enough for you? You are certainly entitled to your opinion, but Willis “had it all over Sontag”? Even Willis herself probably would disagree with you.
Herald’s angels sing
Regarding Adam Reilly’s take on Ken Chandler’s imminent departure from the Herald:
1) If the Herald’s “basically irrelevant,” why doesn’t the “astute Boston observer” give us his or her name? What’s there to be afraid of?
2) By way of disclosure, I’m deputy business editor at the Boston Herald and we’re still going strong.
Plot against the suburbs
Adam Reilly’s “The Herald Forgets About the Alleged Marshfield Massacre Plot” did a tremendous disservice to one of the oldest, most respected midsize dailies in Massachusetts. Yes, the Herald and the Globe have allowed the alleged Nee/Kerns plot to drop off their pages, but the Patriot Ledger has not. It covered Toby Kerns’s trial on a daily basis. I suspect this coverage allowed Mr. Reilly to stay on top of the story and prompted him to write this column.
It was the Ledger that led the coverage on this story from the beginning. This fact is undeniable even on your own pages, though you chose to ignore it. The photograph you chose to run was taken of Joseph Nee on the day of his arrest by a Patriot Ledger photographer (I note that you declined to credit the Ledger for that photo). That photographer was at Marshfield High School that morning to shoot the arrest based on a tip that I received when I was a Ledger reporter covering the massacre plot.