Grimm connection?

Letters to the Boston editor, September 3, 2010
By BOSTON PHOENIX LETTERS  |  September 1, 2010

I usually enjoy Carolyn Clay’s theater reviews, but her recent piece on Company One’s inventive and imaginative Grimm contains an error. Clay complains that Kirsten Greenidge’s Thanksgiving, one of the seven short plays in the run, “has little to do with the Brothers Grimm.” But anyone familiar with the story Greenidge chose to treat, “Clever Else,” can see that the play directly retells the Grimm story in a contemporary setting, even down to Else’s disappearance at the end. It also mimics the same half-celebratory, half-mocking tone of the original toward its working-class characters, and movingly works with its theme: the idea that our identities depend on those around us and can unravel when their opinions change.

Greenidge’s smart and unexpected take on class and identity has, in fact, everything to do with the Grimm story. One would hope that before claiming the opposite a reviewer would at least look the original up.

Sarah E. Rowley
Jamaica Plain

Carolyn Clay responds:
Actually, I read “Clever Else” in its entirely, as I agree completely with Sarah Rowley that a reviewer should “at least look the original up.” However, though I appreciated aspects of Thanksgiving and could discern parallels to “Else” in its structure, its contemporary tone and theme of disappointed dreams did not seem to me to have much to do with the Grimm story. Perhaps Else is just cleverer than I am.

Not quite Trilling
Regarding your recent editorial on the planned Muslim community center in lower Manhattan: you referred to Lionel Trilling writing of a “moral imperative to be intelligent.” To the best of my knowledge, he did no such thing. I would guess you meant “the moral obligation to be intelligent,” which was the title of a 1915 essay written by John Erskine, one of Trilling’s professors at Columbia. While Trilling did refer to the essay in public at least once, the coinage — let alone the idea — should not be attributed to him. Perhaps your confusion arose because Leon Wieseltier borrowed Erskine’s title for his volume of selected Trilling essays, published by Farrar Straus Giroux in 2000 and republished by Northwestern last year.

Brian Hamilton
Madison, Wisconsin

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